What Experience Has Taught Me
I was challenged by a travel blogger that I really respect, Alba Luna, to do this post. She did one very similar and, like with her other posts, it was well written and inspiring. A bar has been set rather high for me to really dig into myself and do a good job sharing what I think I am good at and what I just can’t do while traveling. Well, here it goes: what experience has taught me.
What I Know I Can Do When Traveling
- I can find my way. There’s nothing like trying to find a specific landmark in either Venice or Paris to really build your confidence in your internal map. Both of these cities were, I’m certain, designed to confuse, distract and break intruders. Well, bravo. In Paris, after a few bottles of wine late at night, you’ll feel so lost that you just have to trust your feet and your muscle memory. When you’re not thinking about it, your internal map will save you. In Venice, after you realize that it doesn’t matter where you are and that being lost is okay, the city just becomes more magical. And if you really are lost, just jump in a canal and let the tide take you out.
- I can relate to other travelers. When I am watching a parent try to calm their child on an airplane, I know what they’re going through; it doesn’t bother me. When I see somebody walking up the shore in soaked clothes, I can tell what happened; I’ve been there, watching a sunset and caught between a rock and a large wave. I’ve been that angry tourist in a train station that’s not being let on the train because I was soooo confused by my train ticket so I can help somebody who’s making the face of despair and holding a Eurail pass. I also understand how to take the stereotypical tourist pictures, such as holding up the tower of Pisa or hanging off the Eiffel Tower.
- I can find food, lodging and hospital even if I don’t speak the language. At least I think I can. Truth be told I’ve never had to actually find a hospital in a foreign land, but I know how to say it in enough languages that I think I could. I’m confident that even in places that I’m not a fluent speaker, people will understand my needs if we genuinely try to connect.
- I can find a place to cool off. My feet can always find a beach, shady park or even a mall. I know, a mall? Yeah. When it’s blazingly hot outside and you’re far from home and in need of a rest, an air conditioned public space may be all you need to re-energize. Example: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Hot weather, minor breezes, great non-tourist people watching. Perfect. Also, every place you visit will have a stream, beach or fountain. Enjoy them.
- I can enjoy local beverages. I’m not going to limit myself to coffee here, as I’ve been fortunate to try some amazing drinks at all hours of the day. I’ve stumbled upon a street vendor with fresh pressed guava before 7am. I’ve found an open air café in costal Italy that gave me a huge place of cured meats with my one beer. I’ve had a tiny French lady let me cut in front of her friends to grab an espresso before running, literally running, to the train station. I know that there’s always something to drink around the corner and it’s okay to let a local influence you or just give you something totally different than what you asked for.
- I can get energy from anything. I’ll be traveling, have changed planes twice already and now am killing 5 minutes in Iceland. I know that a hardboiled egg for the change in my pocket will sustain me until I can get something more. I know that chewing gum will distract me for long enough until I find dinner a few blocks off the beach. I know that
it’s that weird hour in Paris when for some reason you just can’t get food in any restaurant, but pastis and funky nuts will keep me alive until somebody is able to whip up a croque.
- I can sleep if I need to. There
are times when traveling where all I want is to just sleep; just to close my eyes and not hear bizarre sounds or European sirens. I can do that. I know that sleeping in an airport runs a tremendous risk, but my subconscious is tuned in enough to be able to listen to announcements and during sleep, my eyes will open a tiny bit to peek at a clock. If I’m in such a state that my body needs to shut down for a short break, I know that I’ll be okay to do so. And so will my kids.
- I can wake up early for a sunrise. There’s something about those magical moments just before the sun starts to make the sand hot. It’s this surreal calm that’s in the air, even in the busiest city. It’s not a feeling of getting a head start on the day, but of seeing the day from the getgo and watching its progression. Waking up early to walk out into a neighborhood and see bakeries setting up is worth it. Being the first person to make footprints on a beach is worth it. You can sleep in on a Saturday at home.
- I can spare the time for a sunset. If I’m thinking that I need dinner AND the sun is getting ready to set, chances are that I can find a little reserve energy to sit and watch the sun sink beyond the horizon. As with sunrise, many places come to life in a very different way at sunset. In Mexico, the performers come out to see what tourists want to hear…and then the music starts. In New York lovers congregate in Central Park to steal the last moments of light. In Southern California, the final wave of surfers hit the beach, providing one last thrill to the onlookers (or their surfing comrades). It’s always worth it to watch the sunset.
What I Know I Can’t Do When Traveling
- I can’t stay on the highway. I know that wherever I am I’m not going to use the thoroughfares that are designed to get you around a location with ease. This is actually a daily issue for me, even when at home. True, I’ll use the interstate for really long trips on a schedule, but even then I know I’ll wander off. Why not?
- I can’t just stop being a photographer. I have read many blog posts and articles about putting away the camera and just enjoying the sights with your eyes, not through a lens. I can’t do that. I don’t have the best memory and I know that I’ll go through my pictures over and over and don’t want to miss anything. I will forever be behind my camera.
- I can’t only relax. Our family takes wonderful beach vacations. I can’t just lie on the beach all day though. I need to explore and see new things. This might mean that I bring a snorkel to the beach so that I can explore the water, or it means that I’m going to try to convince my husband that we need to take a two hour drive to go check out a town we’ve never seen. Laying a towel down and chilling out for a bit is really wonderful, but it won’t slake my wanderlust.
- I can’t get plastered. When I was younger I was all about seeing how many margaritas I could drink or how many bottles of wine we could put away. Not now. Besides the fact that I have kids to be responsible for, I think I’ve just grown up too much and know that there’s no point to drinking myself silly. I don’t want to deal with a hangover on vacation, and I know that’s a souvenir I’ll definitely have if I get wasted by the pool.
- I can’t eat weird food. I know. It’s part of traveling the world. Sorry no, I just can’t eat the duck embryo or soup with snakes in it. I need to eat food that resembles food, not wildlife. I’ve attempted a few things, even some really mainstream American things, and yeah, no. To be clear, I can’t even eat oysters. There you have it.
- I can’t pass up ice cream. If you’ve never been into an Italian gelataria, then you may not understand why ice cream is a pivotal part of traveling. It’s refreshing and delicious and you’ll find different types of ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen custard while you’re traveling that you’ll never find at home. Example: watermelon gelato in Florence, IT. The black seeds were still in it and they were crunchy and amazing.
- I can’t buy from beach vendors. You see them everywhere. In Mexico they’re selling hats and jewelry. In France they’re selling snacks and who knows what else. I have done my beach buying and I know that I don’t need to do that now. I’ve found the products to be mostly low quality and I know that I’m not going to treasure a tiny broken trinket in ten years.
- I can’t not bring my kids. We’ve been talking about planning a trip without the kids. Part of me thinks that it’d be really wonderful and re-energizing and a great way for my husband and me to reconnect and the other part of me says “We had kids so we could spend time with them and show them the world.” It’s tough to see amazing places and swim in incredible water and not bring your kids along.
- I can’t stop traveling. I’m a stay-at-home dad, so after countless diapers and spit-ups and spending hours reasoning with a three year old, my next trip often is what I have to think about to keep me going. Even without kids, I would constantly plan and research my next escape. When the kids are grown, I imagine that we’ll be gone most of our time, just exploring and seeing what else there is to wee while we’re still kicking.