First off, I’d like to thank everyone for letting me take what felt like a two week sabbatical. I know. Other then the lack of my wry prattle on Twitter, you probably didn’t notice much, did you? That is because of the amazing APW Team: Lauren D., Kate, and Alyssa handling the content side, Emily handling the business side, and Liz and Lauren W. moderating. Those ladies are amazing, so a huge thanks to them.
But I’m back. I’ve taken a lot of naps, written a lot in my on-paper journal, stared into space quite a bit, read some books, spent time with my husband, done some serious exploring, and taken eight flights. It’s been epic. Specifically, I’ve visited three countries, two continents, and three islands in ten days. I know. So let’s back up and talk about travel.
I didn’t leave the state of California till I was 14 years old. It’s a big state, and we didn’t have a ton of money. I lived in a poor area in Southern California where the fact that I’d been to Northern California several times was considered relatively fancy. My parents had both grown up in the military, so they’d already traveled and lived all over the world, and no one else I knew went much of anywhere. Poverty is isolating enough that I knew someone in his early twenties who had never left the city limits of our hometown.
When I was 21, I went to South Africa, thanks to a highly subsidized honors trip I got into at Tisch, the arts school I attended. By the time David and I got together, that was the sum total of all the travel I had done. And more to the point, I felt like travel wasn’t accessible to me. It seemed like there was some magical skill set that the kids I went to college with—who’d cut their eye teeth on trips to Europe—had that I didn’t have. I thought I didn’t have enough money; I didn’t have the skills. I wanted to see the world, but I wasn’t sure it was possible.
At that point, we were pretty broke (artist class, as we used to call it). I made about $27,000 a year, living in New York City, which, suffice to say, is a little tricky. So when David announced his plan to take me to Europe for the first time, I thought he had lost his ever-loving-mind. I told him there was no possible way I could afford it, so he did what he always does when he has to convince me: he researched. He built spreadsheets proving how much it would cost, and how much I had to save to go. He arranged for us to stay with my family in England. He talked his parents into donating some frequent flyer miles to the cause. He figured out the most affordable time of year to go (hint: American Thanksgiving). And he would not give up until I came around.
Needless to say, it was amazing.
So when we got married and were decidedly less broke (even with one income), we decided that as part of consciously thinking about the lives we wanted to build together, we were going to prioritize travel. We knew that meant we would buy a house later, but in the world of six figure down payments, that wasn’t the hardest pill to swallow. We knew we’d have to figure out how to travel affordably, and with limited vacation time, but we figured we could do it. So starting with our honeymoon, we dove in.
And as always happens when I dive into something, I went whole hog. At the end of this week, I made a list for myself of the cities I’d been to in the past two years, and started laughing, as it read like someone in the middle of a manic episode, or on the run from the law: London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, New York, Rome, Positano, Florence, Venice, New Orleans, Cancun (environs), New York, London, Athens, Mykonos, Oia, Istanbul. (Clearly, I’m rather fond of London.)
And what I’ve learned has been epic. I’ve learned things like:
- America looks different from the outside than it does from the inside.
- You don’t have to be a certain kind of person, with certain life experiences and wealth to travel. If you can save enough to buy a ticket, sleep somewhere, and eat, that’s really enough.
- American’s don’t travel internationally a lot (other than college kids, honeymooners, and retirees), but much of the rest of the world jumps borders without too much fuss.
- I am objectively rather terrible at travel. I’m so terrified of flying that I have to be drugged up half the time; I sink into a pit of despondency whenever I arrive in a new place; my dyslexia makes it nearly impossible for me to learn new languages. But even in spite of that, I travel well. I’m super friendly, I love eating new foods, and I’m crack at translating a guidebook (hip = yes, trendy = no).
- You don’t always like what you think you’ll like. I’m not half as fond of Paris as I thought I would be, but was shocked by my love of London. You never know.
- I think better when I’m away from home.
- I know my husband in a different way after traveling with him than I did before.
- I want to live abroad for a few years.
- Being excited to come home is life changing.
For me, travel has been empowering. Could I have learned as much staying home and having new experiences right here? Probably. But for me travel was reaching for something I didn’t think I could have, and grabbing it. It was shaping the family life we wanted, together with my partner. It was doing something so far outside of the norm of where and how I grew up, that it shattered my world view, and put it back together in a new and interesting way.
And after the most recent trip, I came home feeling satisfied. I still wanted to see things, but the crazy urge to PUT ALL THE COUNTRIES IN MY MOUTH AT ONCE had been satiated a bit.
But then yesterday David suggested we pick up a travel book for Morocco. Or Paris. Or Trinidad. And I didn’t object. So really, you never know.
Pictures: Personal from our trip, for A Practical Wedding