Friday, February 4, 2011

How I travel

If you were wondering what the connections are among the apparent random places I visit and the ensuing thoughts and photos, here I recap my thoughts on travel:
The urge to travel hits me frequently, and I like to get out of town 1-2 times a month, if I can. By car or train or plane. It matters not. It's important to get out of my usual space, to keep my eyes open about life and people, and my mind swirling with new ideas. And I figure the more places I see for myself, the less prejudices I'll have, since mostly everyone I've met along the way was helpful and kind.
I will go anywhere. I used to say I'd try anywhere (or anything) once, but I think twice is more accurate. I choose based on affordability and nearness. I prefer grittiness to grandeur, and quirks to smooth sailing. I like places that don't speak English- it's more interesting, and also because there's an aspect of peace which I experience in this sort of solitude, not listening to others' conversations. Also why I really enjoy living in Germany.
I prefer solo travel. Because I like walking through an unknown place in a dreamlike state, and it increases my engagement with the locals and the community in general. I'm also a bit greedy in liking the experience of arrival in a place by myself, seeing it though my own eyes for the first time, with those memories cementing into my head.
I talk to locals anywhere, anytime, and I am not afraid to ask directions-- it's a good way to get a feel for a city's residents. I think it's a bit of a loss with all the people using GPS to find things- it takes away from interactions which may have occurred otherwise. Not surprisingly, I prefer paper maps and no guidebooks. Rather, I enjoy arriving and figuring it out as I go.
My pre-planning consists of plane and hostel reservations. Yes, I prefer hostels, for the companionship and the savings and the simplicity. I've never liked being catered to. It's just the way I am. I usually scout out a couple art museums on arrival, perusing their websites to see which ones would interest me most. 
Mostly I travel very lightly. One small carry-on. Usually a tiny travel computer, small pocket camera, iPod, journal, book, a couple shirts, pjs, and maybe an extra pair of pants. I check a bag about once every year or two.
The main thing I do in a city is walk. Anywhere and everywhere. Without agenda mostly, but sometimes I choose landmarks to walk to just to give myself a destination, though it's usually more about the walk. Coffee shops are my best friends, where locals hang out, and I can write and let my mind wander. I enjoy navigating public transport, and the interactions with locals that result. I have on more than one occasion gotten rides from locals. If there's time, I try to go to a small town outside of the bigger city that I'm in. Often they create totally different feelings. My favorite time of day is a weekday morning, when locals are rushing off to work, and I can see people in their everyday lives. This brings me more joy than I can describe. I'd guess it's the feeling of camaraderie among the masses, how we are all doing the same things everywhere in this world.
I've been very lucky in that travel has been a priority in my life forever. From my parents loading up the car taking road trips to Canada, Chicago, the Black Hills, to my Aunt Dee's invitations to visit the east coast and England and Europe with their family, to a boyfriend who was a fearless traveler in my twenties... all directions led to more travel, and unsurprisingly, eventually a life abroad. My travel has been fully self-funded since I was 18, and I've managed to visit 49 countries and take a year off to wander. It's been a joy and it's not been expensive. But it is a priority.
I never would've dreamed that I'd be here, now, living this life. It is pretty good. The way it happened was: I had dreams and I acted on them. I followed my heart, and it led me around the world. And now the whole world is my home.

1 comment:

Dee J. said...

Hehehe - I see my name and I thank you for not mentioning my forcing you to wear sweatshirts in Wash DC August 1991 when it is 80d/90%humidity - and leaving 3 teenagers to get their own dinner at Quality Inn in Manhattan - added to bravery in travel. I would probably be a VBP nowdays - Very Bad Parent!!!!