Except for becoming a dog owner (at age 23 -- a very long time ago), the best thing I ever did in my life was to start traveling, on my own or with friends. It's kept me sane. It's been what's made life worth living. It lead me to marry a wonderful person.
I didn't grow up owning a dog, and I didn't grow up traveling. In our 18 years together, my family took just three vacations together. I remember all three of those trips vividly, and always wanted to travel much more.
Growing up, and as a young adult, I noticed that people whom I liked and admired might live in the same place all their lives, but also made room in their lives for travel. Their travel might be a long weekend somewhere just an hour's drive away. It might be to another country. It might be every holiday weekend. It might be just once a year. It was something that was integrated into their lives, something normal, as normal as, say, buying a car. Other people spend money on home entertainment systems or cars or landscaping or season tickets to whatever. And some people travel.
Also, most of the people I've admired were also pet owners. But that's another essay...
Some of these people were rough-it types, back-packing through exotic locations and camping or staying at youth hostels; others were car campers and went only where their four wheels could take them; some others loved Club Med or, at least, a hotel. Some were adrenaline freaks; some just wanted to relax and be comfortable while seeing new things.
The point is that these people whom I admired were committed to travel, and they seemed very much the better for it. All seemed to enjoy the non-traveling part of their lives more than the people I knew whose vacations consisted only of Orlando or Las Vegas. They didn't seem to get as overwhelmed at life as other people I know, they didn't let television dictate their political views or understanding of the world, and they were more optimistic and outgoing than others. They also didn't mind sometimes feeling stupid or scared, two feelings that most Americans avoid like the plague.
I also have been so happy to represent my home state of Kentucky while traveling. I've gotten used to hearing "You are the first person I've ever met from Kentucky" in the USA and abroad, and I'd like to think I've made a good impression for the Bluegrass state. I'd also like to think that, abroad, I've countered a lot of negative images people have of American women because of the movies and TV -- and I think that if more American women traveled, those negative images could be further countered.
It's important to note that Americans are taking less and less vacation and, therefore, not only is stress, depression and suicide skyrocketing in the USA, but also, there is an expectation by many companies that employees shouldn't take vacation. NONSENSE. Take your vacation time. Take every second of it. All Americans should take all the vacation time due to them, EVERY year. If a company is going to demote you for taking the vacation time that is rightfully due you, you do NOT want to work for that company! In fact, Americans should push for the same amount of vacation time as people get everywhere else in the world, the same amount of time that George W. got: at least six weeks a year.
This section of my web site is my attempt to encourage women in the USA to travel, either around where they live or around the world. And note that I started it LONG the book (or the movie) Eat, Pray, Love.
These pages aren't really for very experienced female travelers (though they are welcomed to read!). These pages are, instead, specifically for women in the USA who haven't traveled at all, except maybe to Disneyland or Vegas, or haven't traveled much, but want to. I believe the world would be at least a slightly better place if more American women traveled, both within the USA and internationally, both because American women are so much more than what is portrayed on American TV shows (which are seen all over the world) and because it would empower women with knowledge that would make the USA a better place.
You don't need a huge budget. You don't need to be a spiritual person. You just need to be able to listen, explore, see and think -- and, ultimately, to enjoy.
"I would love to travel more, like you do."I heard it when I would take my road trips with my dogs, camping in so many beautiful places in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Nevada... now I hear it regarding my travels in Europe.
I hear it so often, from so many women in the USA
"I would love to travel more, like you do."
"I would love to travel more, like you do."
So why don't you?
That's when the excuses start: money, time, work commitments, perceived difficulty, fear that you will do something stupid, etc.
To me, I think it's actually more about priorities and choice. If your priority is to travel, you will travel. If your priority is to avoid uncomfortable situations at the cost of seeing beautiful and fascinating things, you will sit at home most of the time and watch TV.
Don't think "I wish I had the money/time to travel;" think "How do I get the money/time to travel?"
And enough with the stupid bucket lists. Those are things-you-will-never-do lists. Don't ever say "I would love to go there someday" without following that with "I'll start planning immediately on how I will do that..."
Is it difficult to travel? It can be. You have to plan, you have to prepare, you have to coordinate, you have to budget money and time, and you have to pay for mistakes (getting on the wrong train, for instance). And you will probably have to leave something undone back at home, like your laundry. Don't worry: that work isn't going anywhere. It will be there when you get back.
When you travel, there are moments you will feel out-of-place, stupid, and scared. But the payoffs are immeasurable. Phenomenal. That payoff may come from meeting someone in a train station and having a terrific conversation that leads you to a place not in your guidebook, or a recommendation of a book that you later fall in love with. That payoff may be standing alone in an ancient structure that other tourists don't bother with. It may be discovering an oasis or funky restaurant just 50 miles from where you live. It may mean sitting in a cafe and hearing a cacophony of strange, wonderful languages and sounds around you.
Are there dangers in traveling? Sure. You might get robbed while traveling. But you will probably get robbed in your home town -- your apartment will get broken into, your pocket will get picked, you will leave your bag somewhere and never get it back, your car will get broken into... bad things happen anywhere and everywhere . Not traveling won't mean you avoid any of that.
Why do I love to travel? Because I learn to appreciate so much more about the world, my own country, and myself. Because I find out just where my strengths lie -- and where they don't. Because it makes the moments of not traveling much more special. Because it's much more fun than NOT traveling. Am I ever scared? Sure! But that's part of life. You get scared. And you do your best to get through it.
Your trip can be simple and comfortable, like taking a long weekend and driving to somewhere beautiful, staying in a little bed and breakfast or cabin, and exploring a new place just across the state line. It can be a little more ambitious, like going to Ireland, renting a car, buying a guidebook, and going from bed and breakfast to bed and breakfast and stopping at whatever looks interesting along the way. It can be even more ambitious, like traveling to a European country where you don't speak the language. It can be REALLY ambitious, like going to a developing country for a long trip (I don't recommend this until you have some traveling experience in the aforementioned under your belt, and you should DEFINITELY not do it entirely on your own).
This section of my web site is my attempt to encourage many more women from the USA to travel, within their own country and abroad. Depressed? Travel. Lonely? Travel. Need a life change? Travel. Been dumped? Travel. Gained too much weight? Travel. Don't have a life outside of your job? Travel.
Travelin' cures what ails ya.
things to consider regarding transportation and accommodations choices, and advice on preventing motion sickness.
my adventures in Europe, Africa, as well as road trips in the USA
links to resources to help women travelers
my page of helpful hints for camping with your dogs in the USA.
|Also see Freeing yourself from the daily grind a column in January 2007 by Yahoo Travel writer Rolf Potts regarding the importance of traveling and how you can orient your life around it. "Above all, remember three things. First, life can end at any time, so don't postpone it. Second, if it doesn't end, the average person works 500 months in their lifetime, so there's no rush to get to the office. Third, people have short memories and are too busy thinking about themselves to worry about you." If you believe you cannot travel because of your work or lifestyle, this column is a must-read.|
Advice on things you should do before you leave on a trip, to ensure you can access information via any computer or your feature phone or smart phone that you might need while traveling
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