So I was chatting up with fellow blogger and fellow member of the Fellowship – Maggie.
Yeah, we’ve known each other for a little bit. Anyway, I asked her to write something for me, and let me tell you – she is a badass. Don’t let those big bright blue eyes fool you – they have seen things and these things have only increased her level of awesomeness. You should check out her blog: Girl with a Planner.
Because of this post, I decided to now have a segment called: What Traveling Means to Me. I decided that it is a great platform for other writers to tell their own tales of how travel has shaped them. If you are interested, please email me your idea 🙂
So without further ado, my first guest post by Girl with a Planner. Enjoy
When I was about three, my dad packed up my little pink suitcase and told me we were going to Grandma’s house on a jet plane. I was terrified…and then I was thrilled.
Eventually, Dad moved to Florida, which is a bitch to get to when you’re seven. Annual flights to Grandma’s house became bi yearly three hour pilgrimages to Key West, with long layovers in foreign city airports, and adult escorts. After a decade of miserable travel arrangements, I had a routine that could get me through even the worst situations.
Most people get their first taste of independence when they get their first car, or move away to college. I got mine in handed to me in intercontinental terminals as a babe. Airports became the first place where I could fabricate my own identity. Surrounded by strangers, I could do anything–be anybody. The possibilities were scintillating.
Admittedly, I make a crappy travel companion. After a decade of perfecting my routine, I don’t suffer fools or newbies gladly. Wearing a belt? Please. Two checked bags? You’ve got to be kidding me. Grab a meal before we locate our gate? Are you trying to kill me?! I almost had a stroke when K sat down to eat a McMuffin as they started boarding our plane, once. He forgave me. Eventually. (I think.)
The result of all this neurotic self reliance? My confidence expanded beyond the windows of my airports, taking me to Canada, Mexico, China, Australia, and Africa.
Soon, I realized that I could deal with almost anything. I wish I was kidding. Languishing through a six hour layover in Kenya (where there was no working toilet and no clean drinking water)? You adapt. Flushing your own poo when there’s no indoor plumbing? You figure it out. Hopping on a train to the West Coast and back with no private bathroom? No problem. Fact: the bathroom at the Portland train station is very clean and amenable. (Actually, a lot of my horror stories revolve around bathrooms.)
The leap from airports and long car rides was surprisingly easy. Once you know you can handle your needs, where you travel becomes a lot less foreign. Navigating subway maps, exchanging currency, packing for three climates, interpreting a new language, bartering for souvenirs, it all sorts itself out.
And the best part is, traveling is like riding a bicycle: once you’ve mastered it, the muscle memory never leaves you. If you find yourself back in a major metropolitan city, you’ll instinctively remember how to walk the sidewalks without pissing off the locals. If you find yourself roaming another outdoor market, you’ll naturally assume the passive look of derision as you haggle down the price of that silver teapot. As you sift through your closet, you’ll remember how to throw an outfit together that keeps you comfy without looking like a full on American that takes less than zero space in your carry on.
Your life can change in an instant, but one thing never, ever changes: that part of you that has been to Hell and back and survived. Because once you’ve lost your suitcase, climbed three miles through a jungle, been interrogated by men with machine guns, wiped your butt with a palm leaf, missed your connecting flight and been stranded in a foreign country, you realize you can get through anything that life throws at you.
And I’m hungry for that. I’m hungry for those moments where I get to meet myself, again and again. She’s always waiting for me at the airport; enormous backpack, muddy boots, and a smile, ready to go.
People say that your twenties are about discovering yourself. Some people do that by staying put and surrounding themselves with material goods that help bring them closer to who they are. For me, I feel a little bit closer to the person I aim to be when I pull out my trusty backpack. If my life is in pieces, my backpack is the magnet that pulls me back together. Work may be crazy and I may be feeling a little left of center, but none of that matters when I’ve been plopped in an unfamiliar train depot trying to find my gate through a sea of commuters. Suddenly the girl with the muddy boots takes over, and I’m no longer Maggie from the midwest, I’m Maggie: the girl who can ask for directions in six languages, who can stare a Silverback gorilla down and live to tell the tale, who can go without showering for six straight days, and who will absolutely GET ON THIS TRAIN!
Because at the end of the day, the only bedtime story that you have to live with is your own. And the heroine in this story is pretty badass.
My advice to you?
Get out there. See the world. If the world seems to big, then start with your neighborhood. Take a walk and really look at where you live, observe the people who share your community. When that becomes too small, explore your town. Hit a new restaurant or a new kind of cuisine. You may hate it, but you’ll have earned a new experience, a new understanding about yourself.
Keep looking, adventures are all around you, waiting to be caught. And if you’re afraid? Lean in: fear is how you know you’re doing it right.
Until next time…