So I have finally put the finishing touches on my travel wish list! Because my job’s fiscal year is September through August, I have to plan my trips around our year beginning and end. This also aids in knowing which locations I can visit during what times of year for the best price, based on busy/slow months at the office. The list stretches into 2016 (I’m pretty handy with budgets and spreadsheets). I also incorporated a “wild card”, just in case I find some extra money floating around. What places does your travel wish list consist of?
You ever drive through your hometown and set out to discover the yet to be discovered? Or maybe set out to capture the beauty of the unappreciated? That’s always been a goal of mine, even from a little girl. I was always determined to find my town’s best kept secret or at least pretend that it was.
Beaumont,TX (my hometown) is full of treasures. Although buried deep or often gone unnoticed, there are many points of interest I’ve always been drawn to. I’ve been going to Collier’s Ferry Park (or as the locals call it “The River”) since I was a little girl. My uncle would pull out the boat and we would go tubing during the summer. Every trip I would feel a rush of excitement, as if I didn’t only live ten minutes away. Even as an adult, I still sort of get a little excited. Often times as I got older, I would go just to be able to think. The silence is so calming. You could literally hear a pin drop. Its been said that pure silence is the best time to hear God speak. Either way, my little moments at the River have helped me think through many life decisions.
In recent years, my hometown has been the center of much controversy and scandal. It has seen many changes, some for the good but a lot of bad. Crime rates have rapidly increased alongside a failing school district. But somehow, I can’t seem to find it in my heart to completely forget where I’ve come from. I visit often, mainly because of family. But also because there is no place else like it. And because of places like the River, in all of its simplicity, still manages to exude a whimsical blanket of serenity whenever I’m near. To me, it feels like the calmest, quietest place in the entire town. Many of my friends who left vowing never to return may think I’m stuck in a fairyland for writing this. But I understand that no place is perfect, and there will always be trouble anywhere you go. I just choose not to let the bad completely overshadow all of the good that I’ve grown to appreciate. We all have our own things we find beautiful; our own aesthetic truths. Doesn’t always require a trip to a completely foreign place to realize either.
Fear is paralyzing. It has the power to keep you from living, if you let it. But there are times when you succumb to fear out of pure stress and anxiety. In a previous post I briefly explained my mother’s battle with breast cancer. She was a fighter. Some days I wish I had half the fight she had. Seriously, some days I feel like the biggest chicken shit, even amidst the kudos I get for traveling alone. Nah, she was a REAL fearless, fighter. In a battle I was so sure she would win. But when you’re seven or eight years old, everyone is a superhero. And of course, her bill came due.
I’ve always worried about cancer, if it was genetic and if I was destined to get it. Obviously that’s not a given that I will, but the thought is scary as shit. I’m adamant about my check ups (I’m 28 and get mammograms). I mean, that’s only natural right? And then, there’s that feeling that I can’t let fear win because my mom didn’t.
At my last checkup, I discussed my family history and my concerns with my doctor. She stressed getting tested for the BRCA genes as a risk assessment measure and to better tailor my screenings. I had done some light research on testing and I had also read about women having their breasts removed who tested positive for the gene. The fear of finding out I had the gene and the millions of thoughts of death and worry that came with it overwhelmed me. I kind of felt that maybe it was best if I never found out, for my own peace of mind. But on the day I was visiting my doctor, I decided to go through with it. Strangely enough, my test is scheduled on what would have been my mother’s 60th birthday. I didn’t realize this until a few days ago.
I’m a little nervous, but this is what she would’ve wanted. And now, it is truly what I want. I feel like I’m facing one of my biggest fears, beating it to the punch. Not so much a post about travel or art, but maybe it’ll inspire someone:)
My final day in Tulum. It was bittersweet. Such a chill place. So I made the most of it and did some more exploring. I caught a taxi to the Mayan ruins. The level of creativity and intelligence to build something so intricate before its time definitely demonstrates the ability of the human mind.
I even made a new friend.
After a walk through the entire site, it was beach time. The day was perfect. Just enough breeze to keep you comfortable.
I decided to walk the beach side a little more for lunch. I found this really cool spot, El Prez. I had the best beer battered fish tacos ever. Like, EVER. And they take credit cards, one of the few places that did without charging an outrageous fee.
And the drinks… A Hint and a Whisper… Gin and real lavender.
I am definitely coming back to Tulum, especially now that I know what to expect. Its charm has truly captivated me. And there were so many more places I wanted to go, and in due time, I shall. Tulum was very international. I met French, Canadian, Argentinian and Australian travelers. Lots of back packers. If you are truly looking for a unique beach experience with a little bit of jungle thrown in the mix, I highly recommend Tulum. Keep in mind that its off the grid, with no connection to power lines ( hence the wind turbines you see along the beaches). It is definitely eco- chic.
This song pretty much describes my love affair with life, with travel, just everything. It reminds me just how much purpose we all have on this earth. We all have our stories to tell. Dear KING, can I hire you to soundtrack my life? Please?
On that note, coming down from one of life’s many highs, I got my first tattoo. Small chat (and drinks) over tacos led to a firm decision. I’ve been wanting the tattoo for ages, I was just too chicken shit to go through with it. Fairly simple but a subtly powerful testament. I am here and I’ve weathered many storms. And I’m still in the business of living. 28 years and counting.
Far too often we spend more time convincing ourselves why we can’t do something instead of planning for a way to make it happen. I’m totally guilty of this. I held myself back from satisfying my wanderlust with the usual ” you can’t afford it” or “in a year when you pay off ALL your debt”. And then one day, while scrolling through plane fares, a voice in my head said ” just buy the damn ticket!”. And so I did.
With two degrees under my belt, I love the fact that I am working in a career using the education that I worked so hard to obtain. And the reality is, I have bills, just like everyone else. Plus, I like the security of having health insurance (if you’ve never been without it, its the worst). I’ve lurked around travel blogs for years looking for answers on dealing with debt while maximizing travel and working full time, state-side. The only things that ever came up were:
a) Develop a skill that you could use in any country to earn a living.
b) Teach English in another country.
c) Work really hard to save and quit my job to travel the world.
These are all good choices, no doubt. I admire those people who can religiously pinch pennies to pay off all their debts or save up enough to quit their jobs and travel the world. I could get to that point, but I’m not there yet, nor do I want to be right now. Seriously, that takes a ton of will power, so kudos to them. I guess I fall somewhere in between.You see the thing that I have come to realize is this; I could spend all of my time and money on paying off every single debt I owed and die at any given moment during the process. There goes my travel wish list!
So I plan and set realistic goals. For example, I know that this year I want to pay off at least 1 credit card out of 2. I also know that given my vacation days and relevant monthly expenses, I can set a goal of 2-3 domestic trips (I take full advantage of 3 day weekends) and 2 international (Tulum in 2 weeks!!) for a total of 4-5 trips this year. This works for me. It satisfies my need for travel while not making me feel like a slacker in paying off my debt. It just goes back to what I’ve said in previous posts.You don’t have to be rich to travel. I’ve also noticed that some people don’t consider domestic travel real travel, which is definitely not true. I once priced a plane ticket to Bermuda and it was the same price for a ticket to Portland. So based on that, domestic travel IS travel. Travel is travel, period.
To those of you in a similar situation as me, I say, know your limits and whether or not you are comfortable with them. If not, come up with feasible goals and ways to change them. To reach my debt and travel goals, I find the money. What am I saying? I have a tax refund coming up. There goes the credit card I want paid off. Two months out of this year I’ll get an extra paycheck. There goes money towards my travel funds. Again, you know your situation better than I would. But don’t put off your passions for something that will still be there if you died tomorrow.
I wouldn’t call myself a travel expert by any means. But I’ve traveled enough to know and understand why I enjoy solo travel. It never fails, no matter where I go, when people realize that I am traveling alone they always say “Good for you!”. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t feel some sense of accomplishment from it.
The media and all of your aunts and uncles can put a damper on solo travel plans. Of course they mean well, but at the end of the day its your life. And here’s another word of unsolicited advice: The world isn’t as big and scary as they would have you believe. Not saying it is free from crime, obviously. Some of us hold on to this idea that we’re safer in America than anywhere else, which is false. This theory crashed and burned after my house was broken into AND I was living alone. Just because terrible things are happening in one part of a country, we start thinking it’s happening all over said country. Think about it. Would you not go to Denver because of crimes going on in certain parts of Chicago? I mean they’re both in the United States. See where I’m going here? But now for the top 3.
1. See what its like to step out of your comfort zone.
Best part of doing so? No one will likely recognize you because you are in unfamiliar territory. When I was in Turks and Caicos, the front desk attendant at my hotel told me I should change my name for the rest of the week and do something I had never done before. I passed on the name change, but I did swim with a barracuda. This divorcee I met said her friends had challenged her to have a one night stand. A bit too rich for my blood, but I’m no judge! My point? Do what you want! Do a little jig looking at your reflection while window shopping. Dance on top of a table. Become the astronaut you said you would become as a kid. Well, I mean not literally. But the people you are meeting for the first time don’t know it isn’t true (unless you really like the new people you meet and intend to keep in touch, then be honest). You catch my drift?
2. You don’t have to wait on anyone else to make up their mind.
We all have that ONE friend. God love them, but they are one of the most indecisive creatures on the planet. From guided tours to dining options, they are super picky. But that’s one less thing you have to worry about with solo travel. Your time is YOUR time. If you want to lounge at the beach or go sight-seeing ALL day, you can. There’s no one there to give their input on what they would rather do. It’s all you baby!
3. Get a chance to discover or re-discover yourself.
This is your alone time with you. Maybe you need to re-charge from the monotony of your everyday life. Now you can. Find a place and meditate. Enjoy the silence. Actually take time to thoroughly hear your thoughts without distraction. You may recognize answers you’ve been looking for. Enjoy these intimate moments with you. There’s only one of you and you deserve it. You may find that there are things you didn’t know you could appreciate about yourself. I never knew how sociable I was until I traveled by myself for the first time. Conversations with strangers came so easily to me. I opened up.
Quit hoarding away those vacation days. Stop relying on the crew to answer your emails about the payment plan for Jamaica. Go…. Just go. Trust me on this one, ok?
I don’t know about you, but every time I think I may have put the finishing touches on my “list of things to do before whenever”, something else always catches my eye. I think my list consists of more destinations than anything. There’s this trend among some of my friends, where it seems like the lists are broken down by milestones. Like birthdays. 30 concerts before 30, 40 trips before 40 and so on. Seems pretty reasonable to me.The sky’s the limit, right?
Every time I think about my bucket list in its entirety, I start to get the feeling that I’ll run out of time because it’s so much stuff. Since my mom’s passing when I was 8, I’ve always felt this huge sense of urgency to do things (my family will tell you that I am the most impatient person you will ever meet). She was 37 when she received her cancer diagnosis and she passed 3 years later, which is far too soon. It took years of therapy for me to understand that I wasn’t destined for the same fate and that everything didn’t need to be so rushed. I was missing out on life.
Traveling has become sort of an outlet for me to channel that anxiety and fear. I haven’t completely rid myself of it, but its good to know that after all these years, I’ve finally found a way to cope with it that actually works. Solo travel was the catalyst. It was my first real risk I ever took, which was scary in itself, especially if you’re not used to doing anything alone. It taught me that I was stronger than I thought. I also grasped the concept of how time really does fly when you’re having fun doing things that are meaningful to you. You notice everything but the time and how much of it you have spent enjoying yourself. Most importantly, it taught me that you don’t need to be rich to travel. So I’m taking on my list one day at a time with realistic expectations. Of course, nothing is impossible, but then you don’t want to run yourself ragged planning for something that is supposed to be exhilarating.
What’s the one thing on your list (if you have one) you just have to do before your number’s up, or any other relevant milestone?