Posts Tagged ‘self sufficiency’

I recently received an email from a friend of mine asking for travel advice for an upcoming trip to Europe. I am always thrilled to be asked about travel, because any excuse to talk about it is a good excuse in my book. So I wrote back promptly sharing what I knew, and when he thanked me, he also said, “You talk and blog about the wonders of travel, but for us newbies the actual process can be a bit intimidating.” And I knew I had today’s blog post.
One of my favorite things about travel (and also one of the things I most dread, paradoxically enough) is how uncomfortable it can be. It can shake us loose from our daily routines, from our preconceptions, even from who we might think we are. It challenges us, it taxes us, and sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes things go very, very wrong.

But I realize that maybe that’s not what I tend to talk about. My excitement and passion for travel shines through so brilliantly that it tends to eclipse all else. I gloss over many of the hard bits, or I don’t mention them at all. Plus many events that were quite difficult at the time seem funny or interesting in retrospect. Even as they’re happening, I try to see them as all part of the adventure, and that attitude carries through even when I’m back home.

So yes, the process of travel is intimidating, and not just if you’re a travel newbie. It takes a certain amount of energy to get started, and at this time in my life when I’m getting more settled and am dealing with lingering physical limitations, I have that energy less often than I used to. And while I’m not overly intimidated by travel to Europe anymore (which wasn’t always the case), I’m still easily overwhelmed by contemplating trips to other parts of the world. (Exotic diseases are my bugaboo. If the ailments I read about in the medical part of the guidebook are too disgusting, I lose all enthusiasm for visiting. I’m also convinced that I will get malaria in many parts of the world because mosquitoes love me soooo much.)

I didn't have a digital camera when I was in Sweden, so a photo of Norway is going to have to do...

Still, it is through the discomfort that transformation can occur, which is why I love it in spite of itself. The first non-English-speaking country I visited by myself was Sweden. Very modern, almost everyone speaks at least some English there, the food isn’t too crazy. I’d arranged to stay in a dorm room in Stockholm, so I even had a place to head upon arrival. I went out and about my first day, and I was so overwhelmed by being alone in a foreign place that I went back to the dorm and hid. I’m not even kidding, I hid and watched TV and cooked food in the dorm kitchen and felt miserable. I thought I’d made a terrible mistake, and it took all my willpower to eventually leave the safety of my room and continue my travel adventure.

On top of the world... in Switzerland.

Fast forward two months and I was in Switzerland, also alone, but completely transformed. It wasn’t that I was so much more comfortable, but I knew I could rely on myself. I had more confidence, I had seen amazing places and met a huge array of different people, and I had survived. I had faced up to the strong surges of grief I still felt over my mom’s death, and I had finally found a measure of peace around it. I was a different person, and to this day I believe that those two months are among the most important experiences of my life.

So is travel amazing? Yes, but it’s not for the weak of heart. It can be dizzying and terrifying, tedious and stimulating, painful and healing, and no matter how carefully we plan, travel will turn out differently than we expect.

What is an amazing travel experience you’ve had? Or, if you haven’t traveled much, what destination are you eager to visit?

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