Friday, February 8, 2019

I Seriously Think Travel May have Ruined my Life

I Think Travel May have Ruined my Life....but in a Very Good Way.  Or in a very bad way depending on how you look at the way I live my life and travel in general.

I've been thinking about travel a lot lately.  Well, more than usual because I'm always thinking about travel.  Maybe I've been thinking about it more lately because it seems like it's been forever since I went anywhere outside of Canada.  Many years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would go somewhere outside of my home country at least once a year. This year, I broke that promise.  I opted for a staycation due to a number of factors, including financial limitations, work obligations and the simple fact that we had a phenomenal summer here in Atlantic Canada and I wanted to enjoy every second of it!. The furthest I went was Newfoundland for a week.  If you are not up on your Canadian geography, Newfoundland is only an hour-long flight or 6-hour ferry ride away and is right next to my home province of Nova Scotia.

But now, as I sit here on a cold winter night and come to the realization that the last time I left my comfort zone and explored a different part of the world was in September of 2016 when I went to Scotland.  That's a long time ago.  At least it is to someone who has a travel addiction and has not fed that addiction in over two years!

I may not have traveled much lately but I certainly go on a lot of adventures even if they are within two hours of my house.  I had an incredible summer and found lots of new places on Cape Breton Island and explored some unfamiliar territory.  But now that the beach days and long summer nights are long gone and winter has set in, I am thinking about all the places I have yet to see in this world.  And when I get thinking about travel and the traveling I'm not doing, my mind shifts to the travel I already did and how those adventures shaped my life.  It also makes me realize how I feel a little bit sorry for the people around me who have never traveled, have no desire to travel and will never experience the benefits of immersing oneself into a new land and a new culture.  They have no idea why I am so crazy about packing a suitcase, jumping on a long-haul flight and traipsing around a place far, far away where I know no one and have no real reason to be there.  When my brain goes into overload thinking about these things, I also get an urge to try and persuade as many people as possible to join me on an adventure so I can show them what they are missing.  I imagine myself doing this in much the same annoying way they try to persuade me to grow up, give up traveling, have a normal life and settle down. 

Over and over again, I see my friends and family making comments on social media about how some places are so dangerous to travel to and how the world is such a scary place and blah blah blah.  They berate me with stories of how women are raped and murdered when traveling alone and how terrorist attacks are becoming more frequent.  The more I roll my eyes, the more persistent they become in their quest to change me into a domestic homebody who has no desire to go anywhere except to the grocery store. 

I cant think of any negative effects travel has had on me except that I miss it like crazy when I'm not doing it.  Travel has had profound positive effects on every aspect of my life.  It has broadened my way of thinking, it has made me smarter and it has made me look at the world in a whole new way.  It frustrates me to no end how no one else sees this.  All anyone sees is me going on vacation, wasting time and procrastinating the "adulting" stage by "running away from real life".  If they only knew the positive effects travel has actually had on my adult life!  The thing is, the things I see as positive effects on my life, are actually seen as negative things by the modern society that subconsciously limits us to a robotic life that is set up before we even begin living it. If I can change just one person's mind and make them see that they don't need to be trapped in that cycle.  If I can encourage just one person to buy a plane ticket to a far away land and have them see what they are missing and how travel can positively change their life, I've done my job.  

My first real big trip as an adult was the one I took with my sister to Las Vegas.  No one batted an eye at the announcement of this trip.  I presume it was because I wasn't going alone and I was traveling to a country deemed safe in most people's eyes.  However, upon our return, I got some real funny looks and comments when I told people about how we rented a car and drove around in the desert for several days.  I realized then and there that any travels taken off the well-beaten path in unconventional manners would be frowned upon by pretty much everyone. I also soon realized that being a woman who travels alone raises a lot of eyebrows.

The fact that I am a woman who travels alone to far away places is not the only thing that gets a negative reaction from people.  I live what I consider to be a very unconventional lifestyle compared to the majority of people.  I do my own thing.  And I do it at my own pace. And a lot of the things I do revolve around planning my next big trip.  For some bizarre reason, many people have a problem with this! I don't know if they are jealous or mad because I'm not joining the herd and carrying my weight the way I am supposed to in their eyes or if they just like to try to control others.  Perhaps they are miserable in their own lives and want me to join them, but who am I to judge. I don't see anything wrong with living a minimalist lifestyle.  I don't see anything wrong with cutting certain unnecessary items out of my budget to save for a trip.  I don't see anything wrong with not having fancy ornaments and material objects around my apartment.  I don't see anything wrong with living in a small apartment!  I don't see anything wrong with turning down invites to dinners and expensive outings that I don't like participating in anyway and I don't see a problem with spending some of my hard-earned cash on something I enjoy doing. But time and time again, I am faced with insulting questions and attempts to change my life around to suit others rather than continuing on in a way that's suitable to me.

When I announce that I am going on a trip, I get two different responses: 1) "Wow that sounds fantastic, enjoy! OR 2) "You are going away again.  Where do you get the money to go on these trips?  Don't you think you should be thinking about settling down?"  The majority are in the second group, unfortunately.  First of all, due to work obligations, I only get the chance to go away on a big trip once a year.  That's not a lot.  Second of all, I tried settling down, it's not for me. Maybe I need to be paired with someone who likes to travel and live a non-materialistic lifestyle rather than spend their life keeping up with the Jones'. These people are hard to find.  I work, my chores get done, I'm responsible. I just don't get what the problem is!

The most insulting is the questions about money.  The people around me seem to have this misconception about me and money.  Either they think I am rich or I go into debt using credit cards to travel.  The reality is neither is true.  The same people who ask me how I can afford to travel are the same people who shop for new clothes every other week, smoke cigarettes, go out to expensive restaurants and clubs every weekend, gamble and buy expensive electronics and knick knacks that they don't need.  I shop for clothes once a year and more than half that shopping is done in thrift shops.  When someone invites me to go shopping, I try to think of ways to play dead or disappear as I would rather shoot myself in the left foot than spend a sunny summer day in a mall dipping into my travel fund to buy things I don't need.  Speaking of the travel fund...that's another sore spot with many people.  They are appalled that I even have this!  To them it's appalling that I would have a fund put aside for travel but none put aside for my future kids' education (meanwhile, I don't have kids and don't plan on having any) or for a down-payment on a house (what do I need a house for when I'm alone and move around so much!) I don't smoke or drink excessively and my outings on the weekend involve hiking or snowshoeing or going to the beach and I bring a picnic. I might eat at a restaurant once or twice a year.  My one trip that I take each year might cost 2000 dollars at most and that is on the higher end.  Now, If I sit down and add up all the expenses that many of the people who question me have (and yes, in my frustration and confusion, I have sat down and done the calculations), they spend THOUSANDS more on material things than I do on experiences. No material thing has done for me what my travel experiences have.  I wouldn't trade those memories and experiences for anything! And anyway, after seeing how happy many people in this world are with so little, I realized long ago that money and materials are not the key to a peaceful life.

I feel that I have everything I need and at times, I feel like I actually might have too much.  I am constantly downsizing to have more space and less things to drag around with me.  I live in a small apartment that is the perfect size for me and it's nice.  At least to me it's nice. To others?  Not so much.  I have furniture but it's older and mismatched.  I have a bed but it's well-worn and has claw marks from where my beloved kitty scratches in the middle of the night for me to pick him up and put him in the bed to cuddle with me.  I have dishes and appliances but they are not fancy, modern shiny things.  They work and do the job I need them to do and that's fine with me! I don't have lots of ornaments and pictures and pretty things scattered about because I am trying to keep my life simple and as less cluttered as possible.

My cherished possessions are my cat, my family photo albums and cherished items that belonged to my mother who has passed away.  My laptop is pretty important too as it helps me to indulge in the things i love - writing, blogging, photography and travel planning.  But when certain people come to my house, they loudly and rudely proclaim their distaste at my lifestyle. They say things like "how can you live in such a small space?" or "you know you can get matching sheets and affordable modern furniture at Wal Mart" or how about "you certainly haven't honed in on your womanly domestic instincts".  Now, I have to mention...MY APARTMENT IS CLEAN AND UNCLUTTERED WITH WOOD FLOORS AND A LOVELY KITCHEN AND COSY LIVING AREA!!  In other woods, it's far from a dump!  I have a busy, active life.  I work hard and play just as hard.  I have more important things to worry about than whether my sheets match or my towels don't have a few frays in them.  The people who make these comments to me, on the other hand, have next to no hobbies, spend all their free time cleaning and watching TV and gossiping about how they don't like the way other people live their lives. Not that that's a problem for me, everyone has their own idea of fun and are free to live their life how they want.  I wonder if it occurs to these people that I am hurting no one by living my life this way and I never make insulting comments to them about their lives.

The people around me often criticize me for being frugal and saving money for travel. I don't have a whole lot of money as it is, so I like to save a little so I can do some of the things I enjoy.  Travel happens to be one of the things I enjoy.  Why would I go shopping, eat at a restaurant, go to a movie, go out drinking or go to a casino when I don't particularly enjoy doing those things. I do them from time to time in order to spend some time with friends (even though they rarely bend and do things I enjoy...I can just imagine the reaction I would get if I suggested to have a picnic in the park rather than go to a restaurant!) and show that I am willing to be flexible.  They laugh at me when I make my own coffee at home or take my own lunch to work rather than eating out.  They roll their eyes at me when I refuse to join them at the mall for the latest sale that "can't be missed" or when I use coupons when buying groceries.  They question my sanity when I say I don't subscribe to cable, satellite, Netflix or any other television service.  They call me a cheapskate, hippie and weirdo.  They think I'm downright nuts when I work every hour of overtime that is offered to me so I can bank a little more money for my next adventure. But I can see the jealousy written all over their faces when I tell them I just booked a sunny beach vacation in the dead cold of a Maritime winter.  All those extra savings allow me to travel this vast, beautiful world of ours that I just can't get enough of. 

Travel runs my life in many ways.  Every time I do go shopping for anything, I make sure to shop where I can get points towards travel with my credit card or Airmiles. At times, I eat less, drive less and work more...all for the sake of travel.

When trying to place an event in my life on a timeline, I often use a trip I took as the reference point.  That's how important travel is to me.  The trips I've taken have all had major impacts on my life and have become important milestones in my timeline.  When I'm not traveling, I'm thinking about travel, writing about travel, trying to come up with ways to travel and trying to convince others to travel more.

If you have never taken a trip outside your home country, I strongly urge you to do so ASAP.  I can't express enough how important it is for us to indulge in new cultures, have a change of scenery once and a while and see new places.  Getting out of the safe zone and venturing out into the big, bad world makes it seem a lot less big and bad.  But don't blame me if you get hooked.  It happens to most travelers who just can't get enough of the beauty of this planet and its people.

The travel bug has certainly messed with my head but in so many good ways!  It has turned my life upside down, changed my perspective, changed my view of the world and everything around me and has made me a better person in more ways than I can count.  I don't see any international trips in my immediate future except in my dreams where I will dream about the next time I roll out my trusted old suitcase and board a plane to yet another far away land. 

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