I’ve been traveling pretty regularly for the past 2 years. What started off as a trip every few weeks, turned into quitting my job and taking off for 8 months straight. I constantly get messages from friends asking me how I travel so much, to which I reply, “because God is so stinkin’ good,” (and then I add that I also saved money, quit my job and voila!) Or I get messages from friends saying they wish they could do the same. At times I think, “yea ya do...‘cause this is awesome!” but other times, after a stressful day (of getting lost in the pitch-black alley-ways of Venice, or spending 26 hours straight in a Peruvian bus) I think, “no, no you really don’t…”
Travel as a whole seems glamorous. Well, it is, considering the destinations. Social Media paints a beautiful picture of the glamour in travel (and trust me, I can be a great artist). It’s sort of like a new parent who floods their social media with adorable baby pictures that leave us all goo-goo and ga-ga-ing over the idea of having our own nugget. The little ones are presented clean and smiling sweetly. But I’ve worked with kids long enough to know that’s not the reality. The reality is that babies are loud and dirty. They have no problem using you as a diaper cleaner and barf napkin.
We all tend to post all the beautiful and wonderful-ness of our lives. Especially someone like me, who gets to post some stinkin’ cool stuff. But social media, or me for that matter, fails to fill you in with all the details—the in-betweens—the over-crowded bus rides, the missed trains, and the noisy hostels that don’t let you sleep. So many of the details leave you gasping for air like a child suffering from asthma, wondering (in the moment) if any of it is worth it.
And truthfully, most of the time I feel like I’m gasping for air…until I reach to where I’m going…until I reach that Instagram worthy shot. That moment of euphoria I get as I’m walking towards that precious site--like if I’ve been breathing deep and hard for that good breath and out of nowhere, an oxygen mask is pressed to my face. I can suddenly breathe again…and breathe oh so clearly.
Traveling economically and alone involves everything from a cheap hostel facing a painfully loud train station, to a friend’s living room couch, to uncomfortable public transportation. There aren’t any 5-star hotels and über services (well, except for my last 2 girls’ trips to DC and NY earlier this year where we got lucky...as per usual when it’s a group of gals)
Throughout the past 8 months I’ve learned that travel can be ridiculously unglamorous… with only moments of sweet, deep oxygen flow.
It was 3:15 p.m. in Pisa. I had just arrived from spending the morning in Florence. I stepped off the train only to get a little lost--once again. As I took a look at the giant train station map to figure out where the famous Leaning Tower was, I realized it was to the far northwest corner of the region, and I was strategically placed in the far southeast corner. “Alright, let’s do it” I whispered as I began the long journey to...well, I wasn’t too sure.
The sun was scheduled to set at 4:51, and I was determined to reach the leaning tower before it was too dark to be able to enjoy it. By the time I headed the correct direction it was 3:35. My tiny little strides were spreading wider each step as I continuously checked my watch. I really didn’t know how long it would take me to reach the opposite side of town, but I was on a mission. I was hoping to reach the tower by 4pm, to then start heading back towards the station before it got too dark. When you don’t have wifi, google maps or even a regular map at your disposal, you can really only trust your gut, the position of the sun, and the direction people are going. The clock continued to tick as my little feet moved faster, and I continued scoping out the city. I maneuvered my way through small, dark alleyways headed one direction: straight. I’m wondering how safe Pisa is, realizing it’s a lot smaller than the other few cities I’ve been to. My attention is suddenly caught by an ever-too-big Siberian Husky. I hunch over and started flirting with the pup. His beautiful blue eyes matched the sky perfectly. “Bello!” I tell his owner, as I take out my phone to snap a picture. His owner exchanged a few words with me in Italian, which I pretended to understand as I smiled and began walking away, keeping my focus on the picture I just took. I took a few more steps before I finally looked up.
I gasped. There it was. I could see the leaning tower in the distance and a natural giggle escaped my lips as the euphoric oxygen-mask-like feeling took over. It was beautiful and all so very, well...glamorous.