How to Starve Your Wanderlust From Home

 

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Never stop exploring.

The motto for The North Face? Yes.

But these are also words I have tried to live by. I believe it is fundamental to my well-being (if not everyone else’s around me). Traveling is so good for the soul. It keeps me humble and grounded yet dares me to dream bigger than myself. It opens my eyes to new perspectives, allows me to meet new people, and shows me how small of a place my problems & I occupy. I never want to stop learning about the world, discovering borders I’ve never crossed, and finding myself in the process.

I will confess that I haven’t been doing that. For a while now, I’ve felt extremely restless because I haven’t been traveling. Maybe it’s the dreaded winter months and everything that comes with it, or the stress of timing and unreliable schedules, but all I can think about is planning my next adventure and how miserable I am not currently living it.

Sure, I’ve gone on day trips to wineries and breweries, and next month I am going to Minneapolis to present poetry. But that’s not enough for me.

I’m aching to dig out my passport and book a plane to any point on a map- anywhere but here.

I want foreign foods that set my appetite on fire and languages I don’t understand. I will not uncover the shock of a different culture in the States…right? So what’s the point?

Let’s be honest with ourselves, here. I understand not everyone has the freedom or finances to do so all the time. Some of us have demanding jobs, children, *student loans*, other responsibilities that could hinder our ability to jet off to a different country every month.

HOWEVER. You’re not off the hook. You can’t sit there and make excuses like I did, because I was wrong.

Adventure/traveling/exploring does not just mean abroad. It does not always have to mean a different continent or country. It encompasses more than where you go.

Here is a perfect example. I have lived in Pittsburgh for nearly four years. Had I ever gone to the Mattress Factory? No. So I did.

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And if you can’t tell from the pictures alone, it was incredible. I traveled to a contemporary art museum. I went on an adventure around the neighborhood. I explored these experimental creations from artists around the world and learned the history behind some of the pieces.

Even though it was in the town I am currently living in and therefore, obviously, did not require me getting on a plane or showing my passport, I was still exploring in every sense of the word. And the thought that I was caught up in where I couldn’t go made me completely forget that I have the ability to still escape & explore in other ways, and that just because I’m not on Mount Everest or wherever right now doesn’t mean I a.) won’t be there someday and b.) that there still aren’t amazing sights I can see and heights I can reach.

As I was leaving the museum, this caught my eye:

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Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.

Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino

I can’t begin to describe to you how true that is. We reconnect with a part of our selves that perhaps we never knew was there. I am a part of every place I have ever been, and yet am not defined by it. I’m not complete- I have not discovered everywhere yet.

While I can sit here and tell you how I traveled or why you should book that flight, I’ll save that for another post.

So, here are some ideas for when you want to get away, but feel stuck where you are:

  1. Try a new restaurant/bar. First off, it’s food & drinks. There should be no other explanation necessary. However, you get to experience the atmosphere of a new place, explore the menu, and give your taste buds an adventure. My boyfriend & I did this last weekend and I was floored by how much fun I had.

If you’re in the area, check out Butcher and the Rye:

 2. Read a book. The best journey you can take without ever leaving your bed.

3. Take a class. Spin class, boxing, cooking, dancing, glass blowing, whatever your little heart desires or wants to know. Do that. It allows you to interact with a new group of people, plus adds to your skill set. Win-win.

4. Go on foot. Not everywhere is accessible by car or bus. Go hiking on some back trails, or explore that park you always pass. run

5. Google your town, or the nearest town to you. Think about where you would take a friend who is coming to visit you that are touristy and must-sees. Been to all those places? Then do a quick search to see if there’s any attractions or landmarks you missed, or pick the next biggest town.

6. Pick up a new sport, or do something that scares you. I am training to run 26.2 miles when I never could run more than 2. What do you want to accomplish? What scares you? Dive in headfirst.

7. Don’t just window shop. Just because you can’t afford expensive jewelry doesn’t mean you can’t try it on.  Why not go into a store or wander down a street you walk past every day on your way to work, but have never checked out?

8. Watch a documentary or listen to a podcast. Similar to a book, both watching & listening to stories allows us to follow them as they unfold. Plus, YOU CAN LEARN SO MUCH. I am all about killing those two birds with one stone.

9. See it from a different angle. Never take the train? Live near tons of rivers or lakes, but never been out swimming, fishing, boating, etc.? Get out there. Especially if it’s a hot air balloon, which I still have yet to experience. But, I kayaked on Pittsburgh’s three rivers and it was amazing. kayak

10. Wake up for a sunrise. I will never quite understand how I am speechless every time I see one, or how it can make an everyday “old” view look so new and beautiful.

11. Try out a new recipe. Better yet, want to go to Spain? Thailand? Look up traditional foods and have at it.

12. If all else fails, just go. Take a Megabus (super cheap). Or go on a road trip, even if it’s to a place that’s less than an hour away. Walk. Run. Just go, and see where it takes you.

 

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& don’t you dare forget to dream.

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Making the Connection

This past week, I have thought a lot about connections. How they’re made and strengthened, or broken in an instant, or missed by a moment…

How strange is it that girls I thought would someday be standing beside me on my wedding day haven’t spoken to me in years?

They had been there through moments nobody else had- my first real break up, holding my hair back after too much vodka, picking up the phone when everything was falling apart. They knew me like no one else had. I get that they’re called memories for a reason, but how one could just forget these huge moments and years of knowing and move on, the Earth still spinning and them not shaken, stunned me.

Perhaps it was entirely my fault. Did I not call enough? Put myself first instead of them? Have some quirky habits that they got sick of? Or did I just try too desperately to tape back  together a friendship that was beyond the point of repair? It was ridiculous how I pounded these thoughts into my skull looking for answers. This was a friend, not a boyfriend. I thought they were supposed to be there forever. I know there is a reason and season to everything. Maybe ours just was over. We were meant to be inseparable in those crucial years, to learn and be there for one another, but beyond that, grow apart into our own separate selves. Our friendships weren’t serving us anymore.

But in some cases, their presence on social media still haunted me. Part of me wonders why I haven’t severed the remaining ties between us. The block/delete button is right there, but so hard to push. What am I holding on to? Or am I worried that will send the wrong message? Better yet, why do I still care, if they don’t?

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I heard somewhere that your high school friends often disappear, because people grow up and change and go away to college, and the bonds that cannot withhold the distance will soon break. Plus, your college friends become more like your family due to the capacity in which you are living near/with them 24/7, and you begin the foreign adventure into adult life together. I thought I believed that until I lived through it.

Three nights ago, I had dinner with a friend I’d maybe spoken to a handful of times during my time as an undergraduate student. He has never seen me projectile vomit at a fraternity house, nor did he ever know what was going through my mind when I broke up with my first boyfriend. In fact, he probably knows very little about my family or my favorite color. But he knows exactly how it felt when I stepped foot off the plane in Barcelona, and how my heart continues to ache for the places I haven’t even been to yet. And he was the first to guide me and help me with traveling, and despite our many differences, is always someone I can rely on when it comes to my journey.

Similarly, two coworkers who have husbands and pets (of which I have neither) and who I met during my 9-5 have become two women that I admire most. I cherish our friendship and the roads that brought us together, though I never expected them to lead us here. We are now training for a full marathon together. Lord knows anyone who sees you sweat is seeing a side of you that others will never understand!

With other friends, it has been more like a cha-cha. We live far away, (Washington, Utah, South Carolina, New York, etc.) yet EVERY single time I meet up with them, I find the conversation barreling past 90 mph and picking up right where we left off. They don’t hear much about my day to day life or even what’s really been going on in my life via frequent messages, but I have full faith that they would be there to see me through it.

I have made so many acquaintances in my small corner of the world, and it has helped me to connect (and in some cases, reconnect) with amazing people. And sometimes, it is shocking who has proved to be there for me.

But that’s how it goes. Several people I thought I would never lose touch with, I have. And those who I was not close with, I now spend time with and talk to regularly. Life keeps you constantly on your toes like that.

Quite similar is the evening I shared with four incredible individuals (The Night Five Strangers Fell In Love). We did not have the same native language, nor did we spend more than only 24 hours together, but they have set my soul on fire in a way no one else has, especially in that short of time.

And what about all the connections that we miss? Before my boyfriend and I started dating, we had several run-ins at college. We had an insane amount of mutual friends. I had been in the building where he lived. It is quite possible that we were in the same room at the same party on more than one occasion, yet maybe we just were not ready for one another. We needed that time to become who we are, and to be ready for one another. Fast forward four years after graduation, and it is still mind boggling to think, “What if?”

One of the main reasons I have such a strong passion for travel is because of the connections I am able to make while doing so. And no, I don’t mean just with other people, although that’s evident. I have felt the presence of God standing on the top of Schilthorn more than I ever have in a church pew. I have felt more loved when I was completely alone on top of the castle of Sant Joan than surrounded by friends and family. I have befriended a couple who was nearly 3-4 times my age and never missed a beat feeling right at home. I found out who I was when I navigated city maps and got lost on street corners, when I was angry or sad or hurt, lonely or confused. I found myself by leaving what I thought I knew behind. There is such a deep connection made through more than the sights. More often than not, travel discovery becomes self discovery.

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I’ve got this notion that airports are just so freaking romantic. There are hellos and goodbyes in every terminal, and it’s that moment where a loved one steps off a plane, or gives one final goodbye wave before boarding, that I have both felt and witnessed such true and pure emotion. There is nothing like it. I could people watch for hours if security would let me. Everyone is just trying to get somewhere, you know? We all have our stories, our connections, our ties to something and someone. Who knows where they intersect? And though many of these people are rushing, there’s fleeting glimpses between strangers, always flirting with the idea of the unknown, or a smile, like maybe they knew you in another life.

I’m not sure what solidifies these connections, but in 2016 I aim to make many more…and who knows? Maybe I’ll meet you somewhere along the way.

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A Load of Sh*t

About to get way too real with you guys…

So two nights ago, I’m curled up in bed reading/diligently studying “Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps,” a book my good friend Catherine gave me for my 25th birthday. Because, obviously, we were having quarter-life crises and needed guidance.

So I am reading (bonus adult points) instead of on social media or watching Netflix.

I am also starting to deeply regret having donuts and eggnog for dinner. Not very adult of me, I’m aware. But I’m easing out of my holiday binge season…so just let a girl live, okay? Baby steps.

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Anyway, after eating the most unhealthy dinner ever and already feeling queasy that day at work and not calling off, (very adult of me, or so I thought), my stomach is rumbling something fierce.  Like it actually begins to frighten me.

After almost 20 minutes on the porcelain throne, I return back to bed and continue reading.

And then, some time later, while reading a book about Adulting, I, a GROWN ASS WOMAN, shit myself.

Yes- I know. The irony of this is not lost on me.

Anyone can tell it is a shart when they feel one. It just slipped out. Not completely, thank God. But enough. (In my defense, I later discovered I got that nasty stomach virus that’s going around, so it wasn’t really my fault. It’s just shitty. Really.)

And yes- I know it’s gross, and TMI, and of course I am embarrassed and humiliated and horrified. But everyone poops. Everyone gets sick. And in retrospect, the situation is just too ironic and too funny not to laugh about.

I debated sharing this post, but what the hell.

Sigh.

I guess sometimes you have a big girl job and do your taxes and cook things that aren’t just in the microwave, and then other times, at 25 years old, you accidentally shit yourself. Would ya get a load of that- life, I guess.

 

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