What Nobody Tells You About Traveling

This is not a travel blog. This is the small corner of the Internet where I go to brood and complain. If this were a travel blog, I’d probably be a petite blonde with too many bracelets, and give advice like “Follow your bliss!” And there would be cute graphics like this everywhere:

44e6049c141e27a02d99b4f37a5f22c7057ee6db163927c31417ef47263c4a3fda865e845055187879ed152571f39beef464036ebdc0a69f916f7aca4dca5587

So no, I am not a travel blogger, but I am completely obsessed with traveling. I got back from South America two weeks ago and have been extremely depressed ever since. (Seriously. I loved it there.) The only thing that has helped me feel better was booking my flight to Istanbul last night, and skimming the calendar for a long weekend in the fall when Scott and I plan to visit Charleston, South Carolina.

IMG-0456

BRB…crying for Argentina 😥

I’m always met with the same reactions whenever I share my travel experiences: “I’m SO jealous!” “That must be AMAZING!” “Uhhh can I please have your job?! It would be so cool to travel for work.” (BTW traveling for work is NOT the same as traveling for fun.) And yes, traveling is hands-down my favorite thing to do, but before I started doing it I had a lot of assumptions based on…well…the Internet, and specifically how other people made travel seem. Here’s what I would go back and tell myself, as nobody told me the realities of travel lurking behind what you see on Pinterest and Instagram:

 

  • Travel is stressful. You should fully expect to plan a trip, spend a lot of money on it, and then expect at least one thing to go awry. Actually, you’re lucky if it’s just one thing. Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll have a blast, but the
    IMG-1718

    Sunburnt in Costa Rica

    process of getting there may be dull at best and miserable at worst. Delayed flights, missed connections, lost luggage, jet lag, crowded planes, long lines, and germs will be your companions until you set foot on that cobblestone street or sandy beach. You may arrive at your hotel to find that you forgot to bring the right plug adapter, or the A/C is non-existent, or you don’t know how to use a bidet. You may find that the locals stare, or talk too loud, or that the food is too spicy or too bland. You will miss the securities of home. This is the price you pay for real traveling, for having experiences that test you and fling you out of your comfort zone, which give you resilience and photos and memories that when you look back at them, you can only say, “Wow, I can’t believe I did that.” Which is why…

    IMG-0231

    Ohrid, Macedonia – My favorite place in the world.

  • It’s not for everybody. While I’m glad I chose to live abroad and subsequently gained an appetite for traveling to new places, I can completely understand why it does not appeal to other people. Traveling and going to “find yourself” in another part of the world (whatever that means) is a pursuit that is respected, even revered, by my millennial generation. But don’t feel bad if you can’t or don’t want to travel! Don’t feel like you have to travel to “find yourself!” If you would rather go to concerts and get your nails done every week and the idea of backpacking through Central America makes you want to vom, I respect that. Especially because…

    Us-5

    Florence, Italy

  • Travel is not glamorous, at all. Throughout this post are some of the photos I’ve shared on social media from various trips I’ve taken. They all look beautiful, right? Well, I’ll let you in on a secret: these beautiful moments comprise maybe 10% of the time I spend in these places. The other 90%, I’m frantically trying to communicate with people who don’t speak the same language I do, I’m sweating like a dog or chilled to the bone, I’m lost, my feet hurt, my thighs are chafing so badly that the skin has broken, the clothes in my suitcase are wrinkled and/or moldy, I’ve been waiting in line at customs for an hour and a half, or I’m being questioned by the border police in Kosovo. (True story.) Nope. Not glamorous at all.
  • IMG-0073

    Freezing in Prague

    It’s not that expensive. I never even considered traveling or studying abroad in college because I just assumed it wasn’t affordable. I hear a lot of people say: “Oh, Costa Rica? I’ve always wanted to go, but I don’t have the money.” I got my round-trip flight there for less than $400. That’s about as much as it costs to fly to many places in the United States. As for lodging? Hostels. They are NOT sketchy, they are practical and can be really fun if you choose the right ones. (I recommend Hostelworld.com.) And if you want some privacy, book a private room instead of a bunk at the hostel–they are often cheaper than hotels, but you still reap the social benefits of being able to meet fellow travelers who are of a similar age and on a budget. Even if you prefer hotels or Airbnb, many destinations are way cheaper than hotels you would find in the United States. Some of the top-rated hotels in Istanbul are a mere $25/night. (Yay!)

    DSCN1986

    Beautiful Albania–my home for 1.5 years

  • You probably won’t “find yourself”–but you will make the best memories of your life. I hate to burst the other millennials’ bubbles out there, but I’m largely the same person I was before I started traveling the world. However, it’s absolutely true that I have gained perspective and knowledge by being exposed to other places. Visiting the Balkans, and Bavaria, and Basque Country, and the rainforest, and UNESCO World Heritage sites are among the best decisions I’ve ever made and hands down is the best way I could imagine spending my time and money. I don’t travel to enjoy myself, I travel to scare myself to death.

Just 118 days until Istanbul. *Le sigh*

Advertisements

Adult Birthdays

Here’s what you say when you turn the following ages:

1-11: “YAY!!!! It’s my birthday! I’m going to have a [insert most popular Disney movie of the year]-themed party!”

16: “I’m super angsty and I can drive and go to school dances now!”

18: “I can smoke cigarettes, join the armed forces, and get married in all 50 states! Yet for some reason I still can’t drink beer. Hmmmm…”

21: “LETS RAAAAAAAAAAGGGEEEEE”

25: “I can rent a car without paying an extra fee…cool, I guess?”

Here’s what you think about every birthday after you’re 25:

  1. I’ve done nothing with my life.
  2. I regret everything. Why didn’t I major in Computer Science?! Why didn’t I marry that cute guy I met at that party once?! Why didn’t I use that Café Rio coupon before it expired?!!
  3. How long am I going to live? How much time do I have left??? MORTALITY!!!!!!!!!!
  4. What if all my eggs have already died and it’s too late to have kids???
  5. My choices were all dumb.
  6. I already feel fat and old…am I just going to get fatter and older???
  7. I have 29 years left on my mortgage. I will be 47 by then. Just let that sink in for a minute.
  8. I just want to do nothing all the time but that is not an option. *cries*

Happy Birthday to me!

20 Things I Believed in College

A few weeks ago I attended an event for work at my alma mater, the University of Oregon. It was the first time I’d been back there for non-football related reasons since 2012. The check-in staff enthusiastically gave me a little “Alumni” ribbon when I mentioned that I was a graduate. Everyone kept asking me: “How is it to be back?!” And I answered, “Uh…great!” But secretly, I just kept thinking, “All these kids make me feel SO OLD.”

As I walked around campus on a busy Thursday, I was filled with nostalgia. I had expected to traipse those walkways five years later a “completely different person,” as one always hopes herself will be five years in the future. But had I really changed that much? I had cut my hair. I had gotten married. I had appeared on an Albanian talk show next to a “topless DJ.” But I was still myself: mostly fun to be around but with a grumpy/sarcastic edge, highly anxious, easily irritated, and a gigantic nerd. It was kind of disappointing: I was not the sexy, cool human rights attorney (by day, and Wonder Woman by night)–or whatever vague, unreasonable career I imagined for myself at the time–that I envisioned as an undergrad.

Then I realized, as I ruminated on specific memories of myself, that quite a bit had changed—it was just more subtle than dropping 20% of my body fat or earning huge paychecks or saving the world. There were a lot of convictions I held from ages 18-22 that I was just plain wrong about. So, I wrote some of them down. They make me laugh today.

Things I believed when I was in college:

  1. You should study whatever you’re passionate about and not worry about money or career prospects.
  2. Waking up before 10:00 is impossible.
  3. Law school sounds like a good idea.
  4. I’ll never move back to my hometown—it’s the worst.
  5. People who have made different life decisions than I have are all dumb.
  6. I am “poor.”
  7. I am “busy.”
  8. I’m young. I can eat whatever I want!
  9. I’ll go on a date with anyone even if I’m not interested in them, because I’ll be young forever and have all the time in the world.
  10. If I’m not going out every weekend, I’m not “living life to the fullest.”
  11. I’m living on my own! I’m independent!
  12. I don’t need help.
  13. What’s “office hours”?
  14. I think I’ll do Peace Corps and subsequently become a hero.
  15. I’m never going to live with my parents again.
  16. I had one bad relationship so I’m never getting married.
  17. It’s easier to just be polite to my roommates and avoid conflict with them, even if they are horrible to me.
  18. That mold on my walls is probably no big deal.
  19. Football is definitely super important and I’m spending an appropriate amount of time stressing out about it.
  20. I don’t have a plan for my life but I don’t need to, because everything will just work itself out.

They say college is the last opportunity you have to make mistakes in life and get away with them. I certainly made mine, but luckily they weren’t that bad, and some of them I’m even glad I made. Thanks, U of O.

I’m Boycotting Christmas.

This a Public Service Announcement to my loved ones: I am boycotting Christmas this year. PLEASE DO NOT BUY ME ANY PRESENTS. Consider donating to Three Square instead. If at this point you’re rolling your eyes and asking “What is her deal NOW?” just read on.

I can’t keep it a secret any longer: I hate Christmas.

Yep, I’m a fat, fuzzy green Grinch, and I’m proud of it! Actually, I’m probably more of an Ebenezer Scrooge, because I resemble an old British man in more ways than one (i.e. I like to shake my cane at young people on my lawn). Either way, all those sneering villains in classic holiday movies are my heroes, because they understand what most people don’t: Christmas kinda sucks.

I’m anticipating the blowback for this post to be equivalent to, if not just as bad, as when I made a passing negative comment about Disneyland. But this time I actually think I have some decent points to make, so bear with me for a minute:

  • badmom

    If you don’t believe me, they have literally made a movie about this exact topic–“A Bad Mom’s Christmas,” as if only a horrible mother could deign to not do all the dumb Christmas stuff for her children.

    If you are an adult, particularly an adult female, Christmas is just a ton of work. It’s important to clarify that I believe Christmas sucks AS AN ADULT. When you’re a kid, it’s easy to love Christmas because you don’t really have to do anything to make it happen besides helping to decorate the tree. You get showered with gifts and get to eat all your favorite foods and spend time with your extended family. However, when you’re an adult, you’re expected to provide that experience for yourself and others. And on whom do tasks like baking, cooking, decorating, hosting guests, and shopping for gifts typically get delegated to? Women, because we have uteruses (uteri?), which supposedly makes us good at these dumb things while men continue to ruin the world.

    • Disclaimer: I understand that there are plenty of people–both male and female–who genuinely enjoy preparing for Christmas. However, I just don’t think it should be expected of any one person in a relationship or should be expected at all if you don’t want to do it.
  • Christmas has become a ritualistic worship of capitalism. This point has been made over and over again, but there’s a reason for that. Christmas is about presents, period. I get excited about Christmas because I know I will get stuff, and then I remember that I have to get stuff for other people, and then I’m like “UGH.” There’s pressure to buy gifts for everyone you know, hope that the gifts you get from others are equal in value to what you got them and vice versa, and correctly anticipate who is going to get you a gift so you aren’t empty-handed in return. Personally, I go into debt every year buying gifts and I know that the same is true for many of my friends. There is something seriously wrong with a religious holiday becoming a financial strain due to unreasonable expectations.
    whoville

    “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Oh wait, yeah, IT TOTALLY DOES.”

    • I have many wonderful friends whose “love language” is gift-giving, and I think that gift-giving is fine in and of itself. However, my issue with Christmas gifts arises when loved ones do not clearly communicate what to expect from one another. I think there needs to be more of a dialogue between family and friends about what they can reasonably spend on gifts so they avoid making dumb choices like I do. “Hey, I can’t afford to buy presents for everyone in the family. Can we do Secret Santa instead?” “Sorry, but money has been tight lately. Are you okay with a homemade gift?” Etc., etc.
  • Most of the stuff we do to celebrate Christmas has NOTHING TO DO WITH JESUS. Remember that part in the Bible when Jesus said, “Hey guys, make sure you hit up Black Friday to get mediocre sales on things you wouldn’t normally buy anyway”? Me either. Here’s what Jesus actually did say: “Lay up not for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” I think Jesus is probably freaking out like: “C’MON GUYS. There’s poor people, like, everywhere!!! Why are you standing in line at Burlington Coat Factory?!”
    • So what can we do to make Christmas more Christ-centric (if that is your desire)? How about not being incredibly selfish, like me? How about giving to those who aren’t mostly white upper-to-middle-class yuppies, like most of the people I associate with? How about not failing at being Christian anymore, like I do all the time?
  • Santa Claus is creepy. He is literally an old, fat man who stalks children and breaks into their homes at night. Can we get rid of him already?

Many of my family and friends have aptly pointed out that I will probably be more motivated to do the whole Christmas thing if/when I have children. They are correct. However, this year I’m going to do what Jesus might prefer I do: spend time with my family, try not to be so indulgent and self-centered as I’ve been the past twenty-six Decembers, and find someone who could use my help.

But you better believe I’m watching A Christmas Story on repeat all day long, because TBS knows what’s up.

Thoughts, Prayers, and Platitudes

Here are the things people say whenever a mass shooting occurs in the United States:

  • “Did you hear about the shooting in [insert place here]? Super sad.”
  • “’My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.’ That’s what I just tweeted. Doesn’t that make me look so nice and compassionate?”
  • “We REALLY need to do something about gun control in this country.”
  • “We REALLY need to do something about [mental health/immigration—depending on if the assailant is white or not, respectively] in this country.”
  • “All these liberals better not take away my second amendment rights just because of some crazy guy.”
  • “Wait, there was another shooting?”

The response is often jaded, feebly emotional, and charged with political tension. I, personally, had gotten tired of hearing about shootings—not just in the “fed up” type of way, but in the “really? Again?” type of way. I was as guilty as anyone else of these types of responses.

That is, until the most recent—not to mention deadliest—shooting happened right in my backyard, just 10 minutes from where I attend school.

On the morning of October 2, I woke up at 6:35 AM to 56 text messages. Nobody was sharing their “thoughts and prayers.” Nobody was arguing about politics. Here are the things that people say, the text messages your friends send you in the middle of the night, the e-mails you receive from your nursing students, the frantic messages you get from loved ones, when a mass shooting occurs in your hometown:

  • “Are you okay?!!”
  • “You guys, I’m hiding behind an air vent. There are bullets coming from everywhere”
  • “Get out of there!!!”
  • “I can’t find my brother. I’m freaking out”
  • “I just saw policemen running right into it. They are pulling out bloody bodies”
  • “Just saw someone shot in the face”
  • “Are there multiple gunmen?!”
  • “Please respond and tell me you’re okay.”
  • “I just got off a 36-hour shift. The hospital has been crazy.”
  • “This person has been shot and is in critical condition.”
  • “This person has been killed.”

And yet there are things that I’ve been delighted to hear, that I never expected to during such a tragedy, that have made me immensely proud of my community:

  • “Don’t donate blood. The centers are at capacity.”
  • “Schedule an appointment to donate blood later in the week…never mind, they’re full. Schedule an appointment to donate blood next week…never mind, those are full now too. Schedule an appointment to donate blood two weeks from now…never mind…”
  • “Please don’t bring us any more food and water. We have too much.”
  • “We need volunteer grief counselors…Never mind, we have enough grief counselors now.”
  • “Thanks for giving grieving families free airfare, Southwest.”
  • “Thanks for giving grieving families free lodging, hotels on the Strip.”
  • “Thanks to the employees at other resorts who have helped us out. Love, the Mandalay Bay.”
  • “Thanks to companies who have donated catered meals and emergency prescription medication to those affected.”
  • “Thanks for giving people rides, blankets, and food and water, random Las Vegans helping out those who were displaced from their hotel rooms at the Thomas & Mack Center.”
  • “Let’s try and raise $2.5 million for the victims and survivors. Never mind, we did it in less than one day.”

This is what it has been like here. I can’t begin to describe the sadness that everyone is feeling. It’s different when it’s your city. It’s different when it’s your friends that were there. So yes, “tragedy” and “thoughts and prayers” and “senseless violence” have been thrown around a lot, but this time they are not platitudes. They are reality.

I don’t know what to do about all of this. Do I think we should ban all guns? Probably, but do I think that is possible without a painful, possibly bloody struggle? No. Do I think that would stop people from doing bad things? Not necessarily. Mostly, I just don’t have the energy to debate. I’ll leave that to the rest of the country to squabble over, because this didn’t happen to them.

Right now, I’m just sad. Please just let us be sad.

10 Things That Happened After I Deleted Social Media

Last week I got really tired of checking social media so I deleted the Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat apps from my phone and deleted my Twitter account entirely. Here’s what happened:

  1. Had no idea what to do at night before bed. Started reading books n shiz
  2. Frequently wondered, “What am I missing?” and then quickly realized, “Probably literally nothing.”
  3. Thought about posting something I was doing then said “How about I just enjoy doing the thing I’m doing instead of trying to get a good picture of me doing the thing?”
  4. Felt WAY less pressure to be skinny *cough Instagram cough*
  5. Saw zero photos of the Kardashians
  6. Felt relief from being constantly inundated with information
  7. Realized that my (real) friends will actually still talk to me
  8. Got annoying-AF e-mails from Instagram begging me to come back
  9. Improved my attention spanSQUIRREL
  10. My life was exactly the same with the exceptions of numbers 1-9

Why I’m Over This Season of Game of Thrones

Like anyone else who has internet, I love Game of Thrones. I’ve watched the entire series at least three times. (Which is how long it takes to actually understand everything that happens.) I’ve even read all 3,000+ pages of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series that it’s based on, including those in the extended ASOIAF universe. And unlike some who have read the books, I genuinely enjoy the TV show and even prefer some of the storylines to those in the books. I’m not one of those fans who complains that they left out So-and-So or whines because everything isn’t exactly the same.

And although I’ve enjoyed Season 7 so far at surface level, there are a few things that have really annoyed me, to the point that the show may have lost its magic. In the off chance that there is someone out there who agrees with me, here they are.

(Also, obviously, SPOILERS, in case you are an idiot and chose to read this when you’re not caught up.)

  • The creators are cramming way too much into the last two seasons in an attempt to hurry and wrap up the story. “Oh, remember the White Walkers and the Army of the Dead that we began the entire series with? They should probably be a thing now that the show is about to end.” The pace of the previous seasons were more or less what was required to carry the story and develop the characters, which is what the show does best. But beginning with Varys miraculously traveling from Meereen to Sunspear and back in the span of a single episode in the season six finale, the pace of this season has proceeded at an insane, breakneck speed where characters travel thousands of miles in an instant and their actions are summarized by seconds of narration. When they do actually spend time on dialogue, it doesn’t contribute much to the story and instead serves a reminder that “Hey, remember, these two guys don’t like each other.” I miss the times when, for example, we got to watch Brienne and Jaime lumbering through the woods on their way from Riverrun and enjoyed the viciously entertaining dialogue that accompanied it. Season seven feels like a completely different show. Why did they choose to do it this way? Why cut the last two seasons so short?
  • It’s gone the way of most fantasy series and become gimmicky. Episode six–“Beyond the Wall”–really cemented this for me. “Ooooh, big battles with fire and dragons and mythical creatures! Oh no! The big hero is in trouble and is certainly doomed! Wait–it’s a random character everyone forgot about, conveniently riding in to rescue him! Hooray! The hero’s stupid plan succeeded and everything works out for the Good Guys. Oh, but let’s throw in a couple deaths like Thoros and one of the lesser-known dragons so there is somewhat of a dramatic arc.”
  • It’s lost what made it special in the first place: the sentiment that nobody is safe from getting killed off, even main characters. Pretty much no one that we care about has died this season. The death roster includes (as far as I can remember, and correct me if I’m wrong):
    • House Frey (they had it coming);
    • Ellaria and the Sand Snakes (nobody cares);
    • Olenna Tyrell (whom I worship but whose storyline was over and had possibly the most epic onscreen death ever so I’m okay with it);
    • the Tarlys (nobody cares);
    • Thoros (nobody cares);
    • and Viserion (whom we only care about because he’s a dragon and maybe because we feel bad for Daenerys)

There are also plenty of instances where someone important SHOULD HAVE DIED. Jaime and Bronn should not have survived the battle in “Spoils of War,” and going back to point #2, there is also no way Jon or Tormund should have survived that showdown with the White Walkers in episode six. How awesome would it have been if Jon Snow got stabbed, died, was brought back to life in season six, and you assume he’s going to make it through the series and become the Prince that Was Promised but then the showrunners are like “nope” and kill him off the next season, only to be replaced with a way more interesting character like the Hound or Jaime or Ser Davos leading the fight against the Night King?! *Sigh*

However, we still have the finale. Maybe we’ll get some nice, juicy deaths then. Hopefully Cersei.

  • I get it, Jon represents ice and Daenerys represents fire, and they’re gonna bang. I get it, they’re both hot so I should be rooting for them to get together. But for as much build up as there’s been to these two characters meeting, I don’t find their “love” story in the least bit compelling. In the inevitable sex scene that will soon occur between them, I will probably be like “Ugh, okay, let’s just get this over with” rather than the genuine investment I felt in, say, Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s love story or Jon and Ygritte’s love story. The creators actually took time to establish those storylines and made you feel connected to them. Jon and his Aunt Dany? Instead of actually exhibiting any chemistry on screen, they leave that to random secondary characters to make comments like, “Oh, I’ve seen you staring at her boobies, Jon.” Wait, what? When has that ever happened?! If it weren’t for Davos and Tyrion I wouldn’t have detected a whiff of attraction between them until they started holding hands on the boat out of nowhere.
  • 599a5bb721c3fc23008b4a4a-750-408

    Sansa has played the game better than anyone and deserves to win.

    Please remind me why I am supposed to care about Arya. She is belligerent, reactionary, violent, and macabre. The Braavos storyline has been my least favorite of both the books and movies due to its utter pointlessness, and unless she has some greater role to play than just being bitter and vengeful, I want to see her gone and her much more capable and fascinating sister Sansa calling the shots for the Stark family. #TeamSansa

  • On a related note…SOMEBODY PLEASE KILL LITTLEFINGER ALREADY. If Arya does kill him then maybe it will make up for the stupid Faceless Men plot thread that just won’t die.

Nonetheless, keep in mind that I am mercilessly picking apart what is probably the greatest show ever made whilst having never accomplished anything remotely as great as what David Benioff and Dan Weiss have done in adapting this impossibly rich series. I’m gonna go back to picking off my nail polish and watching Netflix in my underwear now.