Happy Labor Day. These random holidays like Labor Day and 4th of July and Memorial Day has never really meant too much to me. Working in health care, days like these are really just regular days. There’s no such thing as ‘holidays’, or at least not in the traditional sense where I’d get the same days off as everyone else and get do things like hang out at the lake with friends or enjoy cook-outs for the holiday. So in that sense joining the Peace Corps has been interesting. At one point or another I’ve celebrated every American holiday outside America, and some countries’ holidays inside that country. But nothing can replace celebrating the holiday in its original form… And while I’ve only been gone from the USA for a few months, there are still things I miss. This post is from my previous travel blog from when I spent 16 months traveling around South America (with some updates from what I’m missing now… Some things change; some never will… like my love for good pizza).
Pizza Pizza is probably my favorite food on the planet. Back home, I probably ate pizza 3-4 times a month. Not always the same kind or from the same place, but pizza (and a salad when I’m feeling healthy) has been a staple in my diet since the early years and I don’t suspect it leaving any time soon. I did find pizza goodness in Buenos Aires and Mendoza; however most of South America and all of Rwanda has been a huge disappointment in terms of pizza. Bad crust, bad sauce, strange ingredients. I can’t wait to hit up Barley’s Taproom or Sidewall’s or the Mellow Mushroom for some good pizza with olives, feta cheese, spinach, and tomatoes.
One of my Peace Corps goals is to make a pizza… a delicious pizza like the one pictured below.
Watching American sports. I am a huge sports junkie and I miss meeting up with friends to watch March Madness, college bowl games, or stressing over Tennessee football. Fall is always the hardest because college football in nearly a religion in the south, and I am a follower of the sacred University of Tennessee. Watching my favorite teams at odd hours via slow internet streams just didn’t cut it, and while going to sporting events where I am is a small comfort, I am never going to follow Mexican bullfighting, Venezuelan baseball, Peruvian football, Rwandan basketball, or Buenos Aires polo when I am at home. [Although I happily watched Super Bowl XLV live.]
I am grateful that I was in a country that was a soccer loving one with time time zones close to the original for some of the world cup matches. Before joining the Peace Corps, I had hoped to score tickets to World Cup|Russia, but watching the games in this tiny corner of the world where soccer rules, is great for international bonding.
Food variety. If I ever eat white rice again, it will be too soon. Seriously, that seemed to be the hallmark of almost every single meal I’ve eaten over the few months. I wasn’t a big fan to begin with, but having it on the plate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner got old. Fast!
One of the staples of Rwandan cuisine is–you guessed it–white rice. It’s no wonder I never eat this in America.
Free, non-carbonated water in restaurants. Again, this should be self-explanatory. Plenty of places offered free snacks, but free water? Not a chance.
Public transportation. Even though back home I do not live in an area with good public transportation, I like going to places where it’s accessible and easy to use. MARTA in Atlanta has gotten me where I needed to be on more than one occasion. Subways in Rome, New York, London, Moscow and Buenos Aires are amazing. If I didn’t live in a rural area, I’d be all about using light rail (like Seattle’s metro link that whisks me to and from the airport to the center of town without issue) or whatever was available. Motor bike taxis, bicycle taxis, mini buses, cars nearly falling apart, and cabs—not so much to my liking.
Knowing where to find things. Again, yes, you can buy just about everything you need on the road even in tiny remote villages in the middle of nowhere. But finding those things can be a challenge. In most of the places I visited (and Madagascar is no exception), daily essentials were spread out among many smaller stores and it took me days (or weeks) to figure out where to go for what I needed.
Not paying to use the toilet. Or even finding a toilet when needed. I think this one is self-explanatory. Fun fact: did you know that, according to The Guardian, the top 10 worst places in the world to find a toilet are in Africa. One is Madagascar [4th worst place in the world to find a toilet] and two of Rwanda’s neighbors also make the list [Tanzania and Congo] and there is a World Toilet Day (it is November 19th if you’re curious), dedicated to keeping everyone’s shit corralled so that fecal contamination of the water supply as well as diseases transmitted via the fecal-oral route are diminished.
Another Peace Corps’ goal: to make myself a luxurious toilet where my knees don’t creak every time I must use it or in emergency situations, shit does not splash on my shoes/feet.
Respect for people’s time. Even though I am not a scheduler by nature, I do appreciate time. At home, when someone says “let’s meet at 8:00,” they generally mean “let’s meet at 8:00.” If they are running late, they will call or text you to let you know. We have a basic appreciation for people’s time and not wasting it. Such was not the case while I was traveling. Nothing seemed to start on time and someone saying they would meet you at 8:00 meant hopefully they would be there by 9:00 – likely with no contact whatsoever to indicate they may be late. When we were planning anything that include non-Americans we always gave a fake time. 7:00 meant 8:00 or so. Indeed, most people didn’t arrive until closer to 8:30. I think this just reflects a more laid back attitude, but as someone who hates waiting around for no good reason, I will take the American way every day.
I have found a general lack of respect for time in nearly every corner of the globe… except Germany and Switzerland… oh how I love that place; they are so punctual.
American men. I know many women love over foreign men. Heck, I have even dated foreign men [One abroad, one who had moved to USA], but overwhelmingly, the foreign men I have met [mostly Italians and Hispanics] are overbearing, controlling, condescending, and overprotective. I do not like being yelled at or whistled to in the street. I do not like being asked if I ‘want to fuck’ because those are the only English words they know. For me, that machismo attitude is such a turn off! Give me a good old American guy who can see a woman as his equal and appreciate her independence. A guy that smells clean, wears cologne sparingly, and bathes regularly. A guy who wears baseball hats and khakis rather than skinny jeans, and who is at least my height (5’9). If he has green eyes and curly hair, well, I’m a smitten kitten.
Free wi-fi: Wi-fiis slowly making its way down south, but it is not always free, nor is it always reliable. It brings me back to the Ethernet cords I had in college. Or dial-up. Both make me appreciate how prevalent wi-fi is in the USA. [and Canada and Europe]. 2018 hasn’t brought many upgrades to the poorer corners of the world.
But what I miss most about being away from the USA, is people and kitty cats …co-workers, friends, and family + Lucy and Molly.
I have just tried some computer updates and all my content from my blog has disappeared.
Inhale….Exhale…Keep everything in perspective…
I am on with live chat as I type.
10 Years! That’s how far content went back on Adventure Adikt. I am hoping it’s not gone forever.
Adventures through 50+ countries. Adventures in going back to school. Adventures in moving (and more moving). Adventures hiking. Adventures with friends. Adventures solo.
I completely changed in the last 10 years. I hardly recognize that person who landed in Italy in early February 2006. She’s changed.
A lot. Hopefully for the better.
I’ve changed careers. Twice.
I know more about ‘balance’. I think I’ve learned how to put things in perspective.
In my 20’s, life was all about following some predetermined life path set up by society. I may have failed miserably on following the predictable path that went college—>marriage—->career—->house—->children, but I have definitely succeeded on following MY path.
I think I’m a better person than I was 10 years ago. I like to think that I am able to keep perspective in all areas of life. If I have to start over, well, there’s no time like the present.
Last week, I wrote about things traveling has taught me. Today, it’s about things I still don’t know how to do despite my 30+ years on the planet. When did being an adult get so complicated?
How to dance.–Even though my best friend is a dance teacher.
How to cook anything that isn’t tacos.–I mean I can follow a recipe but those people who can whip up amazing dishes with random ingredients in their pantry a la Chopped!–those people have real talent.
How to flirt. It is shameful the things I don’t know about flirting.
How to say no to something I really don’t want to do. I have been on a few dates with people only because I couldn’t say NO without making up something or coming across like a bitch. I have also done things I wasn’t overly thrilled about doing just because I couldn’t say no. And I’ve worked way too many extra shifts and done way too many extra projects because I didn’t want to say no.
How to wear make-up. You’d think that every female alive would know how to apply make-up properly. I am not even talking about special occasion make-up. I don’t even know how to do much more than put on lotion.
How to run. Properly. Seriously, who can’t run. That would be me. I have never managed to eek out more than 0.25 miles before collapsing in a heap of rubble thinking “Who would do this on a regular basis?” And I have managed to trip over a root and break not one, but two bones while running.
How not to take criticism personally. I try. I really do, but when someone say to me “That poem sucked.” or “that photograph is pretty generic” or “this dish is rather bland” what I hear is “You suck. You are generic and bland.” and then I think no one likes me.
How to sew. Clothes. Skin I can manage, and I did learn to darn socks when I was a child, but who does that anymore?
How to air-kiss. I mean what’s the point. Kissing should involve lips and tongues and attractive men. Otherwise, what’s the point…just shake hands. Or hug. I only wish people in France, Brazil, or basically anywhere not in the USA [or Japan] would come around to my way of thinking.
How to change a diaper. And I work with kids. In a hospital. Where diapers are being changed constantly. Who knew people at home didn’t actually weigh the diapers to see how much pee it contained. They just tossed them away. So cavilier–these people we call parents.
How to use a budget. I can set one up just fine, and I always have a very good estimate of how much money is in any given account and/or how much I owe. I am just not every good at following a plan.
How to drive a stick shift. I am ashamed to admit it. It has held me back in some of my travels. I have only owned 3 cars in my lifetime and none of those have been stick shifts.
How to manage time well. I often get distracted by things that are much more fun than the task I am currently doing. Cleaning out the file cabinet–boring. Reading all the stuff I found stuff in the file cabinet–much more interesting. Let’s not even get started about all the things I find on the internet at 3am.
How to have meaningful conversations. I am sarcastic at times. Snarky even. I make light of serious subjects. Humour is a defense mechansim and I use it well. Becuase when the time comes, how do you really bring up serious conversations. And if you can manage to braoch the topic–how do you have a honest conversation about the serious parts of life.
How to tell people what I want. Whether in the more personal aspects of life or the more general. How do you say no, I really don’t want to go to that party with you. I’d really rather just stay home.
16. How to ask for help. I grew up super independent. No one ever had to check my homework, wake me up for school, or tell me it’s time for bed. I probably went years without asking anyone for anything. Now that I am an adult, there are situations that I am in where I really need help. At work—you can’t save a dying person by yourself. At home–Christopher and Lucy need someone to look after them when I travel. In life–maybe just how to do all these things I don’t know how to do.
17. How to say I love you. Especially when I really mean it. I can tell the kitties I love them all day long, but people–especially the ones I am closest too–saying I love you usually causes me to break out into an episode that looks strangely like a heart attack on an EKG. But to those people–and you know who you are–I love you. I am glad you are in my life. There I said it. Just don’t think this will be a regularly occurring event.
18. How to tip people? I mean why is this even necessary. [and yes, I have worked in the service industry where most of my income was from tips] I am not going to tip someone for getting a bag out of the car for me. Or turning down my sheets [not that this happens often as I don’t usually take taxis or stay in fancy hotels] But why should I tip someone for doing their job. No one tips me when I save their life or their child’s life and I’d argue that CPR is one damn important service. I don’t even get a ‘great job on the rescue breathing’ or ‘those were some awesome chest compression you did’ so I don’t see the rationale behind giving a tip to the person who cuts my hair or cleans my hotel room.
19. How to break up with someone. Hasn’t been much of an issue of late because generally the guys break up with me. And while that sucks. At least I am not the bad guy.
20. How to select produce or meat. Grocery stores present a huge challenge for me. I usually walk around looking lost. And I don’t generally buy more than bananas. It’s the only thing I know I can’t mess up. Unless I select a plantain by accident.
21. How to match shoes and purses with my outfit. Which is possibly the real reason I don’t carry a purse. Or have a wide variety of shoes to choose from.
22. How to really work my cell phone. It’s a phone, people. And that is what I use it as. Occasionally I use it to look up something on the internet or post something to Facebook, but that’s about it. I don’t tweet, pin, or do much more from my phone other than talk and occasional text. I know…I sound so OLD. [I am getting better at this one though]
23. How to do cool things on the computer. Ok, so I have a blog. I am fairly good with a camera, but Photoshop–I have no clue. Making cool videos–no idea. I can crank out research papers with the best of them, but figuring out how to present them using SMART technology is beyond me.
24. How to work an ipod…or any MP3 player. I am probably the last person in the USA who has never owned a MP3 player. In fact, I have no apple products of any kind [see #22–what would I do with an iphone].
25. How to pack a real lunch. I always end up packing too much or too little. It’s never just right. Especially since I work the night shift at a place that has no cafeteria service overnight, I have to bring everything that I might want. [Well, they do still have soup, applesauce, and milk]
26. How to walk in heels. Especially the spiky ones.
27. How to network. I am horrible at this. I hate talking about myself in general, and I especially hate promoting myself. But I have taken small steps to work on this. Baby steps are better than no steps
28. How to use a fire extinguisher. Only because I have never had to. I have to take the yearly competency exam at work. I know what PASS stands for, but what if I can’t get the pin out?
29. How to kick someone’s ass when necessary Literally and figuratively–I struggle with this.
30. How to properly start a fire without matches –and I call myself an adventurer…[shakes head in shame]
It’s birth-week. I am one of those people who prefer to celebrate the entire month, but especially the week of. I am hitting the age where people are asking questions such as “Are you ever going to settle down and get married?” [Maybe] “Are you ever going to have kids?” [ NO] “Are you ever going to get a house of your own?” [hopefully sooner rather than later]. I am sure all of these questions are not intended to make me feel bad about my decisions to forgo a conventional life, but are just out of curiosity. At least, that is how I choose interpret it. So in honor of my 30-ish years on the planet, here are 30 ish things I have learned from traveling.
Mountains, hiking, clouds, history, photography…these are just a few of the things I’ve encountered while exploring the world.
With each new country I visit, I become acutely aware of how many there are left for me to see. The world is a big, amazing place, and I will likely never run out of places that I want to explore.
2. Solo travel is not that scary
I am an introvert. It takes me awhile to get to know people. I don’t always talk to strangers. I don’t like to make plans. I used to think that solo travel wasn’t for me. I didn’t think I could enjoy it. I didn’t think I could handle it, to be honest. But I underestimated myself. I am a different person when I travel. Still somewhat quiet, but being alone makes it easier for other people to approach me. And I DO talk to strangers, and I can make friends. Now, it’s hard to imagine traveling any way other than on my own.
New York City comes to mind. Yes, it has everything. Yes, it is the center of American culture. Yes, it has amazing museums, history, architecture, Broadway, ect, ect. It was interesting. It was enlightening, but I didn’t love it. I think it was just too much. Of everything. I am glad I went. And I don’t think I’ll ever go back on my own. And that’s OK.
4. Technology has changed the way we travel
My first trip aboard was in 1997. When I learned I was to be in England all summer, I went to the local [English] library, researched day trips, and weekend trips. I went to the train station and got a copy of the timetables from Stafford. I wrote letters and sent postcards and used the phone infrequently because international rates were so expensive. I used a lot of film. Now, I can do most of my research from home on the internet. I take photos on my digital camera and upload them to my website wherever I have a wireless connection. I travel with a Kindle and a digital camera. I use my Kindle to read tons of books, my cell phone to Skype people at home, and Facebook is an amazing way to keep in touch with new acquaintances and old friends.
5. The world is not as scary as the media would lead you to believe
I no longer watch the news on a regular basis because if I did, I’d never leave my front yard, but if you’re like most people and get your opinion of the world from the news and movies, you probably view it as a dark, dangerous, and scary place. A place where terrorism is widespread, people kidnap tourists for ransom, and the likelihood of being robbed, maimed, or otherwise harmed is alarmingly high. The reality, of course, is that the world is not actually scary at all, so long as you keep your wits about you. At least, no scarier than some places in the USA.
6. A country’s history is not indicative of its present or future
If that were the case, I would have never visited Colombia. Or Serbia. Or I may be planning a trip to Mexico. Certain parts of the world have particularly dark pasts — war, genocide, communism, terrorism… But the truth is, NO country can boast a completely peaceful history. [Especially not USA] Instead of judging a place by its past [and perhaps avoiding it because of that past], it’s better to look at a country as it is right now. Don’t write a destination off just because of something that happened there 10, 20, 50, or even 100 years ago. By the same token, don’t automatically choose a destination you loved 10 or 20 years ago without taking into consideration today’s current events. People change. So do countries. And governments. And policies. [Let’s just say I would be planning a trip to the US if I didn’t live here].
7. I am incredibly lucky to have the passport that I do.
Yes, it was a pain to get my Bolivian visa, and $135 to boot. Yes, I had to make a trip to the Brazilian consulate in Atlanta to get my Brazilian visa [another $150], but there’s no doubt about it– my American passport is a very valuable thing. With it, I am able to travel virtually anywhere in the world. Even though I have to have visas for some countries, I realize how lucky I am to have been born in the United States and have all the rights and freedoms associated with my citizenship.
8. Being an American does not have to be a negative thing
I know some Americans who are ashamed of where they come from — especially when they travel. They say they are from Canada, or wherever. I have done this once, but only after someone assumed I was a Spaniard -I didn’t correct him. Big assault rifles were involved. People were ‘escorted’ off the bus. They didn’t get back on.
This one is particularly difficult for me. I have state pride. I often readily admit I am from South Carolina, one of the United States, but when I just say USA, a lot of people say California? or New York? When I say that I am closer to Cartagena than California, people don’t believe me…until I break out a map. But I am getting better. Most people I’ve encountered around the world love Americans. They don’t necessarily love our government or world policies [and to be fair, I don’t necessarily love our government or world policies], but they love us and are open to learning more about us.
South Carolina has beautiful mountains with many creeks and waterfalls in addition to a gorgeous coast on the Atlantic Ocean.
9. You cannot judge a culture that you know nothing about
There is just enough true about stereotypes to make them true. Having said that, I believe that having an open mind will help you realize that stereotypes never fully represent anyone. You cannot judge a culture if you do not understand it — and basing your understanding on a stereotype does not equal understanding. Before you pass judgment on traditions or beliefs, take some time to get to know the culture you are judging first.
10. It’s OK to keep returning to a place you love
Even though the world is huge with endless places to discover, I’ve realized that some places will keep pulling you back. I visit the SC coast at least once a year. I will probably go back to Argentina and Colombia at some point in the future. You will leave bits of your heart in different corners of the globe, and those places will call to you periodically. And this is OK. You don’t always have to go somewhere new to be a “traveler.”
I’ve been to London 5 times, and plan to return every single time I visit Europe. It is a magical city.
11. Having an open mind will take you far
It’s OK to have a plan. It’s better to scrap the plan if something better comes along. Traveling with an open mind will allow you to have amazing, unforgettable experiences. Forget what you think you know, and life will be much more rewarding.
12. We are not so different after all
At the end of the day, things like language, skin color, religion, and culture differentiate us much less than we think. No matter where you go in the world, people want the same things: To be successful. To be happy.To care for their families. Keep this in mind whenever you start thinking “us” and “them” thoughts. Because, at the end of the day, our dreams and goals are not that different. Even if we have different definitions of successful and happy.
13. People back home may never understand
You are the only one who can truly appreciate your travels. When you return home from a trip and have all these amazing memories and experiences buzzing around in your head, chances are your friends and family back home won’t be nearly as interested to hear about your adventures as you’d like them to be. They won’t care you taught health classes in Spanish with the Caribbean looking over your shoulder. They make look at the photos–once, but while you were off traversing the world, they were carrying on with their normal lives. [One friend had a baby. Another got married. And those with kids already–well, those kids weren’t babies when I returned home.] They may never understand, and I’ve learned that you just have to come to terms with this.
14. Every destination has something to offer — you just have to find it
I didn’t love New York City. Or Lima, Peru. Or Santiago, Chile, but I found something in each place that was cool. In NYC, it was the zoo and Central Park. In Lima, it was its proximity to the coast, and in Santiago, it was just hanging out in the main square people watching. Maybe I’m just an overly positive person, but it’s my belief that every place — no matter where — has something interesting to discover about it. I try my best to discover these redeeming qualities about a place wherever I travel, and I think it helps me enjoy the whole travel process more.
15. When the universe sends you signs, pay attention
Over the past few months, I feel like I’ve been getting a lot of signs from the Universe, pointing me down this path or that one. And, finally, I’m starting to pay attention. Whether it’s related to travel or not, if Fate or God or the Universe or whatever is sending you signs, you’d better be listening.
16. You and your excuses are the only things holding you back
People often tell me how they wish they could take a month off to go somewhere. My answer: Well go. Their usual reply: I can’t. I’ve got ___________. Maybe that’s true. Maybe its just an excuse. If you want to travel but currently aren’t it’s probably because you are making excuses. YOU are the only thing truly holding yourself back. You can make time by prioritizing and planning ahead. You can save money by staying in hostels and using deal websites like skyscanner.com. You can manage the responsibility smartly. You can bring children with you. And you can overcome the fear.
I love traveling abroad. It has a certain amount of glamour associated with it, but over the few last years I have traveled to Washington, DC and New York City, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Seattle. The entire USA has so much to see from the Grand Canyon to Florida Keys to Crater Lake to barrier islands. I could never leave the USA and still see something amazing on every trip I take.
18. Being nervous is natural
Being nervous is natural when it comes to traveling. I’m not any braver than you are. There have been several times when I’ve seriously considered canceling a trip or an activity at the last minute because I was scared. [OK, I actually did cancel a couple things] Scared of the unknown because travel is full of unknowns. It’s pushing through this fear and nervousness that really make you brave.
19. You really can make lifelong friends while traveling
Yes, it’s true that traveling long-term often means having to say a lot of goodbyes. Frequently. But it also allows you to meet a ton of amazing people who love traveling just as much as you do. Occasionally, you’ll form bonds so strong that things like distance and time won’t matter. With technology today, maintaining international friendships is easy. And having friends all over the world is never a bad thing.
We were neighbours in Peru; then I vistied her in San Francisco and Seattle.
20. Getting lost can sometimes be a blessing in disguise
I get lost all the time–even in my own hometown. Sometimes, though, losing the map and just allowing yourself to get lost can be a great thing. As long as you don’t find yourself lost in a bad neighborhood or otherwise dangerous situation, being lost can help you discover a place in a unique way that you just can’t do by following a map or a guidebook’s suggestions. You’ll stumble across tucked-away restaurants, funny street art, and scenes most people probably don’t see. You may even get to talk to some locals about non-travel stuff!
21. Being able to read a map is crucial
Despite smartphones and Google Maps and all that, being able to read an old-fashioned paper map is still a great skill to have. Why? What if you end up somewhere without internet access! Or travel without a smartphone. [I never take my smart phone out of the country]
22. Hostels are a great invention
I love hostels. I love that I can have a room without having to pay for the entire room. As a solo traveler, I loathe paying for an entire hotel room that charges the same price for one as it does for two or four people. They are affordable, usually centrally located, and allow you to easily meet other travelers wherever you are. Sometimes they are really nice, too.
23. A travel style can change
Just as there’s no one travel style that works for everyone, there may not even be one travel style that works for you all the time. As you grow and age and gain travel experience, your style may well change. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A backpacker can stay in a 4-star hotel, just as a comfort-seeking traveler can rough it in the bush.
24. Don’t compare your travel style to anyone else’s
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that they know the “right” way to travel. There’s only the way that works for YOU. Whether you’re a budget backpacker or a luxury seeker, just travel the way that you want to and ignore everyone else. In the end, you will be a much happier traveler.
25. No one cares about my eating/drinking habits
I’ve never been a very adventurous eater, and I don’t drink alcohol [anymore]. I always figured people would judge me for this. But I’ve learned over the past few years that trying weird new foods can be fun. And I’ve learned that most people accept that.
26. Travel gives you wisdom. On so many levels. Culturally, socially, historically. I can’t think of an area where travel hasn’t helped me in some way.
27. You will learn patience when you travel
You have to. I am a fairly patient person to begin with, but traveling and especially taking public transportation in out of the way locations you have to be patient.
28. Say ‘yes’ even when you want to say ‘no’
I have said ‘yes’ to lots of things while traveling that I wouldn’t have agreed to at home… Saying ‘yes’ to a date with a matador. ‘Yes, please’…Signing a lease on an apartment in a foreign country. ‘Yes’ twice–actually…Spending the night in a stranger’s house ‘Ummm, yes’ [not without hesitation]…Eating strange foods ‘yes…um ok’. It is easy to say no, especially when you are out of your comfort zone. Say yes. As long as you don’t die, it will at minimum be a learning experience.
29. People are generally good and it’s OK to talk to strangers
You don’t always have to be on the go in order to meet people. I love nothing more to park myself on a bench/cafe/ect. and just people-watch. Sometimes I even talk to them [gasp!] If you’re like me, you probably grew up listening to the “don’t talk to strangers” mantra and watching videos in elementary school about ‘Stranger Danger’ . But perhaps we should rethink that golden rule. I am living proof that talking to locals and fellow travelers when you travel can only enhance the experience.
30. We don’t need as much as we think we do
Packing seems to be a major headache for a lot of people. I pack basically the same whether I am traveling for one week or six months. You don’t need all that stuff you think you need, and technology comes in smaller and faster packages every day.
31. It takes time to transition to new things
In my first weeks traveling in South America, I felt lonely and unsure of how I would continue to live this new life for so long. Then I transitioned to my new life and the new rhythm of it all and it was okay. I realized that I needed ‘transition’ time every time I changed cities and said goodbye to new friends or even hotel rooms. I would get to my new destination and would feel a bit uncomfortable and a little bit lonely. But I knew if I gave myself a day or two, those feelings would go away and I would have new reasons to enjoy where I was and often times, I found I liked it even better than the last place. This is one of the reasons why SLOW travel is better than flying through an area just to say you’ve seen it.
32. It’s OK to ask for help
Several times I have been forced to ask for help. I hate it every. single. time. I hate having to ask people to watch my cat or check the mail. I hate having to ask for directions in a new place. I hate having to ask where the nearest store is, but you know what? Most people are happy to help.
33. It’s not always about the money
Traveling is almost always more expensive than staying home, but there are ways to make it more affordable. Once I showed up in a resort town on New Year’s Day night without a reservation or a place to stay. I went to hotel after hotel. It started to snow. I was getting very depressed. And cold. And hungry. I finally found a place that had one room left for 200 Euros. I didn’t want to spend that much money, but I took it. It was the best 200 euros I could have spent at that moment. A hot shower and a warm bed did much more than take the chill off; it rejuvenated my soul. And I was much more able to enjoy the rest of my trip.
34. Travel will change you in ways you can’t imagine
There are the things you can think of–such as making you a more educated world citizen, having stories to tell at any occasion, and realizing that people are people no matter where you are. Sometimes, when the timing is right, when the events line up in just the right way, you can recognize the moment that the change happens. Sometimes it can be profound – you can find a life’s purpose. For me, it was running my very own health clinic in Peru. This one volunteer project has changed the course of my life. Sometimes it’s small, like discovering you like gelato or pretzels or ceviche. Sometimes, it is just remembering who you wanted to be instead of who you are today. These changes, big or small, alter us as individuals if we let them. And the really cool thing is that it can become contagious.
So here’s the thing. DJ and I are both registered nurses. We met while working at the same hospital, her as a RN, me as a respiratory therapist. The timing of this trip was such that both of us should have graduated (me initial RN; her BSN). We almost screwed that up–me by breaking the bones and pushing back my externship for a block, and DJ is actually taking a chemistry class as we travel that will be her last class. So–as part of out London tour, we had to visit the Florence Nightingale Nurse’s Museum. We went to the museum right before the Miss America pageant aired. One of the contestants, as her talent, performed a soliloquy in her scrubs talking about her job.
She was mocked endlessly by talking heads for wearing her ‘doctor’s stethoscope’ and just talking. As a person who has worked in healthcare better part of 10 years, I can definitively say that being a nurse [or respiratory therapist] takes talent. It takes skill to take care of sick babies. It takes skill to insert an IV on someone who is dehydrated. It takes talent to make someone comfortable when they are not in comfortable situations, and it takes talent to help someone die with dignity and grace. While certainly an unconventional talent, being a nurse [or any health care provider really] is most definitely is a skill and a talent and not everyone can or will do it.
She did not win.
But from pageants to TV shows to corporate sponsors, nurses have been in the news in the last two weeks more than possibly at any other time in recent history. And that’s good for nurses. It’s good that the public at large are getting to see what nurses do. I worked for ten years as a respiratory therapist before I became a nurse and people know even less about that profession than they do nursing. Anyway… as luck would have it, I have been spared most of the nurse drama because I was in London, visiting the nurses’ museum… oh the irony.
How can I say this nicely? The nurses’ museum wasn’t my favorite. It is small. It costs 7.50 [many of London’s museums much bigger, better, and are FREE], and doesn’t do the best job of depicting nursing. It’s mostly historic, but unlike the Old Operating Theatre, it’s not full of many artifacts. It consists mostly of photographs… displayed much like they would be if you were looking at microfiche [I am so old]. The Fleming Museum consisted of his laboratory; the Semmelweis museum (in Budapest) is located in his former family home. Those are all much better scientific/historic museums.
What I would have like to seen is a small section focused on Aunt Flo, a small section cataloging the history of nursing, a small section of historic nursing artifacts, and maybe an interactive ‘can you be this patient’s nurse’ set-up using a current model of a hospital room or ICU room. That would have made for a rocking nurses’ museum.
It did have the lamp, which is a pretty important part of the graduation ceremony [or so I’m told. I skipped my graduation…remember broken arm, broken ankle? yea, I didn’t get to graduate with my original class and was in the new class for only the internship part…which didn’t really foster warm, fuzzy feelings towards my new classmates… anyway…]
I wonder what the design thought was in using fake grass to adorn the walls, or if there even was one.
I remember the first patient that I liked that died. Really liked. James was a 16 year old boy with Cystic Fibrosis. He was surly, uncooperative, and mouthy. He never wanted to take any medicines or do any therapy. A lot of my co-workers would rather not have him as a patient, but whenever he was on the unit, I volunteered to take care of him.
One day, James said “you think I am sexy. that’s why you always want to have me.’ I replied ‘1. You’re jailbait, little boy. 2. You’re scrawny, and you can’t even cough without getting short of breath. Let’s do your breathing treatments and CPT.’ And he would let me. Every.Single. Time. For whatever reason, he responded to me not treating him like he was sick. I always give him a choice–“do this…you know what your other options are–get intubated, put on a ventilator, and we can suck the goo out of your lungs all day long or do the CPT, take the treatments, and cough.” He always chose to take the treatments. He knew that if he ever went on the ventilator chances of coming off were not good.
One day, he asked me if it hurt…does being on the ventilator hurt?…does being intubated hurt? My answer was truthful–whether it does or doesn’t, I can’t say because I’ve never been in that situation, but I do know you would be on pain meds and meds that will make you not remember. He said OK then asked if I wanted to play chair basketball with him. And we did. Because that’s what you do in peds.
The next day was the Duke-UNC basketball game [James was a big Duke fan]. He asked me if I would watch it with him, and I said I would with the understanding that if I got paged, I’d have to go. He said OK.
I got through first rounds, saving him for last, and we did his therapies while watching the game. Duke won and after the game he told me he was ready to be intubated because it was just too much of a struggle to breathe. I asked him if he was sure and he said he was. I found the resident and told him what James had said. He went to talk to him and James called his parents. They came and it was decided that they he would be transferred to PICU and started on the ventilator later that night.
I stopped by to see him later that night. He was still awake, had his blue, fuzzy Blue Devils blanket on his bed. James said, “I know I can be a pain in the ass. I know I’m probably not going to survive this, but thank you for not treating me like a kid.” What do you say to that? ‘You’re welcome’. My pager went off and I was saved by the bell. ‘I gotta run but you know you’re awesome, right?’ In typical teenage fashion he said ‘Yeah, I know. See you in my dreams.’ My last words to him was ‘Hush your mouth, jail-bait.’
James was right; he didn’t come off the ventilator, and died a few days later. It sucked, but it’s life. He knew he had a terminal disease. He knew that most people with CF as severe as his didn’t survive much past 20. He accepted life and a death with grace and dignity. He may have been just a teenager, but James had a wise soul.
Nursing Lesson #1: Some people. The memory of some people stick with you forever.
I do not own said product considering I look more like Bozo the Clown than Marilyn Monroe when I wear red lipstick. However, I am not completely immune to its purposes…sexiness, feminine-ness, boldness…the list goes on.
I was taking care of a patient recently who while admitted for pneumonia, also had stage 4 breast cancer that had metastasized to the spinal cord. The patient in question had had a previous bilateral mastectomy some few years ago so while that was not a current issue, it was a contributing factor to her condition and mental state…which is to say was not good. And I know I can’t fix everybody. Hell, I don’t think I can fix anybody, but I try–even if in most cases it’s to motivate you to move your ass (a nurturing, placating nurse I am not).
I do have a point, I promise.
Whenever I’m feeling out of sorts, I head to my local bookstore, and just start randomly reading any book that catches my eye. With that patient fresh in my mind, I recently read an excerpt from a book called something like “Why I wore lipstick to my mastectomy surgery.” If that one chapter was so incredibly profound, I can only imagine what the the rest of the book is like. I probably should have bought it, but truthfully, I was looking for something a little more ‘uplifting’ to take on my upcoming vacation. I get it. A woman was about to lose a part of herself that biologically makes here a ‘woman’… that society says ‘this is what a woman looks like.’ So she wears red lipstick to her surgery…Red lipstick–another of society’s ways of defining what is sexy…what is womanly. How she used that color to make herself more than another cancer patient having surgery. How she used it to leave her mark– more than just an exacted pound of flesh– on the operating table. And there is something empowering about red lipstick, isn’t there? A bold, fearless statement.
I am not a lipstick person. Or if truth be told, not really a make-up person. And though at times, usually when I’m having an ‘off’ few days, an image adjustment has been cathartic for my Self…if only in receiving comments from people ‘you look nice today’ or getting looks from attractive men that usually don’t noticed my dressed down self; recently it has been more than my Self that needed a lift…my spirit is probably more accurate.
Usually, I lift my sagging spirit by traveling or doing something different. Or being creative. But right now I am in a box. School is limiting my free time and free funds. My living space is tiny and doesn’t afford the opportunity to be overly creative. I am still learning how to be good a my job. I am still learning how to adjust to the demands of my new life. Sometimes I don’t think I’m doing any of it well. Sometimes I feel like I am constantly being watched. Like a person in a box. Forced to walk a straight line… a path that holds no mystery. No character. No soul.
And then I look back. On what I have accomplished. On where I’ve been. On where I’ve come from. On the goals I still have for my life. And then I say “Oh, yea there she is…that merry wanderluster…that nature girl…that person who has saved lives…that person who loves animals…that person who creates things. There she is…
“And then I say–This is who I am.” And I felt the smug satisfaction of, “so there.”
I’ve had a few blogs over the years. All were the free kind with a very specific focus. Like when I went to south america–my blog was more like a travelogue. When I went to nursing school, my blog was all about that….travels to Europe– more travelogues. So I’ve learned a thing or two about blogging. I am still no expert, but…
THINGS I’VE LEARNED:
Blogging is hard. It’s time-consuming. The learning curve is steep. There’s a lot to learn even if you are technology guru. Which I’m not. Finding ‘your voice’ takes time [I’m still finding it. How ‘authentic’ should one be? What constitutes over-sharing? Ect, ect.]. Writing for an audience is a lot different than writing in a journal. Editing photos [and videos too I’d imagine, although I haven’t gone down that road yet] isn’t as easy as applying an Instagram filter and hitting ‘publish’. Design is hard. Getting ideas from your head into html code isn’t easy. Reading other blogs, seeing cool features you’d like to adapt but have no idea how to do so is frustrating. Thoughts like ‘is it stealing if I use the same plug-in as someone else?’ ‘Will they mind?’ ‘How do I adapt it to make it different, but still what I want? ect, ect’ are ever present.
So what have I learned in since starting this blog? I am glad you asked.
1. Defining your purpose is crucial
If you can answer the question “why do I want to start a blog?’ [this goes for any type of blog], it will make your life a whole lot easier. People start blogs for many different reasons. Some to showcase a house remodel; some to showcase fashion ideas. Some blogs are set up to keep friends and family up to date on trips around the world. Other people want a blog to show their photography to the world, and some people have a blog as their career. They network with other travelers, bloggers, products and companies and actually make a living blogging. Whatever your goal may be having a clear purpose at the beginning will help you create a blog to address those goals.
I really wanted my first blog be like a travel journal. It’s took a few weeks of design trial and error to decide that. Some blogs are really cool, but they have features I’d never use, and by not using them, the blog loses something. So for now, my blog is a ‘personal’ blog. I’ve started a new career. I’m still in school, and I still travel as much as possible. I’ve got a lot going on. My blog reflects that.
Of course blogging purposes may change over time. If you think you might want to blog long term, try to develop your site with flexibility in mind. Know that a re-design is always possible, but changing things like the title, web address, and type of blog may be committing [blog] suicide.
2. Consider your audience or who you’d like your audience to be can help you ‘find your voice’
For most people, the first few blog posts will be aimed at friends and/or family…especially if the blog is set up prior to a long trip or housing remodel. However, if you’d like to reach a broader audience, consider who you’d like that audience to be. Backpackers? Luxury travelers? People with kids? First timers? Retirees? 20-somethings? Somewhere in the middle? A unique niche? If you are looking to get traffic on your website, write with your audience in mind and let them know what you can do for them.
For example, my short-term goal is to finish nursing school, get experience, eventually sign on with a travel company, work as a travel nurse while earning my nurse practitioner degree. That goal is so far away right now it wouldn’t make sense for me to target people who want to do travel nursing. None of that has anything to do with travel blogging. But right now I CAN target students–especially older students, people who have limited time and/or money for holidays, and people who want to travel– just not travel long term. All of that has to do with travel blogging and going to school.
3. Thinking about your blog name now will pay dividends in the future.
Choosing a blog name is hard. Real name vs fake name? Full name vs Partial name? Something with the type of blog in it or not? Something completely different?
I went through at least 10 names before I decided on Chasing Dreams; Herding Cats, and I’ll get to why I decided on it in a minute.
First, I didn’t want use my full name as my web address, and besides, I have a fairly common name with a teeny tiny twist on the spelling of my last name. If I type my name is a google search, the first few pages are other people with the same name as me. However, if you want to blog under your real name and that name isn’t all that common, you shouldn’t have problem.
If you decide to choose a pseudonym [aka something other than your real name], there are two main things to consider:
Is that name available [as a domain plus any other platforms you might want to use such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Reddit, ect]? I didn’t have Twitter before I set up my blog so once I decided on a name, I set up a Twitter account with the same name…[@Adventureadikt in case you are wondering…I’m still not very Twitter savvy yet, but I’m working on it.] I created a Facebook page as an adjunct to my personal page [called Chasing Dreams; Herding Cats…] My Instagram account was already set up. I just changed the name and have to refrain from posting pictures of my cat everyday, but I’m finding Instagram the easiest to use. I’m still debating the usefulness of having Google+, Pinterest, ect account devoted to my blog, but I have already staked claim to Pinterest and Google+ as Chasing Dreams; Herding Cats.
Is someone else using the name you want? If so, in most cases, it’s prudent to choose another name to avoid creating audience confusion and blog confusion. I’m sure there are cases where it exist, but imagine the confusion for someone coming to your site but perhaps going to a porn site instead…
I first thought of creating a blog using the name Peripatetic Michelle. I thought it was snappy. Most people didn’t know how to spell ‘Peripatetic’, or what it meant. I spent a lot of time spelling that word then explaining it meant essentially the same as nomad…which is a lot more common word and a lot easier to spell.
I then thought something like Out and About with Michelle would be cool. That’s entirely too long of a name for a web address. Out and About was taken, and I didn’t want to change the spelling too much in order to claim it. I them thought of names like Michelle’s Big Adventure [oh wait…I don’t have a big adventure] On the road…[taken]. I went in a different direction thinking of my favorite travel quotes, poems, ect…
Two roads diverged[taken] The road less traveled [from Robert Frost’s poem…taken]
All who wander [taken…from a Tolkien quote]
I’m not lost [also taken…also derived from the same quote]
Ultimately, I decided on Chasing Dreams; Herding Cats for a couple of reasons. Life can become very stagnant without having dreams [or goals]. I think everyone should have a dream–whether it’s something lofty like visiting every country in the world or trying to find the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. The second one being it’s a nod [albeit a slight one] to the fact that I am NOT a full-time traveler. Traveling is by far my favorite activity, but I currently have a job at a hospital, go to school full time, and have two kitties at home that keeping me on my toes.
4. Platforms and hosting has nothing to do with shoes and parties
I am so glad I researched this before my first blog. Everyone said use WordPress. It will make your life easier. I like easy so I used WordPress from the start. I have never used anything else and I have not had any issues…
If I have any problem with WordPress, and really I don’t, it’s that there are SO.MANY.OPTIONS …widgets [not just -something discussed in Economics class] and plug-ins, themes and menu…it’s a bit overwhelming in the beginning. There’s also the free [with wordpress.com] or the paid [just the name of your site].
For this blog, I use the self-hosted one at wordpress.org. I do have to use a hosting site and I use SiteGround…I’ve never had issues, but I really don’t know enough about them. I just googled ‘self-hosted servers’ read the reviews, and picked one. I’ve used BlueHost in the past and while they were OK, contacting customer support usually turned into an all day affair.
Do yourself a favor though, use wordpress from the beginning. Seriously.
5. Choosing the right technology will make your life easy
Technology is advancing every day, but choosing the right tools makes life a lot easier.
On my first big trip to the UK, I had a 2 SLR cameras and a point and shoot camera [OK…my first, first adventure was still on film! I sound so old!] and a CD Walkman. I used PIN telephone cards to make phone calls and sent my negatives back home. It was frustrating. It was slow. Then I upgraded to a DSLR…It was still mind-nummingly frustrating to get my photos off the camera onto my Facebook page. My next adventure was a month long trip through the north eastern US and parts of Canada. I traveled with a netbook and the same cameras. I used my regular cell phone, but it didn’t work for the nearly two weeks I was in Canada.
For my next adventure [6 weeks in Europe in winter], I took my Kindle and the cameras. I could upload photos taken with the kindle directly to Facebook and while writing on a Kindle isn’t the easiest thing in the world, it’s better than depending on others for technology.
I’m still working out the right amount of technology for a trip, but I’ve got a head start on what’s too much.
6. Blogging is hard
It’s even harder if you are doing it on the road. It takes time to come up with ideas, write them out, take pictures, edit them, and post it all to a blog consistently. A blog is not a blog without content. And yet content–or I should say GOOD content– is the hardest part of any blog. There are millions of blogs on the web these days, and content is what makes one blog succeed while another one fails. Content and consistency. My goal is to blog content twice a week and add a photo post in once a week. I have found, from reading other blogs, that it is important to let the reader know how often new content will appear. Whether its twice a day or once a week, it’s a lot easier as a reader to say ‘oh, it’s Wednesday…let me pop over to Chasing Dreams; Herding Cats and see what’s new’ than to randomly check in and get frustrated when there’s nothing new.
I have read that it helps to have a months’ worth of posts ready before you publish the first one. I don’t have that many, but I do have a couple weeks’ worth of posts ready.
Good, regular content is the key to successful blogging.
*My favorite mistake, a song by Sheryl Crowe–one of my all-time favorite songs*
A few weeks ago, I drove down to Wilmington to check out the city to see if it is somewhere I might like to live one day, while trying to decide if I should visit my favorite mistake who was in Myrtle Beach for a work conference. There is just something about the coast in late fall when the beaches are deserted. Restaurants are closed. Prices are much cheaper. It’s still warm enough that a walk on the beach seems like a good idea. Until that breeze blows in off the ocean. Then you know that it is definitely NOT SUMMER any more.
It’s *a little* less crowded in November than say July.
I didn’t go back to South Carolina for Thanksgiving. I don’t really regret that decision, but it certainly did not make me the popular kid. Being the new kid in town means I work all the holidays people really want off work for. Being an only child means having no siblings to celebrate or commensurate with… also no siblings means there’s no one to give me nieces or nephews to play with. With my father having recently departed this world, it would not have been the most joyous occasion anyway.
Anyway… and perhaps against my better judgement, I decided to soldier on to Myrtle Beach, where I did in fact meet my favorite mistake. It’s been a hell of a three months. Loneliness + being overwhelmed both on a personal level and tragedy level, sometimes my head hurts from all the knowledge and skills being crammed in it on a seemingly daily basis. Sometimes it’s nice to be with people who really know you, people willing to hold you when you need to be held, and kiss you when you need to be kissed. I miss my life in South Carolina; I miss the people in that life. I needed to leave, no doubt. I needed to not be around my family. I needed to not be around those two lying bastards I dated this year (one dated back to 2003). I needed to not be working at Hillcrest or GMH or the Children’s hospital. Too many recent bad memories. I needed a fresh start, but by God, it’s hard. It’s so hard to move as a 20-something year old introvert who would rather hibernate than go out and meet people. It’s so hard to meet people in a city when you are trying to avoid the bars. It’s so hard to meet people when you work the night shift. I don’t want to date my favorite mistake again, especially since we now live in different states, but my God, it was so good to be with him again.
The incredible blue-ness of the water that you just don’t see during the summer
We did beach-y things like walk hand in hand on the beach with me stopping every 5 minutes to snap artsy photos. We had dinner at a local Italian restaurant. While he was in conferences I managed to leave the hotel and visit the state park. It’s so much more peaceful here than in the busy season.
And we had long meaningful talks where I implored the universe to ‘show me a sign’. Give me some sort of direction of what I should be doing. Should I forget South Carolina and all the people there and make a new start in Durham, or should I learn as much as possible in Durham, but still make my life in SC. In with the new, and out with the old, or keep the old and make new? Please universe, show me a sign.
And then this happened…
Clearly it was the universe talking…
Now if I only knew what the hell it means…
What is this place?
Hi, I’m Michelle and this is my own little corner of the interwebs where I write, share photos, and interact with others in the blog-o-shpere. So in addition to that–Who am I? I am –in one way or another– the following: hiker + backpacker + swimmer + pediatric respiratory therapist + registered nurse + avid traveler + cat parent + gardener + photographer + medical science junkie + adventure-seeker + DIY enthusiast + voracious reader + history and science nerd + football fanatic + aging athlete + wannabe chef + trying not to succumb to the trappings of a 9-5 life. And beginning in 2018, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda.
Everyday life doesn’t have to be routine. Anyone can do just about anything he or she wants to do– sometimes one has to find creative ways in doing it. Sometimes one has to tear down the barriers that might stopping them. Everyday is an opportunity to choose your own adventure. That is what I ultimately write about.