Tag Archives: travel thoughts

Life is short. Go now.

Life is surreal sometimes, and we never know what might happen. It’s been six years since I witnessed my friend get run over by a car right in front of her house just a few hours before I left to travel New England in the fall.  It was October 2011, and yet it feels like yesterday.

Tonight [or more accurately last night since it is now well past 3a] I saw a friend of mine get hit by a car. She was pronounced dead about an hour after after it happened.  To be fair, we weren’t best friends, but we did have a fair amount of classes together at Clemson, and I have studied at her house quite a bit so not only did I know her, I knew her husband and kids too.  Tricia was a non-trad student–like me, but she was tons more outgoing that I will ever be.  Tricia had one goal for her education–and that was to become a physician.  She didn’t waiver.  She didn’t have any doubts.  She knew that she would go to Clemson, then go to medical school, and then be an Emergency Department physician.  I was always impressed by that.  I always have doubts of whether I should go to medical school or not, whether I should go to nursing school or not–what exactly my career path should be.  I have doubts about whether to get married or not.  Tricia married Warren right out of high school, and never thought twice about it.   I question constantly whether I ever want to get married, and sometimes whether I even want to be in a relationship.

Is it harder to be here one minute and gone the next?  Or is it harder to suffer for  awhile and then just pass into the next beyond?  Tricia was older than me, but not by that much, and the way she died was a freak accident.. One minute she was here, and then JUST LIKE THAT, she was gone–hit by a car while trying to help a neighbor’s dog who had been hit by a different car.  I know the details; I have worked in an ER.  This wasn’t the first time I have had brain tissue on my hands, but it was the first time I’ve held brains of a friend.  She wasn’t alone when she died; she had the love of her life beside her.

I stopped by her house after work to drop off MCAT books.  I was planning to stay only a few minutes;  I’m leaving for vacation later today.  But Tricia wanted to show me her new kitchen, so I went in and looked around.  It was nice.  I was there when there was a knock on the door.  I was there when Tricia put on her shoes to go look at the injured dog.  I was there when Warren went to the neighbor’s house to tell them their dog had been hit by a car.  I was standing in their driveway when I heard the car’s engine rev up.  I was still standing  there when I heard a thud.  The rest of what happened was in slow motion.

The car kept going. I ran to Tricia. Warren screamed. She was still alive when I got to her but her head was split open.  I tried to stop the bleeding.  Eventually an ambulance came.  Warren went with her.  I went home…blood [and brains] still on my hands and scrubs.

When you see someone you know have their life snuffed out in front of you, it leaves a permanent mark. Because sometimes people have an affect on your life….even if you aren’t particularly aware of it at the time.

So…to Tricia…you are in a better place.  I know you wanted to be here to live your dream of becoming a physician, of seeing your daughter go to prom and graduate high school…to see your son graduate from Clemson…to grow old with your husband.  Your family will miss you.  Your friends will miss you, but you have inspired many people to follow their dreams.  I am one of those people.  Rest in peace, Tricia, my friend.

Some links:

http://www.independentmail.com/news/2011/oct/01/woman-killed-car-driver-charged/  from the local Anderson paper

http://www.wyff4.com/news/29359594/detail.html  from the local TV station

from her husband’s Facebook page October 1, 2011:

As I look around the house tonight, I see her in everything that surrounds me. The way she painted the walls, the decorations, the smells and my two awesome kids that have her personality. I miss her so very much.
Here is the story, the other night we were just sitting watching tv and catching up with a friend, when we here a knock at the front door. It is a lady that asks if our dog is out because someone just hit one. I get my shoes on and so does Tricia. Sure enough the neighbors’ dog has been hit and is lying in the ditch, dying. I go to check the neighbors’ door, but no one is home. I turn around and head back to the dog, by the time I get half way across the lawn, I hear a motor revving and then a thump. Someone has just hit my darling Tricia. I run to her and cradle her in my arms, all the while screaming for help and for someone to call an ambulance. In my eyes she is still as beautiful as the day I meet her. I tell her I love her and I am here for her. I think she can hear me so I continue to tell her to hang on and I love her. The ambulance takes her to the hospital where she passes away. Life will never be the same.

The 24 year old girl who hit her is arrested for felony DUI and Manslaughter, but is already out on bail of $10,000 tonight.

We’ve all heard the saying “Life is short.” And, sometimes, it is.

But life is also unpredictable.

Even though we all probably have dreams and goals and plans for our lives, there are certain things we have no control over.

Our lives could be going along on right on track, only to be shattered by something we could never have seen coming.

A tornado that rips through a neighborhood. A flood that devastates a city.  And these are just the unpredictable things nature can bring about. There are also accidents, health problems, financial woes…

Life is too fleeting and changeable to take for granted.

I know where I would like my life to be headed in the coming months and years. But there are no guarantees that things will go as planned. In fact, more likely than not, nothing will go as planned.

How often do we hear others say, “Oh, I’ll travel when I retire,” “I’ll travel when the kids are grown,” “I’ll travel when the house is paid off”? I hear these excuses all the time. But you know what happens? Age. And stress. And, well, life.

Life happens, and by the time you retire and your kids are grown and your house is paid off, you might have bad knees and weak lungs and you simply can’t visit all those places you dreamed about in your youth.

How sad. I don’t want to end up like that, holding on to youthful travel dreams that will never be reality.  

So I travel now, in whatever way and to whatever place I can. I scrimp and I save and I make it happen. I volunteer.  I get grants. I grasp at every opportunity and unique adventure. 

I travel with reckless abandon — often to the detriment of my wallet, but to the benefit of my soul.

Is this wise? Probably not, especially if you’re a long-term traveler. But, for someone like me who tends to take shorter trips to distant places, I attack travel with a no-holds-barred attitude.

Unique experiences–If I think they are worth it, then I will not hesitate to shell out for them . Sure, I’d like to think I’ll be back to Ireland or Italy or Argentina someday. But what if I never make it back? 

These days you can’t climb Chichen Itza like you could the first time I went there.

 

I don’t want to have any regrets in my life, and this includes travel regrets.

I know not everyone shares this philosophy, though. Many travelers stick to a strict budget so they can travel for as long as possible. Others simply don’t want to pay for anything beyond the necessities.

Why would you come literally halfway around the world to hoard your money?  Would you go to China and not visit the Great Wall because it costs money? Would you go to Italy and skip visiting the Vatican because it requires an admission ticket?

vatican-stairs

There are so many worthwhile experiences to be had in the world — and yes, many of them require money. But it’s my travel philosophy that you shouldn’t deny yourself any of these experiences just because they come with a price-tag.

If you are privileged enough to be able to afford to travel, then you should attack it with curiosity and vigor and a sense of adventure. And to hell with the bank account.

So travel now. Make memories. And enjoy your life.  Because you never know if a car will mow you down in front of your house.

At the end of the day, I’d rather die with a million memories than a million dollars.

Money won’t comfort me on my deathbed, but knowing that I lived a full and fulfilling life might.

meow meow

Whatever your dreams are, follow them… because you never know what might happen…

The case for traveling and the counterpoint

I am only passionate about a few things:  traveling definitely makes the shortlist, but just because I love it doesn’t mean I’m not aware of its faults. As with many other things in life, there are ups and downs when it comes to traveling.

Escapism.

South Carolina is awesome, but there are no beaches like this near my home.

At is simplest, travel allows you to escape. Whether it’s from a bad relationship [been there, done that one, or maybe no relationship at all],  job you hate, or simply a boring, sedentary life [also done that], sometimes you feel like you just need to get away. Travel is the perfect form of escapism – far better than reading a book or watching a movie – because it actually means you get to leave your current situation. You can trade in whatever is making you unhappy for something different, even if it’s just for a little while. A change of scenery is sometimes just what you need to get over boredom or the blues, and being far removed from a problem or stressor often allows you to look at it through new eyes.

Travel is a learning experience.

Before visiting Prague, I never knew St. Wencelces was the patron saint of the city. I only knew him as the good king in the Christmas song.

Seeing other parts of the world and immersing yourself in foreign cultures opens up completely new avenues of discovery. Travel in itself can be educational, and can it open your eyes in ways you never thought possible. Through travel, you can become more aware – both of yourself, and the larger world around you. A traveler has the unique ability to be a citizen of not only his/her own country, but also of the world.

Ability for self-discovery and reinvention. 

I took my very first yoga class on a beach in Ecuador. I followed it up by taking regular yoga classes on the beach in Peru. I’m still not great at it, but it’s something I probably never would have tried at home.

When you are out on the road meeting new people and opening yourself up to new experiences, you may find that you are also slowly reinventing yourself. Or perhaps letting the self you would like to be finally emerge. Travel can be liberating in many ways, but especially when it comes to self-discovery. Being thrown into a foreign culture [or even into a not-so-foreign culture] without all the comforts of home can be challenging, but it’s often those truly tough, personal challenges that will help you grow as an independent individual.

Opportunity for adventure and spontaneity. 

Travel can open up so many doors and provide for so many adventures, both planned and spontaneous. If you are in the mood to make a lasting memory [and really, who isn’t?], get out and see the world. Let life happen, both to you and around you, and just go with it. Who knows where it could lead?

It can be affordable.

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be a millionaire or have a large trust fund in order to travel. Saving a little here and there can go a long way over time. Being a deal hunter and staying in hostels can pay off. And, if you choose destinations where the cost of living is low, a little can go a long way. For example, a month of your U.S. salary could easily last you two, three, maybe even four months in Southeast Asia or parts of Central America. Basically, if you really have the desire to travel, then you can make it happen.

Cons

Escapism. 

Yes, travel allows you to escape. But sometimes escaping can take the form of running away. Whether it’s that bad breakup or loss of a job, sometimes you just want to leave it all behind and do something crazy, like move 10,000 miles away for a while. [I’ve done this so I am not judging]  But if you truly run away and never look back or never confront the initial problem that sent you fleeing, travel may do more harm than good. Escaping a bad situation is fine, but hiding behind the guise of travel in order to avoid dealing with that bad situation is not quite as advisable. Eventually, you have to face your demons.  They will come find you.

Being homesick.

Even if you are not close to your family, it’s likely you will still feel some semblance of homesickness at some point during your travels. Maybe you miss your significant other. Maybe you miss a sibling or cousin. Hell, maybe you really miss your cat.[I inquired about mine more often than the well beings of other humans] Being away from home can be stimulating and wonderful, but it’s not unnatural to fall into a funk every now and then when you pine for “home.” The good news is that the world has gotten a lot smaller with things like Skype, Facebook and e-mail making it  incredibly easy to keep in touch [should you feel the desire.]

Yep, when I call home, I am asking about my boy.

Missing family milestones/emergencies back home.

Maybe your best friend gets engaged, or has a baby. Maybe a friend or relative dies.  You’d love to be there for all of these important milestones and tragedies; you want to be able to offer your love and support in person, and not through a computer screen or telephone signal. But, it’s likely to happen if you’re traveling for any length of time. Life at home will go on without you, and it’s one thing you just have to come to terms with.  I had friends get married, have babies, and had relatives die all while I was out of the country.  I may not have been there at the moment, but I was when I got back, and I am now.  True friends will understand.

It can be costly. 

Just as travel can be affordable, it can also be extremely expensive. Many European countries [hello, Sweden and England, I am talking to you], as well as Australia and New Zealand,  have incredibly high costs of living. If you’re dead-set on staying in any of these places for any length of time, for example, that $10,000 you saved up over the past two years  isn’t going to get you very far. The same goes for hard-to-reach destinations like Antarctica and Easter Island. If you’re dreaming of the ultimate budget travel adventure, you may have to edit your list and cut many places -– like the South Pole–out.

The addictive-ness of travel.

They don’t call it the “travel bug” for nothing. Once it bites, it can infect you with an insatiable desire to travel that never really goes away. Once is often never enough, as evidenced by the scores of travelers out there who are on the road indefinitely. Especially if you’re prone to becoming addicted to things that give you a good high, don’t expect one trip to ever be the end of it. This can easily turn into an incurable sense of restlessness that no amount of movement can satisfy.

With any great adventure or endeavor in life, there are going to be risks, and there are going to be sacrifices.

Some people might put “the dangers of travel” on the cons list, but, really, just getting in your car and driving to work each day is dangerous. Sure, there are risks to travel, especially long-term travel. But life itself is a risk.

The sacrifices, though, are real, and do exist when it comes to travel.

But if I have to sacrifice some family time to better understand myself, I think it’s worth it. If I have to substitute one destination for another because of finances, then I’ll do it. And, honestly, travel is just about the best thing a person could become addicted to, as far as I’m concerned.

If traveling could mean that I’ll never want to stop… well, that’s another post for another day.