In honor of the post-Thanksgiving chocolate-pie-green-bean-casserole-mashed-potato glut, I woke up at 7:30am, threw on some workout clothes and decided that I was going to be a healthier, well-rounded, chick-that-works-out-in-the-morning.
Also, Breathe Yoga was offering free yoga classes all weekend. I'm a girl on a budget and yoga's expensive, yo'.
As it happens, the woman that owns Breathe is the mother of a girl in my high school graduating class and she was working at the studio that day (the daughter, not the mother; who also happens to be the main buyer for the retail store. And she does a damn good job. If you're from the Rochester area, get yourself to Breathe immediately. Hard Tail and Lulu and awesomely pretty wood-bead necklaces, oh my!). After setting up my yoga mat, I snuck outside to chit-chat a bit with her, noting that, hey, I had just come back from Cambodia and, weren't you there a bit ago, if I remember my Facebook stalking correctly? Yea, she confirmed, I was there two years ago for some foundation work, but with a group of people. I could never go alone. I wouldn't even know where to THINK about going.
To which I said...nothing. Or more likely, something to the effect of "Oh, yea you totally could, oh man, they are closing the studio doors, I have to bounce into class, but see you after." But later, in what I like to think was post-yogic enlightened state but what my mom confirmed appeared more food-deprived and sweaty, I began to try to remember back before I decided to take on a trip by myself. I started really thinking about how difficult it might seem to just up and leave everything that you are comfortable with to go spend time in an unknown city/state/country, and a place where you may, at all times, be extremely UNcomfortable.
So how did I do it? How did I make the decision to reject the traditional idea of adulthood of college-career-marriage-children-retire-TRAVEL to start at the end of this chain of events and "go traveling" as the Europeans like to call it (if I can figure how to retire as a step two before kids and then marriage, I'll let you guys know that as well)?
1. I had a lot of unintentional practice. I went to school in Washington, DC. I live in Rochester, New York. Without making you go through wild amounts of Google Mapping, it's about an 8-hour driving trip one-way and an 11-hour train ride. With my campus being within cab/metro distance of three major international airports, I flew home for Thanksgiving, winter breaks, summer breaks, and the occasional random "Mom-make-me-dinner-and-do-my-laundry-please" weekends. Which meant, at least 4 times a semester, I was arriving at the airport, standing in line to print my boarding pass, getting myself through security without any embarrassing underwear-in-carry-on-bag mishaps, and boarding the plane. Once I did that 20-30 times (or more) over four years, it became less scary to think about getting on an airplane and going somewhere. Sure, I missed flights. I came really, really, panicky-breath-inducingly close to missing flights. I lost my luggage, had terrible delays, hit road traffic on I-95 to BWI, and almost lost it at a gate attendant when some snowstorms threatened to keep me in DC for Thanksgiving. I even fell asleep once in the gate area and my plane left without me (it was after my finals and I had stayed up all week partyi..I mean...studying). Flash-forward a few years after experiencing all of these so-called "travel disasters," and I barely flinched at the thought of air travel. I learned to pack in a carry-on only. I could make it through security in less than 3 minutes, given a short line. After graduation, I began going to visit friends in different cities, learning to use public transportation to get from the airport to their houses. I mastered the first major hurdle to traveling alone. I learned to feel comfortable flying in an airplane.
2. Traveling is to me what Louboutins are to, oh, everyone else that I know. Lots of Manhattan 20-somethings make more money than I do (finance guys that ignore me in Murray Hill, I'm talking to YOU). I make it work because I choose to live in an outer-borough, run/workout/do yoga as most of my weekday entertainment, eat very cheaply during the week, and do not buy new clothes at a rate reflective of how often I want to buy new clothes. I'm not saying I don't blow some roll-your-eyes-worthy change on dinner every now and then, and that I sometimes fall off the wagon Saturday night and spend a week's food budget in Cambodia on Grey Goose Gibson's at a bar in the West Village (because I do more than I would like to admit). But I'm willing to sacrifice the convenience of living IN Manhattan and six-inch Jimmy Choos-that-are-half-off-at-Barney's-trunk-sale because I would rather lie all day on the beaches of Aruba and ski fresh powder in Lake Tahoe more than anything else in the entire world. When people tell me "Oh, I really wish I could travel as much as you do," I say "Aw, well, I totally think you can!" and mean "You can, but that $350 you just spent on a Theory blazer is about halfway to a weekend getaway to Honduras. Just sayin'." Point is, you really have to want it. Like anything else in life. And I really, really, really want it.
3. I took some dips in the kiddie pool before I dove in headfirst. Aaaannndd I'm done with overused metaphors. But seriously, before I took off by myself to the jungles of Asia (hah. More like air-conditioned hotels), I took two semi-autonomous solo trips; one to an all-female surf camp in Puerto Vallarta where I would be meeting people upon arrival and sharing a room with someone, but not actually traveling and meeting anyone that I knew prior to boarding my Delta flight, and another hiking trip to Colorado with fellow outdoorsy New Yorkers, again who I had never met before. Sure, that was intimidating, being thrown in a beach villa/backcountry ski cabin with 19/11 other women/women and men I had never met before, but once I realized that making friends is simply "Hi, what's your name and where are you from?" or (my favorite since I'm a total girl about it all) "Oh, my, GOD I love your swimsuit/eyeshadow/beach bag/hiking pack. I totally want one and where can I get it?", it got a whole lot easier for me to stop worrying that I was going ALONE and I started realizing that I was GOING alone.
4. I learned to be happy with just me. Manhattan is a great place to learn self-sufficiency and independence because, as I've been oft heard to say, there is always something to do. The problem is, most (okay, none) of my 20-something friends don't want to wake up at 9am on Saturday morning eat BREAKFAST not brunch and tromp around in the MoMA or go for a run along the East River or take a dance class in Times Square or go see a free live show of some indie folk band in Brooklyn that I found on YouTube. First of all, because all of my friends think Brooklyn is about the same distance from Manhattan as California (pssst, Bridget? you don't need to plan a Brooklyn DAY for everyone. I know it sounds crazy, but in fact, I go to Brooklyn twice a day, every day, when I commute to and from my office) and second of all, I am convinced that you don't meet the kind of guys that we are all looking to make our life partners in bars on Wednesday nights (because I tried that for about two years worth of Wednesday nights and it didn't work). So, I learned to explore my own city on my own. Again, it took me two years to get to all the things I really wanted to, but after all that practice, it didn't make sense for me to spend a whole weekend day or two in Manhattan by myself and not feel comfortable doing that in Bangkok, Bali, or Borneo.
5. Someone told me that I could. And therein is the single most influential reason that I did. Because I read this blog one day and she had done it and she said, I did it and you can to. And also because I emailed her directly and asked her if I could, just for a little reinforcement, and you know what? She emailed me right back and said to stop emailing her asking if I was brave enough and to buy my plane ticket already. (Okay, not exactly like that, but I'm sure that's what she was thinking in her head.) And if you don't already know the great Sarah V, then go on over there and read her blog and get some more travel ideas from her because she's done it not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES in her life and has no interest in stopping. Traveling or encouraging. And that? That's some good news.
So stop reading this post and go buy your dang plane ticket already.