The reality of: Travel

Hello again beautiful souls. And if you’re new, welcome to my blog!

In lieu of avoiding this post turning into a “life update” sort of thing, I’ll sum up the 4-month (andthensome) hiatus real quick. About two months after I wrote my last post, I finished my contract onboard the Disney cruise ship I had been working on for the past two years (two contracts, back to back). Those last few months out in the middle of the ocean were a bit of a challenge for my mind and soul. But I pushed through, and I did it with the help of a few amazing people by my side the whole way through.

But I think I’ve posted about my experience on the ship enough. Point blank, I did it; I made it to the finish line, and now I’m back on land. Currently, I’m in NYC. However when I started writing this post, instead of writing from home like a normal person would be doing post-contract (AKA working for 9 months straight with zero days off out in the middle of the ocean with little to no connection to your life back on land), I wrote from across the ocean in Europe. Classic Ilana.

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~First and foremost, I’d like to state that I have attempted to be as sensitive and aware as possible in writing this post because Once Upon A Time, I never thought that the subject of travel could be so touchy to write about, so I wrote a blog post about it and I learned that it is. Please just know that what I write comes from my personal experience and that I do not represent the opinions or perceptions of anyone but myself on this matter, or any.~

So here we go!

People can be weird about traveling. (So much for the sensitivity thing, I know.) But let me rephrase that: People can be weird when they see that other people they know are traveling.

You’ve probably heard from a good handful of people in your life that one of their aspirations is to travel the world… Or at least that’s what’s always said. But yet how many people have you heard express this, only eye-roll and make assumptions when they see that someone else they know is traveling.

The biggest problem with assuming anything about anything is that you never know anyone’s situation. Never totally. You can be 100% positive about so much; that they disregard the subject of money or that they don’t think twice about the privilege that comes along with traveling. But what you actually don’t know is what that person did to get themselves abroad; how they budgeted, where/what their current living situation is back home (or even while traveling), how long that goal to travel has been on their list, etc.. Maybe someone gets to travel for work, and what you don’t see is the blood, sweat, tears, and tireless hours they grind. Maybe traveling has been a terrifying idea to someone for years and they are finally kicking that fears ass. We never actually know.

Regardless of whatever reason(s) that person has, it’s important to remember that people are never obliged to share said reasons behind their personal choices, especially when those choices only affect them.

My point is that there are so many aspects that go into where someone is in their life and what they are doing with it, and that there is always more to someone’s situation than we initially consider. And this lack of understanding is where I think some people’s subconscious judgment tends to come from. My favorite thing I learned in You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero was that for every negative thing we continually put ourselves through, there is a secret positive reason behind it as well. Here is an example from her book:

Let’s say your story is that you can’t make money. By staying broke, you get to be right. You get to be a victim, which makes you dependent on other people and gets you attention. Other people will offer to pay. You don’t have to take responsibility. You get to give up before you start and avoid possible failure. (Sincero 141)

When it comes to traveling, I believe that many of the things I have listed below can, and do, act as discreetly positive reasons that people don’t travel. People say that they wish to travel and are more than willing to use the subjects of money and inability to get time off of work as reasons why they cannot (and those are totally valid). But there’s another reason as to why people don’t travel and it is this: Unwillingness to go through the discomfort of traveling. 

Nobody really ever talks about it, so let us flip the coin and expose what is behind those annoyingly vibrant Instagram posts of people living their best wanderlust™ lives amongst beautiful beaches, deserts, cityscapes, jungles, mountains, and more.

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Control (or should I say, lack thereof)

When it comes to traveling, there is a certain kind of control that you are forced to release; it is inevitable and it is the kind that comes with being somewhere you’ve never been. You must surrender yourself into the unknown and give up your pride. You’re in a completely new environment and because of that, you have to constantly try to accept the fact that you automatically know less than someone else, always. Not being familiar or fluent with the language of the country you are traveling in puts a huge hurdle right in front of you and sends you straight out of your comfort zone, even if you do happen to be staying in the more touristy parts of that place. For most who love to travel, it is a lesson on humility and growth. But it can understandably be seen as a huge disadvantage by others, as a lot of us are terrified of losing control.

Exhaustion

I’m talking physically, mentally, and even emotionally. When you are exploring a new city, country, continent, state, etc., you usually want to get the most out of your trip and see all of the important monuments/buildings/museums/restaurants/etc. while at the same time getting a feel for the day-to-day life. That’s a lot, and to be honest, it’s a lot of pressure. Sometimes you even find yourself forgetting that eating is a thing (and then you must face the wrath of the hangry monster within). There’s a certain amount of motivation and positive thinking you have to have in order to get through everything. And because of that, it can be very easy to find yourself stuck in that limbo between feeling overwhelmed/bound to a sort of chore list and feeling guilty over not taking advantage of your time there. To get everywhere you want, you’re pretty much always thinking 1-5 steps ahead because you’re in an unfamiliar place that you could easily become lost in (and believe me- it’s not as fun as it sounds). In this way, the brain gets worn down, and fast. And that’s not even touching on the amount of walking, climbing, and maybe even running involved. 

Going out on a limb and putting your money towards something that isn’t particularly valued in your culture

This one’s particularly for my US homies. For some reason, traveling for leisure/experience/anything but work seems to be a much more frowned upon choice here than in other countries. Again, only speaking from my experience, but when talking to people from other countries onboard (and a lot of countries are represented on that little tin can), none of them could identify with being shamed for wanting to travel/traveling. I think the Western scorn on Travel comes from a few very deeply-seated issues we have here in our country’s history, but on a separate, lighter and way more general note, I just think we tend to value personal success in work/money above experiencing other countries/cultures, expanding our perception of the world, and well, pretty much anything else. 

When it comes to traveling with a person or persons, it’s an entirely different set of hurdles…

Next level quality time

Traveling with someone isn’t like living with them in a house or apartment, going about your day-to-day life. When you travel with them, you spend almost every waking minute with them. Yes, there will be opportunities to go off for a solo adventure or alone time, but in the grand scheme of things, you are with that person pretty much 24/7. In this, it’s no surprise that you must sacrifice a certain level of independence and up your patience game by, well, a lot. 

Compromise

You must compromise on a lot, because chances are, you don’t see eye to eye on every single thing. You have to decide on what time you’ll wake up, or at least be out the door. You have to agree on doing things you both want to do and how you’ll split up those things for what days. You have to agree on food you both will eat, and when you will eat it (hopefully you’re both hungry at the same time). Of course you can split off and do certain things alone, but, for example, when it comes to eating at the same place at the same time, it’s just more efficient and saves you both more time for other things on your list. 

*Again, I’m well aware that you can go off and do things alone when you travel. But when I travel somewhere with someone, it is every bit my intention to discover and experience the place I’m traveling to with them.

A presence besides yourself

This one’s kind of a given, but when it comes to traveling with another, you must deal with the stress that already comes with traveling (reference above topics), and add a whole other human to the equation. This means that you will be working with a whole other brain, set of feelings, mannerisms, way of going about things, and opinions for pretty much every decision. 

Living styles

If you rent AirBnbs, like we did, or even if you stay in a hotel or a hostel, you must become acclimated to another person’s living style. And it’s an acclimation unlike any other because of how much time you spend with a person when you travel together. After a whole day of being side by side, navigating wherever you are, you don’t get to return to total privacy. Instead, you observe (and compromise on) the little things: how they deal with their dirty clothes, how/when they do the dishes, when they shower and how long they take, what their routine to get ready to leave the house is like, how they like to decompress, how they grocery shop and cook, how many hours a night (or day) they sleep, etc etc etc.

Transportation

Whether it’s navigating airports, catching flights, taking buses, working with shuttle services, or using the subways/trams/Ubers/scooters, the aspect of Transportation (or as I like to say, traveling when you’re traveling) can be extremely stressful in the ways you wouldn’t think to consider. Think: different currency, foreign language, etc. Navigating a new city can be empowering but tough, and doing it with another person can either be comforting or exhausting. Luckily, however, we do have these things called cellular devices that can help us out big time with that. But on the flip side (no pun intended), phones can sometimes be more of a detriment than a help.

And honestly, those are just a few of the hurdles that come along with traveling.

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All in all, traveling is a different type of “vacation” than going to a beach resort is (and no shame on those; I just spent the last 7 months of my life visiting those places around the Caribbean weekly). It can be absolutely exhausting in every sense of the word. And when you toss another person into that, it’s not just about the country you’re traveling to, but also the person you’re with. You’re ultra conscious of them- what they’re thinking, feeling, etc.- all the time. Being with a person physically 24/7 can be a lot, and with that cooperation comes inevitable irritations; and that’s honestly just part of co-exisitng with someone for any period of time. Regardless, I believe that my experience of traveling with my partner was so worth it. The richness of a trip that you experience and share with someone you care about is one of the best feelings, and there are countless moments in my travels where I have been so incredibly grateful to have had the person I love and trust by my side.

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On January 1st of 2019, I made a promise to myself that I would do things for my soul, and that sits at the forefront of my mind every day (which is tougher than you’d think when you find yourself living in New York City). Everyone likes to poke fun at terms and sayings such as “wanderlust” or “traveling to find yourself” but the truth is that traveling has the power to expand your mind, help you grow, and make you a better person than you were before. 

I set out to write this post because I feel that there are certain things that we should start taking into consideration whenever we stumble upon those beautiful (and *edited*) Instagram photos before we judge that person and their choices. I think that traveling deserves more credit, because whether you know it or not, it’s actually quite a bit of work.

Last night, I said goodbye to my love at the JFK airport. The one who has accompanied me on both my trips to and throughout Europe. The one who has gone through living the magic and hell of ship life with me. The one who has opened his home and family to me and has helped me move into my own home here in NYC. Words can’t explain my sadness in this moment, but I’m trying to focus on the gratitude I have for all that we’ve shared thus far and all that will come. Traveling and being with someone nonstop can be freaking stressful. There were days we thought we might kill each other because we needed space so bad (lol). But what I will say is that every single one of the things I mentioned above, the things that can be major hurdles and inconveniences when traveling, taught me the lessons I truly think I was meant to learn with only Alvaro. 

Who knows when I’ll find myself overseas next. But what I do know is that exploration is still so very possible right here in this wild city.

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