Tag Archives: domestic travel

I Like Me So Much Better When I Travel!

Travel Delia is way cooler than home Delia–sorry for those of you who only see home delia!  When I’m away, I think critically, but I’m also more laid back about obstacles and delays.  I’m thrilled to sit in a crowded train station on a hot Egyptian night, people watching, reading and soaking it all in.  At home?  I look like one of those Bostonians your mom told you about, the Massholes you shouldn’t bother. 

But every day you can litterally wake up and be someone new.  Every person you meet is the opportunity to make the changes you’ve been thinking about, or maybe even implementing, the ones your old friends don’t notice because their image of you is trapped in resin like a mosquito.  Who Says I can’t be Travel Delia every day?

When I’m away I…

  • read or look out the window on pretty much every form of transportation, instead of always listening to my ipod
  • write way more
  • don’t worry about hygeine
  • am far more likely to talk to a stranger
  • am barefoot!
  • am open to hearing new opinions
  • am more of a listener (but, let’s face it, still a pretty big talker…)
  • randomly help strangers and travelling companions alike
  • am more mindful of how often I speak, when I interupt, and how loud I am
  • wander
  • practice yoga most days
  • wake up early
  • fly solo
  • arrive on time almost everywhere, unless it really is beyond my control (see: Benin)
  • go to all kinds of cultural festivals and museums
  • take notes.  All the time.  And I love it. 
  • am thankful every time I have AC, halfway-decent food and a bed without bedbugs (regular bugs don’t bother me)
  • am not at all scared of bugs
  • dance more; smile more; hum to myself
  • take lots of pictures of my friends
  • play sports
  • don’t worry so much about what I’m wearing, since my choices are limited
  • pay more attention
  • take better care of myself
  • challenge myself
  • let myself fail
  • write thank you notes
  • walk everywhere
  • play with children and strangers
  • talk to every kid I meet

This year I’m doing something different: I’m staying home, and I’m loving it.  And I’ve been inspired by my travels and by Thoreau to apply my travel mindset to home–the local, the domestic, the unnoticed and the seemingly-banal.  Because that’s what the point of this blog is: to think critically, live happily, examine everything and go forth with equal parts whimsy and thoughtful care.  After all, the people, language, culture and politics of Massachusetts and America at large are no less interesting or worthy than those on all the other continents, in all the other states. 

Are you different when you get into a new environment?  How and why?  Does it have to be far away, or is it just the presence of new people?

Perspective

Reasons I’m suddenly happier about Cuba:

Going home doesn’t seem so far away. A weird paradox, but knowing it’s soon frees up some mental space to stop stressing and start enjoying

We went to Santiago. For one thing, I love that city.  Another is that we got a change of pace, making Havana seem fresher, and my time there more precious, in addition to giving me an entire new perspective on Cuba

I emailed Ilham. She was a faculty leader on the egypt Dialogue, and she’s on of my personal rock stars.  All throughout Egypt we had to keep journals for reflection, and I was very conscious that Ilham was reading it, at times almost treating it like a conversation with her and expecting her to react the next day about something I had written the night before.  Something about writing her a conversation for real was comforting, and reminded me of the person I’m trying to be, both personally and academically.

Our Group. The people I’m with includes Michigan and NU students, house staff, Casa staff.  I’ve noticed that the whole group is a lot more zen lately, especially about interpersonal relations.  I’ve seen people cutting each other slack where they wouldn’t before, and spending time with people they hadn’t before.  The relaxed attitude makes our house so much more pleasant to live in.  It fills it up with boisterous, friendly chaos, instead of jarring, staccato coldness.


I watched some American TV.
Dumb, I know, but it helped.  It was also fun to just be American kids for a little while.  We could’ve been anywhere at home, lounging on a couch, eating (fake) pringles and watching television in English.

Food. Aliesha’s mom sent a giant box of goodies, and Kristina’s mom brought some homemade cookies and pancake mix.  We also got great, filling breakfasts in Santiago, and decently priced, delicious food for lunch and dinner.  That was probably one of the only times I’ve felt truly satisfied with a meal her.  To boot, there aren’t as many shortages right now on staples like bread or eggs.

Home is a wee bit more organized. I know when my flight leaves for France, and when I come home from Benin.  I can go to Andrew’s graduation (after missing so many important events in his life this past year) and I can go to BMG’s first communion.  The first thing she asked was whether I would be there, and I hated that I didn’t know and wasn’t really in control of the answer.  Cuba has made me really laid back (in some ways), but I feel calm knowing I won’t let Miss Bridget down.

It’s amazing how much your perspective can change by seeing your world through someone else’s lens.  It felt good to have someone well-traveled recognize that Cuba is indeed strange.  We’re not imagining it, this really is hard, and it really is different from going to Australia.  I also loved realizing that what comes to mind about Cuba for me is all the good stuff, and I see all the bad stuff in a good light.  Things that other people found strange, stressful or scary rolled off my back with a laugh.  Someone said that we’re a funny group, but I countered that no, it’s just Cuba that’s funny.

I really do believe it.

Planning a Trip

Lately I’ve gotten some questions about how to choose a destination and prepare for a trip.  I’m wicked flattered that I’ve achieved status as the friend to ask for some of you, and this is my attempt to share what I’ve figured out so far.  They’re not hard and fast rules, it’s just trial and error from my own experience.

One thing I’d love to emphasize, though, is domestic travel.  These rules work even if you’re traveling within your own state, and don’t feel that you shouldn’t be contributing or proud of your resume, even if your passport is blank.  We’re lucky enough to live in such a culturally and geographically diverse country.  So often domestic travel is ignored or looked down upon, but you should be proud of learning about your home more thoroughly than most. So please, join in with the comments and advice, no matter how far or close your destinations are!

First, I recommend checking out your potential destinations on a few key places online.  You should be looking at climate, financial situation within the country, personal safety, language skills needed and the type of experience you want.  There are really only so many places where you can, but if all you want to do is lie on a beach all day at a resort you can go just about anywhere.

The following are a collection of my favorite travel websites:

Lonely Planet

One of the best things about Lonely Planet is that you can download portions of many of their guides for free, giving you a great starting point as well an idea of what their guide will contain.  You’re then better equipped to comparison shop.  If you do go with their guide, you can also buy it in digital, which is preferable for some travellers. They also feature a great interactive trip planner, if you’re into that sort of thing.

US State Department travel warnings

Here’s my gigantic caveat: never forget that this is made by a government. Yes, it is our government so you want to believe it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should.  This is an avenue for propaganda like any other, and should not be your only source.  I also urge you to be mindful of the level of crime we actually are living in when we’re at home.  Everyone was worried about me going to Cairo, but I was much safer in the affluent neighborhood of Zamalek than in my dorm in the projects.

Glimpse

I like this site because the content is all user-generated.  You can read blog entries, how-to guides and tips.  They have a strict word count max on all of these, so you can get a lot of concise, first-hand data quickly.  (Full disclosure: I have a profile on glimpse)

Students Abroad

This one comes courtesy of mi madre and the State Department.  The point is to make a hip, relatable travel website, and they actually succeed.  I know, I’m floored.  This some dumb stuff, but it’s mostly user-friendly and surprisingly laid back.  There’s even a  fanny pack joke!

CDC

Depending on where you go and when, you might need some shots.  If you stick to western Europe (or New England) this won’t be a problem, but some more hardcore traveling should warrant a gander at this site and a trip to your local infectious diseases/travel clinic.  I like Lahey.

Before you go, the best thing you can do for yourself is to talk to other people who have been there.  I like to keep a running list of questions as I do my preparation so I’m sure not to miss anything.

On the fun side of preparation, I like to go into a country with a pretty good historical and cultural background.  I know this is unusual for most tourists, and I’m also admittedly a nut about history and research.  One of the most accessible things you can do for yourself is to watch a few films.  You could go with ones made in or by people of that country to get an idea of the culture, or something with a bit of historical accuracy for some research that even a normal human being would enjoy.

One of my favorite pre-trip activities is to read some books about or from the country that are neither academic nor travel guides.  Memoirs and fiction are a great way to feel connected to your destination without feeling like you’ve been assigned homework.

How about you guys?  Was there anything you disagree with?  What are your tips for travel preparation?  Do you have a preference for a certain brand of guides?  Is there a great travel site to add to the list?

Help your fellow travellers out and leave a comment!

Also, don’t forget to leave a comment here with your Cuba questions!