Posted on January 15, 2012 by AmandaPatterson
A big thanks to Amanda Patterson of Amanda Elsewhere for contributing the following post as the January 15th Travel Instigator. Stay tuned for a feature post and Q and A from a new adventurous female traveler the 15th and 30th of every month.
First, a ditty: wear sunscreen. Baz Luhrmann was right; no other advice matters. Second, I found a mouse, dead, on the floor beneath my cubicle desk a couple weeks ago. My second thought upon this discovery was: what is this a sign of? (My first thought being, of course, to run far away and not return until long after building maintenance removed it, and also to lay upon whomever I ran into my tale of woe).
You see, I suffer from all of the common fears in some degree or another: heights, doctors, failure, clowns, that the Bachelor may not find true love. But mice terrify me the most, for reasons I can only half-heartedly explain. They’re small and fast and seem to only be seen peripherally, out of the corner of my eye, running along a wall. You know who else does that? Ghosts.
Anyway, I only had a few days to contemplate what it all could mean (Is my career dead? Am I going to die in my cubicle too? Will I ever find the courage to quit office life to travel the world?) before a startling, tragic development occurred at home. My apartment, it seems, harbored mice as well. And my cat, it seems, loved to catch them and re-gift them to me. I will spare you all of the grisly details except that after a few instances of me standing on a chair, screaming in petrified terror (alone), I decided to take control.
Google told me that to loudly direct profanities at my well-meaning animal companion was not very polite of me. So when it happened again, sometime between midnight and 1am on a random, thankless Tuesday night, I lulled cat-and-prey as far away from my bed as possible, calmly caught the mouse in my boot, and deposited it outside.
You know what was weird about that? After all the hoopla and the panic and the overturned furniture and the crying, it all ended quietly. No one was around to high-five me, no strategically placed person with a beer on hand to toast me. That was 100% personal satisfaction.
Do you know the kind of euphoria that accompanies conquering your fears? It feels goddamn great and now I’m pretty sure I can do anything.
“What does any of this have to do with anything?” you’re wondering.
Well, it’s the middle of January, and I want to talk about your resolutions. This is a call for a resolution revolution! Let’s call them Travelutions! The following Ten Travelutions are some of mine and they can be yours because, after all, what is the point of a New Year except to drink a lot and to earnestly try to better yourself? As travelers, and more pointedly, Girls Who Get Around, I think we’re all actively seeking this already.
1. Catch your fears in a boot and dump them outside.Fear is the most prohibitive of feelings, and it’s also the gateway drug for hate and regret. Crying and panicking in the middle of the night will solve no problems. Seize any opportunity that may release you from the tyrannical vermin that may oppress your life. (Oh my gosh do you see how many ways I can tie my fear-of-mice anecdote into Travelution #1? Crafty, huh?) You might find that one confronted fear is a boundary laid wide open. After that, watch out world!
2. Manage your money. This is probably the most important Travelution, especially for us ladies. Much as I am chagrinned to admit it, travel is a much more expensive hobby than decoupage. Be warned, I’m about to get a little Independent Woman Part II on you: as much as it’s important for you to save for a gap year, it’s also important for you to save for your granny years. This means opening a 401K or IRA if you’re gainfully employed and really begin investing in yourself. Many travel bloggers will tell you about how they are able to go from place to place (one mentions employment on a cruise ship to stash away extra cash between trips) but no one really talks about what happens to the traveler once he or she gets old. There’s still plenty of life to be lived beyond the gap years, so why not save enough to retire abroad, too?
3. Make a realistic plan. This goes hand-in-hand with Travelution #2. Listen, I know more than anyone how much it sucks to read travel blogs and adventure sagas from a cubicle. But I’m aware of my limits; I don’t earn enough money to leave for any kind of long-term travel stint before saving for at least two years. It’s a hard kind of sacrifice, but I expect the reward will be well worth it. On the other hand, if you don’t plan you risk never leaving at all. That happened to a coworker of mine who put in her three weeks’ notice to “drive across the country to find herself.” An admirable goal, but she didn’t have a plan, so when the time came, she never actually left.
4. Venture solo. I’ve heard rave reviews on solo travel, but I kind of suck at it. Probably because solo travel scares the poop out of me. But, see Travelution #1.
5. Venture someplace new.Because saving is a passionless affair, I resolve to treat myself and tread new ground (minding my budget, of course!), to keep my spirits high. Just because you’re saving doesn’t mean you have to live on Bleak Street. Addendum: if anyone wants to give me a free trip for being such an awesome blogger, inquire within.
6. Be a tourist. Anyone who tells you that he/she is a traveler, not a tourist, is a pretentious wanker. You go on with your bad self and flash that peace sign while having your photo taken in front of the (insert famous monument here). Endeavor not to be the kind of person who takes herself so seriously that she scoffs tourism. (Except if the tourists are suburban middle school groups visitng the Liberty Bell which just happens to be next door to my office and why are they taking up the entire sidewalk and do children really have no spatial awareness and Oh God get out of my way I just need coffee. )
7. Be aware. Give back. Ignorance is never an excuse.
8. Learn a new language. Because every language is sexier than English.
9. Probably drink less. This will make you healthier. And, um, will help you save money. Oh, you know what, screw it. Apply all the energy you’ve saved aborting trying not to drink toward finally figuring out how to earn frequent flier miles instead.
10. Be true to yourself. One of my favorite quotes is this: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” George Eliot, a lady after my own heart.
But trust me and Baz on the sunscreen.
There can be more than Ten Travelutions; this isn’t the Bible (well…unless you want to take my writing for gospel). Throw more Travelutions our way!
Q and A with Amanda Patterson (aka Amanda Elsewhere)
You claim you were an insular brat before travel changed your life. Explain one moment in travel that began changing your perspective.
The first culture I really experienced was Brazil during Carnival. Carnival is such a sensory experience; you are at once surrounded by pushing crowds and colors and drums and alcohol … and the sensation of dozens of little hands reaching into your pockets for change. I realized right then and there that I had never once considered how privileged I was just to have had a childhood.
You were a sophomore in college before you left the country, what were you most afraid to encounter abroad?
I think I was most afraid of stupid things, like whether I’d make friends easily with the other people in my study abroad program. I distinctly remember being rather fearless and naïve about the travel part.
Why is Semester at Sea a good option for college students?
How do I answer this question succinctly? First, Semester at Sea allows students to experience many cultures across many continents over the course of the semester. The obvious drawback to this is that you don’t really have time to develop a relationship with a particular region, but the upside is that you gain a broad picture about the global condition. There are a lot of interesting things happening politically in a lot of these developing countries, and the ramifications do affect us Westerners. It will change your life, trust me.
Be honest, it’s not really just a big college drunkfest?
Honestly, it is a microcosm of real college life. There will be that group of kids for whom partying is a top priority (I imagine that’s what it’s like in other study abroad countries too?). But the academics are quite rigorous and the experience itself is kind of intense. Archbishop Desmond Tutu sailed with our Semester and no one really wanted to be wastey faced in front of a Nobel Laureate.
Just like many Americans, your day job limits you to 13 vacation days. How do you take full advantage?
Nearly everyone at my office uses half their vacation days to take off between Christmas and New Year’s and I’m the Grinch who works that week because I can’t bear to use my vacation days sitting around at home! Every one of those 13 days is used to travel.
72% of Americans don’t have a passport. What excuse annoys you the most?
You know, we’re living in tough times so I understand the money thing. So I guess the excuse that annoys me more than anything is that it’s too dangerous out there. It’s not. The overwhelming majority of the people in this world are good and kind.
Which travel show (past or present) most closely represents your travel style?
House Hunters International. Not because I own property abroad (I’ll be lucky if I ever own a home, period). But because I once saw an episode chronicling one American family’s attempt to secure a modest apartment in Hong Kong, where ovens are not standard kitchen appliances. (In Asia, the majority of meals are fried, not baked). In contemplating which house to choose, the dad said of the one oven-less option, “I just don’t want to eliminate the possibility of cake.” And I just think that’s a great takeaway for everyday life. Never eliminate the possibility of cake.
You strike me as a no-bull-shit kind of girl. If you knew a young girl about to take off on her first trip abroad, how would you finish the following sentence:
No matter what, never, never, never…….exchange your money at the airport.
Why could we all afford to be a little more like Elizabeth Taylor?
Talk about someone who never eliminated the possibility of cake! Elizabeth Taylor was a woman who never apologized for who she was and that is something I admire and respect. I mean, to come of age as a woman is hard enough, but Elizabeth Taylor did so in the public arena and emerged a legendary beauty with the balls to publicly address really then-taboo things like AIDS awareness and prevention. You should maybe consider her the patron saint of Girls Who Get Around!
After your first college travel experiences, explain one thing you did upon your return home that you would have never done as the old you.
I co-founded a chapter of a national nonprofit on my college campus at the University of Pittsburgh called FeelGood. We sold delicious gourmet grilled cheese (the ultimate feel-good food!) and exchanged dialogue about hunger awareness for a donation which was directly invested in The Hunger Project. That first year, my Pitt raised a little over $1,000. As of last semester, they’ve invested over $30,000. It makes me so proud to think that something I had a hand in starting is still going strong. (http://www.feelgoodworld.org/cheeseworld/ and www.thp.org)
Amanda Patterson is a 20-something cubicle dweller who collects sunburns like notches on a bedpost. She hates writing in third person. Next trip: Portland, Oregon in early February! Travel with her at: Twitter: @amandaelsewhere and on the blog: amandaelsewhere.com
- Blane Bachelor on Carnival Triumph: Epic Media Fail on the High Seas
- Gerard ~ GQtrippin on Carnival Triumph: Epic Media Fail on the High Seas
- Beth Yost on My Guiltiest, Ugliest Travel Confessions
- Beth Yost on Hot Mess Monday: A New Year’s Eve Cabin Rental … With a Full Septic Tank
- jeff on Hot Mess Monday: A New Year’s Eve Cabin Rental … With a Full Septic Tank