I’m currently at home and enjoying some spare time which got me thinking. What defines traveling? What makes you a real wanderer? To be honest, I haven’t got the answer to that myself. Or maybe I do. I’ll let you make that decision.
My last trip took me to beautiful California. A destination I instantly clicked with. I felt at ease and happier than ever before when being away. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always felt that deep longing inside of me to see the world, to discover new places. There are so many amazing places to go to in this world and a destination close by can be as magical and surprising as one far away.
When I think about my traveling habits, I see that they changed over the years, just as I have changed. Traveling changes people, but life does too. When I could afford travel from my first paid job, I thought it was all about exotic places, spending money and fancy hotels. I spent money on luxurious accommodation and expensive restaurants, and I enjoyed it at that time. I considered it to be my much-deserved vacation from all the hard work which is a totally fine thing to do. Everybody should spoil himself from time to time.
But as the years went by in my twenties somethings changed. I learned that a posh hotel room isn’t what I find fulfilling. During that time, I faced some major changes. I changed jobs, got out of a long-term relationship and recovered from a severe health condition. That’s what initially got me to rethink my habits. I set new goals and tried to find myself again. What is making me happy? What is important to me? What am I just doing to impress or please others? Well, I tried to find that answers not only within me but also within traveling.
I remember, that up to this time, I’ve never traveled alone. I didn’t need to rely on myself and listen to me gut feeling though I very well could. I shied away from experiences that could’ve been unforgettable just because I thought I would have been afraid when deep down I really wasn’t, and I just responded to peer pressure or didn’t want to cause any inconvenience. So, I set myself the new goal of doing all the things I missed out on and booked my first solo trip. I was 27 years old at that time. I wanted to start with an easy destination, that I always wanted to explore on my own terms ¬– London. Instead of paying for a hotel, I booked my first AirBnB in a lovely neighborhood in the British capital. I rode public transport to really get a feel for the city life and not just come to do all the touristy stuff, though I did, of course. I made it a habit to buy a travel book for each destination I go to, browse through and pick out the sights and activities I’m interested in the most and then I go for it. You need to have a little direction at last. Additionally, I try to mix in some activities that are very special. In the states I got tickets to a football game and found my love for the sport ever since. On that first female solo trip I also fought an inner battle. Maybe it really was because I wasn’t used to be on my own, but I felt lonely from time to time. Though I celebrated my freedom to chose to do whatever I want, it made me sad to have nobody to share amazing moments with. And let’s be honest here – all those people at home only want the short-cut version of your trip. They don’t have time to listen to all the experiences you had and the anecdotes you bring home with you.
Another lesson I learned from traveling was, that I shouldn’t wait for company. If you really want to do something, save up for it, get ready and pursue it. For many years, I dreamed about learning how to surf and everyone I told about my dreams found it super cool or said that this year they already made plans, but we should go on a surfing trip the year after. Guess what happened? Right. Nothing. Time flew by and my dream was still exactly that – a dream until I finally booked a trip to Portugal. I had an amazing time, met awesome people, had a healthy diet, started the days with yoga and was out on the Atlantic Ocean to have fun in beginner waves. I got back content and hooked up on surfing. And whether it was in London or in Portugal, I learned that the most calming and rewarding thing for me is to be in nature’s arms.
That’s why California was perfect for me. I had the perks of the city when starting my trip in San Francisco, but the day of pure sightseeing gave me nothing. I literally just checked things off my list. Instead I enjoyed being in the woods of Marin county, walking through Golden Gate park or along the coastline without a specific agenda. I just went with the flow and see where the day would take me. I had the happiest feelings when I had a rare wildlife encounter in Point Lobos State Park and when I could breathe in the salty air, watch the sun set over the ocean and just be.
To sum it all up, I don’t care about material things or activities that would be considered worth showing off at home. I enjoy being on my own, wandering in the nature and reconnect with it. In my eyes, that doesn’t make me a typical traveler. I like to plan my trips to a certain extent. I still can find interested in cities and all they have to offer. But just as I re-structured and tried to simplify my life, I did the same with the way I travel and to put it with the words of Marie Kondo, I only try to stick with things that spark joy.