TRAVEL is a luxury. I haven’t been to a lot of places across the globe but I have been very fortunate to experience some different areas throughout my relatively young life. It’s absolutely something I want to do more of. My idea of travel is a vacation, and my idea of a vacation is relaxing. I am not a big sight-seer or tourist. My general idea is to try and speak their language, eat their food, and enjoy their scenery. My theory is that I will never get a better photo of a physical landmark than those that are already on the internet and taken by professional photographers, and no piece of man-made architecture is as beautiful as the wonders of nature and sunsets, and these, especially on the beach, are by far my favourite natural phenomena on earth specifically when it leads to a night of star-filled skies.
I will admit that the ocean scares me a bit. I grew up going to British Columbia where my late Gramma lived at the time and playing on the beach. I was quite young though, and probably didn’t know how to swim yet so the ocean and its vastness was never something I had to contemplate too much. When I went on a cruise through the islands of Greece at fifteen with a cultural enrichment group at my high school I was still too naive about the ocean to understand the implications of flying overseas and then getting on a boat with intermittent no land in sight for seven days. I think now my pessimism and worry has diverted my attention onto the potential risks and I have lost the naivety it took to get me to go on that trip in the first place even though I still haven’t stayed awake for the entirety of Titanic after a minimum three attempted viewings and don’t have much to base my hesitation on.
A couple of years after the cruise when I went to a beach town in Mexico with my of-the-time boyfriend and his father and older brother, I got a stern talking to from my aspiring-surfer main-man about how powerful the ocean was and that it could quickly turn from playing to panic if you got stuck in a rip current once you swam out too far. This scared me enough to stay very close to the beach, only venturing out to where the water met my elbows and no farther. It was impressed on me that the ocean was a force and not to ever feel you had control when in or near it. I was taught that the ocean deserved respect for its immensity and unpredictability and to this day the lesson has both humbled me and left me a little frightened.
The soothing sound of the ocean is my favourite thing about it. On my school cruise in Greece the boat docked in Mykonos for the evening and we walked up one of the main roads to a peak where we watched the sunset. When we climbed down between the buildings in the dark, the streets were all jagged and there was no sight of the beach back to the boat. We listened to the waves breaking and followed the sound to the shore and walked along the oceanfront to the ship. After telling my boyfriend’s sister this story, she and her now husband ended up taking their honeymoon on the Greek island and I couldn’t help but feel like it was a small nod in acknowledgment of a young girl who loved her teenage brother to the moon and back. At the end of our cruise, back in our hotel in Athens, my boyfriend would tell me he loved me for the first time. He and I would break up by the time his sister got married even though my name was on his invitation, but I still feel like guiding her to sharing love on Mykonos was a fit wedding gift for her and her hubby, even if I wasn’t at the wedding. This experience of being enamored in a foreign place has fuelled my hunger for travel ever since.
I am a big believer of when in Rome, do as the Romans, so to speak, or of observing and adapting to new places and cultures. As a general rule in my daily life I tend to stick to what I know and don’t try a lot of new things meaning that there is a lot I haven’t done or eaten or seen. When I find myself in a new situation I tend to mimic those around me A) to be polite and B) to hopefully not embarrass myself. As much as I try to not be a sore thumb and look like a fool, my strategy sometimes fails me as I am not as perceptive as I would hope and often miss social customs and end up just kind of winging it. I’m not as graceful as they come and often rely on a healthy dose of self-deprecating comic relief to help me through awkward situations.
I didn’t start getting nervous on planes until my twenties when I could understand the full realm of the coordination it took to securely run an airport and take off, fly and land hundreds of planes. From what I know I had always been a really good passenger growing up. On the six hour flight to Vancouver to visit my maternal grandparents when we were very young, my parents used to bring a bag of surprises and would give one to each of us on the hour, every hour of the flight. The gifts were usually games and activities to strategically keep us busy and distracted from disturbing other travellers. I haven’t been on a plane in almost five years and the take off and landing, particularly the landing, are the most nerve-wracking for me now. I always want to clap when we arrive safely but I am pretty sure applause is reserved for winter flights to beach resorts from city folk temporarily escaping areas with frigid temperatures. I don’t understand the people who get annoyed with traveling. Everything is just so exciting that I am left in wonder: where is everyone going to/coming from and why? Everyone traveling is both leaving something behind and reuniting or initiating something. It fascinates me. I hope the awe and grandiosity of traveling never escapes me.
Hands-down though, the best way to travel is by train. It has all the cramped seats of a plane which is no problem at my stout 5”4 stature yet involves minimal risk and is quite a bit more predictable than flying. As much as I love seeing the veins of a city from the air and this will forever lift my heart and give me a feeling of amazement, there is something peaceful about the train. I can probably handle a lot of sitting in one place for a long time and find things to keep me occupied and entertained which is infinitely made easier by Wi-Fi and snack carts.
Though I grew up with an older brother and older sister, they were usually off doing cooler things with their cooler friends and I was left to myself a lot of the time, especially on family trips to the cottage. I would whine about having nobody to play with and my mother would tell me not to depend on anyone else for my own happiness, even at six years old when all I wanted was a playmate. I don’t mind the actual transportation part of traveling on my own, actually I probably prefer solo transit, but I am not one to set out in a new country by myself or even leave my apartment in my hometown past eleven at night.
When I was a more adventurous teenager getting drunk and smoking dope in municipal parks (sorry, Nana) in the middle of the night, my mother used to warn me before leaving the house that there was a potential pervert behind every tree. She taught me to walk with my keys poking through my fists just in case I found myself in a position where I needed to defend myself, and yet the closest anyone has gotten to me was a shadow on a winter’s walk home from work that when I passed the next lamppost turned out to be my own. I guess it’s safe to say that the instinct of fear is strong with me.
Even still, I am weary of being a young woman out on my own and through conditioning from my parents I have always made my friends contact me after being out together to let me know that they have gotten home safely or been one to make sure a family member got to their destination safely when traveling. Likewise when I am with family and don’t get a ride home with one of them I always make sure to let them know I got home in one piece. I think it’s important to keep an eye out for one another and goodness forbid should anything out of the ordinary happen at least you know someone will be looking out for you until you get back safe, will at least know your most recent whereabouts and will contact the right people should the time you haven’t heard from them become worrisome. It’s a good habit to get into to let people know where you are. I don’t go anywhere but walking distance without telling a friend or family member and most of them know my regular schedule in the event that something goes awry. Also most of my guy friends are good enough to walk me home and stick around until my key is in the door and if I really am alone I have a roster of on-call friends I can talk to on the phone for company and safety on my walk home. I don’t mean to preach, just the world is safer and more pleasant if we have each other’s backs, that’s all.