In Reykjavik, Iceland, Melissa jotted the gems I’ve been waiting for since the day she told me she was headed out into the world and wasn’t sure if she’d be coming back. Actually, that sounds really dramatic, but that’s how I remember it. Badly, I wanted to know what she learned, how she felt, how her heart maintained its beat, how eyes always found the lights in the eyes of others, and how her camera always seemed to know when to snap.
“Not a writer,” she starts. Phooey! Even the non-writers have stories we all want to hear. This is a woman I’ve know since before the original Lion King premiered, and to see how far we’ve come is amazing. She’s not a writer, but I’d still sit at her feet and listen to the beautiful things that happened to her out there. In just 6 months, she’s been in and out of 25 states and 27 countries.
And this is what she brought back for us:
My Travel Takeaways
1. The world feels smaller. Whether I am traveling via plane, train or car. I feel more connected to the entirety of the world vs my identity in a specific place.
2. I am grateful for the USA—Such diversity isn’t seen in other parts of the world. I still think we have a great opportunity to express acceptance of different cultures, races, religions but there simply isn’t a place that has such a wide amount of diversity. With this being said, you can see the US can be light years away from other countries which still are predominately one color, one religion.
3. You can see through other cultures the emphasis placed more on community and family and less on money and possessions. In addition, the US has a significant amount of challenges with mental health and physical health. Which could be seen as the abundance of social media, what we publicize on news and how wide spread things can be so quickly to induce shame, power, greed etc. and a capitalism society, maybe in some ways all the diversity and those resistant to it (white people & gun control/suicide rates). Physically-I think that our welfare system is still quite more than what you would see in other parts of the world. We don’t have poverty like other places do. Their poverty could mean a shack without a bathroom or running water, a reliance on planting their own food or bartering with merchants at local markets for a trade they have learned to acquire food.
4. Environment-In Thailand they bless the land with offerings and shrines to give thanks for the land they are about to build upon. It’s beautiful—I think about every tree we take down and how we should plant another, I think the challenges of empty buildings and how we should provide incentives to reuse these properties or tear them down and plant more. This is a big issue everywhere. You will find concrete just sitting somewhere with no chance of replenishing the earth of oxygen. You will see an abundance of trash because the lack of planning for landfills or a lack of system to take care of things such as recyclables. (Queue-The Gods Must Be Crazy movie) I think we are destroying the planet and more regulations should be imposed everywhere.
5. Safety-There is without question, you feel safe in the US. Upon visiting all these countries so far though there hasn’t been a moment where I have felt like I wasn’t safe. Before traveling I review the US alerts for travel in each country I am going. In some areas like Brazil, I was concerned but after 1 hour in the city, you kind of get a sense of things—Also if you are staying in hotels period you are likely in a better part of a place. Spain was concerning because of the “taxi” incident where I could have been kidnapped because the guy insisted he was an “Uber” but even after walking around at midnight, I didn’t feel at risk. I am not naïve though if I find a lot of people looking at me, I think that is a sign. In Morocco, if you are a single woman—no matter how you dress, people will talk to you, just ignore it. If you also are not in a populated area—taking taxi or Uber if you can afford it is a better bet or even the hop on/hop off tours. Some places in Athens…Really looked rough and I didn’t want to put myself in mainly because I didn’t see anything that looked like something worth seeing. But as a whole, I felt safe just about everywhere.
6. Public Transportation especially subways for larger cities and then buses for smaller ones can be a cheap option to get around if time isn’t an issue. I have enjoyed meddling in this and each time despite the language gap, you will find often that google maps will help you figure it out.
7. Friendliness. Portugal, Thailand, Mexico are probably the friendliest places I have experienced. These countries stand out because of genuine smiles and appreciation from the locals.
8. Traveling Smart—Carry on Only. Red Eye Flights-Don’t waste your daylight hours and save money on hotels. Have Ear Plugs, Eye Mask for the plane just in case the plane doesn’t enforce the quiet and dark hours. Some Red eyes depending on where you are traveling could be daylight hours. Have a Ziplock back filled with your liquids—No other countries recognize Pre-check/Global Entry so you have to go through security the same way as everyone else. Google before you go what are the highlight reels. If you use Bing-they even give you a one or two day itinerary for those passengers that are going through. Always have cash on hand for the other countries-You spend less for sure and you are not stuck being an “American” in a foreign country. You will naturally be at ease looking for food or if you walk by something and want it, you aren’t restricted to what you have the currency for (visa/mc/Amex). If you must use your card, try to use AMEX to avoid conversion charges which you will find your debit card will hit you with. Pack Battery packs for the just in case scenarios. 2 will do.
Keep in your carry on a USB cable to charge your electronics on the plane. Some planes just have USB vs outlet, but this can keep your battery fully charged when you need it as you deplane. AMEX is a must have for frequent travelers. You save money in the end and gain experiences you wouldn’t have otherwise.
-Pictures. Try to keep pictures to a minimum. Think of it back in the day when you had to purchase film. You don’t need 35 pictures of the castle, mountain etc. Trust me. I catch myself doing this all the time and realize I don’t want to spend my evening deleting the other 34 and now I have an abundance of photos in my phone that are not even good.
9. Why travel? It makes you aware. Aware of what? Culture. Your way isn’t the only way and there is no Right way. You end up respecting other cultures, differences and are far less judgmental as a human being.
Poverty-You see what people have and even despite of the lack of having things still find a full life in what they do have—Minimalism.
Importance-What we deem as important really is put into question.
Mother Earth-You walk away a bigger fan of the planet and you also can see the damage we are doing to it. It’s undeniable.
Adaptability—You become more adaptable in environments that you wouldn’t be before. You have been made to feel small or inadequate and in that you gain so much in return you are grateful. (Language Barrier, Food Differences, Removing shoes etc.) You come back with an appreciation for what you have, the life you live knowing it could be different—not worse, not better just different and with that comes content with what you have and there you find happiness.
Thank You For Your Magic, Melissa!