Month: May 2012

The cost of travel besides MONEY

I”m not shy about giving out details about my personal budget, because, believe it or not, just like you, I had to work for my money. I still work for money and I will continue to work for money.

So many people have it wrong. It’s not all about the money. Admittedly, I drained my bank account in order to finance my traveling lifestyle. Sure, I’ve created many a marvelous memory by not working and spending money, but that’s not the only cost to consider when choosing a traveling lifestyle. The other costs include:

1. Physical- This year alone, I’ve done so much flying that I’m exhausted. I’m truly suffering from burn out. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t enjoy flying off to new places, emerging from the plane bright eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for adventure, but it leaves your body physically exhausted. Jet lag is a serious concern. When I left Australia earlier this year, ready to engage in a 4 flight, 23 hour fly-a-thon back to the U.S., I left on Wednesday morning, February 29th, leap year, traveled for 24 hours straight and landed in L.A. Wednesday morning, February 29th. Believe me when I say it took WEEKS for my body to adjust to THAT time travel!

Tired.

My good friend the flight attendant is constantly on the go as well. One time I asked her what day it really is for her because of all of her traveling and time zone differences. She opted for “no comment,” saying that trying to figure that out would drive her insane. It would drive anyone insane!

The road burns your body out. Toting a 50 pound backpack after a shitty night’s sleep in a hostel isn’t for the faint of heart. Trying to sleep when others are partying is even worse. I combat this by trying to maintain a relatively normal sleep schedule (by normal I mean at LEAST seven hours/24 hour period), eating healthy and maintaining a healthy attitude.

2. Emotional- I’ve gotten good, I mean REALLY good at saying goodbye. That doesn’t mean I like to say goodbye, but I have to force myself in order to move on. Luckily it’s not goodbye, just see you later. Part of my goals when traveling the world have been to create contacts all over the world. As I start on that goal, I often grow close to and have to say goodbye to many people that I love. I love their generosity, their kind hearts, their laugh and their unique life perspectives.

My Hawaii friends, aka Family

I also have to deal with feelings of homesickness. Like every traveler on the road, the pangs of homesickness haunt you when you least expect it. You miss birthdays, graduation parties, engagement schindigs, holidays, you name it: any occasion where the family gets together to make mirth and merriment, it seems you’re sleeping in a tent 3,000 miles away. These are the sacrifices we make. 

Aloha until next time!

3. Mental- It’s no secret travel changes you. I’m dealing with this right now. I’m trying to hash out how my life goal’s have changed, how everything I’ve been spoon-fed growing up doesn’t exactly jive with my old interests, now that I’ve seen how other people live successful, happy lives alternate to the “American Dream.” I am dealing with how these differences are changing me as a person, how to reconnect with others who still might subscribe to my “old way” (not wrong, by any means, just confusing and different), and trying to explain my “gypsy” lifestyle to my parents. It’s an on-going struggle. I have to be an ambassador for my life’s decisions. If I won’t stand up for me, who will?

On my magical mystery tour

As a good friend told me, luckily you don’t have to figure it all out today, or tomorrow. The questions I’ve been asking myself are some huge, philosophical, transcendental questions about life, questions people don’t often ask themselves until their midlife crises. Thinking and obsessing over my observations and how they will manifest themselves in my future is unhealthy mentally.  I am prepared to think of life as a mysterious journey, and although I can’t possibly perceive my future right now, I think that through travel, my future will be a brighter place. Growing pains.

I will leave you with an Anthony Bourdain quote, one that describes how I’m feeling in this moment. Just because you can’t strike gold every day while blazing the trail:

“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
— Anthony Bourdain

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

This has been an incredible year of seeing things and trying to knock items off my bucket list, one by one. When I took my month-long trip to Australia, I hadn’t initially planned to visit the Great Barrier Reef. . It was my stay with my host family in Brisbane that convinced me to ditch my plans for Byron Bay (feel a bit bad because I knew I’d love it there) and instead jumped on a Virgin Australia flight up to Cairns.

Cairns turned out to be my favorite part of my trip, hands down.

While in Cairns, I couchsurfed with a guy named Nevan in Kewarra Beach. My reason for my trip up north was for one reason and one reason only: to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea. To do the damn thing!

My ride.

While weighing my options for a snorkeling cruise, it was Nevan who talked me into the Green Island Reef Cruises. Green Island is located about an hour off the shores of Cairns Reef Fleet Terminal, so it’s a relatively short trip out to the reef. Plus, it’s the best bang for the buck. I paid only $79 for a 5 hour snorkeling day, whereas other companies were offering tours to the outer reef for $200. Nevan told me that in order to reach the outer reef, you spend most of your time crusing back and forth to the snorkeling spot, leaving less water time. I wanted MORE water time!

So long Cairns, hello reef.

Green Island tours operate all sorts of packages and options, from half days to full days, to lunch and a glass-bottom boat tour. The best thing about Green Island is that you snorkel right off the beach, so you can choose to soak up the rays on the beach or spend all your time in the water (like I did!) You can also do a rainforest walk on Green Island that highlights different fauna and plant life endemic to the area. Score!

Photo by author.
The view from Green Island.

While snorkeling, I did wear a lycra suit to protect me against box jellyfish, aka KILLER jellyfish that inhabit the Cairns waters. One sting from them can be fatal. Believe it! It was an extra $8 to rent the suit, but the peace of mind was worth it. Plus, it helped me look like a professional.

Me just after snorkeling for hours in my lycra suit. No box jellyfish for me!

Some might argue that you get a better experience on the outer reef, but I was floored and fascinated by all I saw off the coast of Green Island. I saw TWO sharks (!), tons of beautiful fish, GIANT CLAMS and even swam with 3 green sea turtles. The marine life was second to none and this day made up for more than my fair share of shitty days in the past. I would reccomend anyone to see the Great Barrier Reef in their lifetime. After all, it IS one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World!

Photo by author.
I could think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.

The Freedom of Choice

I’m taking  a mini-sabbatical from my life in paradise where all the perspective of how I want to live my life was bestowed upon me.

What’s the difference between me pre-Hawaii and post-Hawaii? I found my paradise, my happy spot, my garden of eden. I realized how powerful my choice is.

Freedom is riding in the back of a stranger’s truck. Humbling and fun!

What exactly do I mean by that? My first overseas trip to Australia was the first time my eyes open to cast a critical eye on my own country. I love the United States of America, but I never thought of my country as a constant producer of 9-5 drones and profit. I knew this to be true, but it wasn’t until I delved into an “alternative” lifestyle that I even realized what I was “missing out on.”

Australia was very kind to me and about Americans in general. We do tend to get teased quite a bit, but luckily we have a great sense of humor.

Hawaii is a special place, though. One that gave me a unique perspective about “home.” The reason why my time in Hawaii was so special is that it’s almost like another country with a different culture, an island attitude where people move a bit slower but with more intention.

I stayed for seven weeks at Hedonisia Eco Hostel in Puna district on the Big Island of Hawaii. Among many other things, I learned how to live as a member in a community of travelers, I began to learn and embrace living sustainably and I developed a large connection with Mother Earth.

Replanting banana trees, whose fruit we’d later consume!

At the risk of sounding like a New Age hippie, lost to run amuck in paradise, living in an intentional community had the following imprints on me:

1. I have choice as to how I want to live my life.

2. I can facilitate those choices with like-minded individuals to reach a common goal.

3. I can reach a sort of existential bliss by living out a life I manifested for myself.

The aspect of Hawaii that is the most unique, to me, is that although it’s owned by the United States, it hardly feels like the United States at all. The Big Island is essentially a baby, unspoiled Polynesian Island where certain fundamentals of human existence are still alive in well. Namely:

1. Tribal living

2. Living off the land

3. Entrepreneurship 

When you live with less, as I did at an ec0-hostel, where we used recycled materials to build shelter, bartered for goods and services and thrived as a community of individuals, life becomes simpler, easier. Suddenly, without all the riftraff of paying bills, owning cars, expensive property and material things, your options open up. Suddenly you don’t have to wake up everyday to drive to a job you hate to pay for the car to drive you there. Suddenly your life is filled with choice.

Oh, hey there home.

A simple life not be for everyone. But it is for me. The recognition and affirmation that I have a choice as to how I want my future to play out is a powerful realization. When I sat down to examine my life before embarking on my travels, I imagined my happy spot. That place was somewhere simple, easy, living in an RV off the land. Suddenly, months later, I’m ducking underneath a tarp held up by hand-crafted wooden rods from local trees to enter my pop-up camper. I look around, and all at once, I’m living the life I imagined.

We’re told growing up that more is more. If you have more stuff, fancy cars, nice clothes, you will be domesticated and people will like you. Not only is that not true, because I’ve met tons of assholes with lots of nice things, but the exact opposite is true. Less is more, because without all the clutter, you have freedom. And with that freedom, you get the all-elusive, much-sought after choice. I promise you it’s out there.

This is a sort of existential breakthrough I’ve had recently. Although this is typically a travel blog about place and people, my realizations through my travels are just as important. Now that I’ve gotten this breathtaking (and admittedly often coveted) expanded world view, I could say without a doubt that quitting my job to travel and learn more about how people live has been the best thing I’ve ever done.