Tag: travel

why you should just pack up and go.


As a culture we plan far too much. Our calendars are so full of appointments, meetings, workouts, deadlines, and coffee dates that if we lost them we wouldn’t know where to turn. My life in college was a prime example. I was in so many groups, had so many jobs, and juggled so many assignments that I sometimes felt like a robot, trudging through my calendar and to-do list without thought.

The road trip was a big, dramatic way for me to turn this around; it was a huge success. We crossed the country without a plan. No deadline, no itinerary, no destination. Just each other, a general direction, all materials we might need, and an atlas. The result of this approach was that we never felt rushed, we were able to thoroughly enjoy the places and moments we loved and rush through those that weren’t jiving so well. The lessons I gained from these experiences have transferred into my stationary life – I’m more flexible, spontaneous, and present than before. I hope my “How to Travel Spontaneously” tips can help your next adventure provide you with the same.

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fear vs caution – in sumter national forest.

“Oh my god. What about snakes?” I blurted out, breaking the car’s silence.

“Um… what about them?”

“Does South Carolina have poisonous snakes?”

David kindly held back a laugh and said, eyebrows raised, “Most southern states do.”

I tried to pretend like I wasn’t panicking at the thought of slithering things that could kill me hanging out in my running path. I knew I was being ridiculous, but I’ve inherited some of my father’s paralyzing fear of serpents.

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doing away with baggage.

Getting rid of “stuff” seems to be a hot topic right now. This could totally be biased, considering I follow many blogs that tout “minimalism” and “sustainability.” It also could be seasonal – considering spring started literally overnight last week and everyone has the spring cleaning bug. Regardless, I’ve seen a lot of talk about it, and I’m actively participating, so it’s been on my mind. David and I leave in two weeks. I technically leave in one week, as I’m dropping my car (the non-road trip car) at my parents’ in Maine loaded with all the things we’ll need when we settle down somewhere for longer than a few weeks. So this weekend is packed full of sorting, packing, unpacking, repacking, etc. etc. (pun intended). Sometimes I think I live to get rid of stuff. I find every excuse to do it: spring cleaning, buying too much new stuff, attending a lecture on climate change that scares the crap out of me, watching a movie about third world countries… really any event that makes me feel awful about my privileges or like I’m drowning in unused possessions. It always leaves me feeling renewed. This winter I undertook the most involved “simplification” of my life thus far – to the point that there’s barely anything left to get rid of that makes any reasonable sense. And now we have to fit it all in two cars… IMG_4057To the left is what our bedroom looked like this morning as we sorted everything into: (1) winter clothes, (2) farm clothes, (3) running clothes, (3) work/nice clothes, (4) frequently worn, (4) not so frequently worn. The first two categories are headed to Maine, the rest we’re taking with us – whatever doesn’t fit a category is headed to Salvation Army. And that’s just clothes; we’ve also sorted through books, dishes, memorabilia, and everything else we own. At least four times over the last few months we’ve done a full sweep of the apartment, throwing everything we’re ready to part with in a cardboard box to donate or listing it on Craiglist (um…anyone want an antique sewing machine?). All of this in preparation for today – the car stuffing day of truth.  Each time we undertook a cleaning we found ourselves willing to part with more and more stuff. In January I wanted to keep that blue dress, for special occasion, you know? In February I decided it could go, I don’t attend a lot of those; but that really nice speaker system we never use? We might need that. Then in March: maybe a speaker system isn’t actually that useful on the road… Stuff is just stuff. Yet, for some reason, we emotionally attach ourselves to it. We avoid getting rid of things because so-and-so gave it to us, or it could have use some day, or we like to wear it maybesometimes, etc. etc. In my opinion, our emotional attachments to material objects could actually be considered emotional baggage. As a culture we’re drowning in the chaos of our material lives, in our anxiety about getting rid of anything we might possibly regret. For the record: I’ve never regretted getting rid of anything, no matter how worried I was before I pitched it. Usually, I just forget I ever owned it. Out of sight, out of mind – forever one less worry. Take a look around you – are you surrounded by things you never use? Really think about it. When was the last time you cracked open that book? Do you even remember what it was about? How often do you really use those cookie cutters? You have how many coffee mugs for two people!? Where did you even get that weird looking plant pot anyways? And those pants that are too big, too small, too short, or too hole-y? C’mon, you know the ones, the ones you haven’t worn in three years. Newsflash: you’ll probably never wear them again.

Get rid of it! All of it!

Note: Please sell or donate before throwing away. Unless it’s like underwear… or broken sneakers… or dish rags… throw that shit out (in the proper receptacle, of course). It’s rude to assume other people want that gross stuff. Every item we’ve gotten rid of has pushed us closer to our goal of independence on the road. Every item you do away with will give you that same sense of freedom – one step closer to a life without baggage.

transitions | on community vs. wanderlust.

I’m terrible at transitions. Horrible. The days leading up to one I’m a frantic mess, trying to tie up every loose end, say my goodbyes, and prepare for whatever is coming up. Then for weeks after I’m always an emotional mess and I always forget why.

There’s a reason for this that’s taken me years to figure out – transitions, in my life, are related to two very separate values I hold: community and wanderlust.

Community: Growing up in rural Maine, it’s hard not to have and hold this value as deep in your heart as any value can be. Growing up I always knew I wanted to live in small town. I love knowing people everywhere I go, I want the bartender or barista to already know what I want, I like having friends of all ages – from toddlers to the elderly, I need my family. The second I land anywhere my roots are already establishing. I travel deep, not far. I don’t like to sight see, I like to investigate cultures. My favorite part of traveling to Tanzania was delving into the small community around me: which people filled what roles, what people ate, what they did for fun, who their families were, the social quirks – and then finding my place.

Wanderlust: Again, growing up in small-town Maine, it’s hard not to dream of the world beyond Boston. Traveling has impassioned me since I was a child. A hunger to understand other cultures led me to raise my own money to send myself to El Salvador at 15. This life changing experience led me to attend the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa 3 years later, and then to study wildlife management in Tanzania the year after that.



“You can have roots and wings, Mel.”
– Jake, Sweet Home Alabama
(only the best movie ever created…)

As I prepare for our road trip departure on April 1st I feel the impending, and familiar, value-collision-stress. My roots are so deep in Carlisle that it feels like I’m going to college all over again – only this time there aren’t winter breaks. With an undefined plan that leads west I have to face the fact that I have no idea when I’m going to see the people and places here again.

Yesterday, I went to my favorite cafe for the last time. I got lunch with my favorite professor for the last time. I had my last waitressing shift at Andalusia. I said goodbye to the best regulars I’ve ever had as a waitress. Today, I said goodbye to the kids I babysit for the last time. In the coming weeks I’ll have my last day at work, say goodbye to some of my greatest friends, say goodbye to Dickinson, to my favorite bar, to the trails I frequently run, etc. etc. etc.

And it’s not just Carlisle. Leaving the east coast means moving further from home. This past weekend I saw my best high school friends in New York City. We had an amazing time together in the big city, and I know for certain I’ll see them again, but it could be years before the four of us are all together at the same time. In two weeks I’ll spend time with my parents before, again, I have to say goodbye for the foreseeable future.

I’m de-rooting again, and it hurts. But at the same time – I’m so ready. I hate repetition. Adventure is always on my mind. This road trip is everything I want and need right now. Wanderlust has me tight in it’s grip. After seeing so many other countries through my education I’m ready to see America up close and personal – deep, not far.

But even though I’m bad at transitioning, I also love the raw emotion it brings up. I’m forced to face how much I love the community around me, and how much it loves me. I’m reminded of how much work and love I’ve put into my life here. Then, I get to look at my future and be proud of my decisions not to settle, to live fully, and embrace being young. I get to look forward to putting roots down somewhere else.

Communities in my life so far:

pack it in.

but leave some extra space.

The theme of the week. Pack everything I need for four months in a suitcase and leave room for weight requirements. Make sure all necessary items are collected and packed and leave time and space for what I’ve forgotten. Schedule all lunch, dinner and coffee dates that I can squeeze in but leave time for the unexpected.  Oh, and work 35 hours – a little extra money is always good.

This week lasted forever.

For anyone who is wondering, I managed to fit everything into one suitcase and a backpack. After prancing around real proud of myself for an hour or so I discovered that, unfortunately, while it is possible to FIT everything in two bags, it is not possible to fit everything in two bags and make it WEIGH less than a combined 76.5 lbs. Ladies and gentleman, I failed to reach my goal of checking only one bag – I know, I’ve been sulking for a whole 24 hours now. But when I realized my required textbooks, ream of printer paper, and laundry detergent alone weigh 17 lbs and the suitcase itself 14 lbs …. I caved. I compromised by shedding the large suitcase, utilizing a medium one and adding a small duffle.  When looking at before and after photos I have to admit that while disappointed, I’m relatively impressed with myself.

More impressed, at least, than I am with my ability to book flights. Those of you who know my travel skills and luck won’t be surprised to learn that I messed up the ONE ticket I was personally responsible for… See, Advantage Travel took care of our group flight from JFK to Africa. I just need to get myself to NYC. Well, I discovered late on Tuesday night that February 3rd is not a Monday, it is a Sunday. Oops. (Sound familiar Kendra? At least you booked for the day after not before!) But no worries, I was able to change it – thank goodness.

As the week grew more hectic, I grew increasingly anxious to just get there and get the stress of it over with. But I realized last night that this feeling of chaos isn’t going to end – and it shouldn’t. At least not for the next four months. I want to embrace every second of this trip, to pack it in, to do everything – even if it doesn’t seem possible. Even if it goes against how I instinctively live my life. And somehow, as I managed to this week, I need to leave room for the unexpected – because that is what I’ll remember most. I’ll just sleep when I’m dead, right? Or at least when I get home.

Kwa Heri, United States. Hujambo, Tanzania.

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