Trade your latte for a plane ticket

Have you ever heard someone say, “Boy, if I had a [insert monetary amount here] for every time I heard that, I’d be rich”? Well I have. And here’s one phrase I hear often enough that, at the price of 25 cents per utterance, I could buy everyone in the state of Illinois an ice cream cone:

“You’re so lucky. I wish I could travel like you do.”

Flight to Aruba

Aruba 2005

This is ignorant. You CAN travel like I do! I’m not a motivational speaker, but I am here to lay waste to your most common excuses on why you CAN’T travel, so listen closely.

* Money. You know, if you gave up that daily $3.45 latte, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. You choose to spend your money on coffee, sofa, lunches out, happy hour, dinner out twice a week – and I choose to spend mine on plane tickets. I’m on a budget (have you seen what Educators make?). If I have to brown bag it 29 days out of 30 so I can afford a long weekend out of town, so be it. Priorities!

* Time. You need to plan ahead to get good deals, you need time to research, you just Need More Time. Unless you rob Hermione Granger for her Time Turner, that’s just not going to happen. You’re busy, I get it. Sometimes the best trips are a last minute decision, crashing on a friend’s couch and playing it by ear. You don’t need perfect weather or a long standing reservation. You need motivation. Get some.

* See also Timing. Just this past weekend I was at a local winery and the owner’s wife was waxing poetic about going to Spain. “My husband told me we could maybe possibly probably go one day. Before I die.” Imagine the look on my face. Imagine what I said in response: “Before I die is a poor excuse for a deadline. ‘In two years’ is a more achievable goal.” A billion people put themselves in this very same situation, shooting themselves in the foot before they even get started. When I talked about New Year’s resolutions, I mentioned SMART goals (like a true business student): specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Don’t get all wistful and misty-eyed and say you’ll go to Spain “someday” .. make it a reality.

* Marital status. Yes, my travel habits are born of independent decisions, but just because I’m single doesn’t mean I travel more, or less. If you’re in a committed relationship and travel is one of your goals / passions / ideals, don’t go pointing the finger at your partner, or your relationship and casting blame. Either make the decision together – or go solo!

* Fear of solo travel. If this is your beef, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I am at my happiest when traveling solo. You can point to Only Child Syndrome if you want to, but the reality of it is: group travel is the pits. Ask anyone who has traveled with an athletic team, debate club, or high school band for a prolonged period of time. People get on your nerves! While I realize that tandem travel is both more fun and arguably safer, who’s to say you can’t go it alone?

* Dependent status. Got kids? Take them with you! Get a babysitter! Don’t tell me I don’t get it because I’m not a parent. I’ve been traveling for years and have met tons of families, single parents and Mr. Moms from various walks of life. They figured it out, I’m sure you could, too. Who cares if your baby cries on a plane? Sometimes ADULTS want to cry on a plane (and do). Stop worrying about what other people think and just give it a go.

* Homeowner status. Yes, owning a home makes you king of the hill and responsible for mowing your own lawn. Do you know how many people snow-bird in the winter and take flight for warmer temperatures for months at a time? Surely you can leave your white picketed pasture behind and head for the shore for two days. Just because I rent doesn’t mean I can pick up and go whenever I want to. There’s this thing called Responsibility, and it has nothing to do with the way I pay rent.

* Age. The second most used statement is, “do it while you’re young.” Did you know that 7% of Peace Corps Volunteers are over the age of 50? Fact. There is no perfect time to travel. I do not recall the sound of chimes at 17 when I first got on a plane to Florida. The Mad Hatter and his hare did not usher me into my 20’s, pushing me onto a plane for Spain (it was an important date, but I was not late). I don’t know where this idea of a time frame on travel came from, but it’s bogus. A fairytale, if you will.

So make your own coffee, apply for your passport, throw a dart at a map and go. You’ll be glad you did.

Memphis, Tennessee for me this weekend. New city, new state, excess BBQ and the King. Thank ya very much.


park it in the parque

One thing I have tried to reflect on while here in Spain is my obsession with time. As evidenced by not one but two previous posts about Countdown Syndrome, I still need to mark time over the long term. I am a planner at heart (ENFP), but I’m learning. I can go to the park on a Sunday afternoon without a watch. This is huge. I can stay up and talk to friends and go to bed when I’m tired, whether it’s 1am or 5am. This is also a big deal if you know me, and know how much I like my sleep.

There are many foreigners here trying to keep pace with the Spanish schedule. I am not one of them. Ok, I will eat lunch at 2 pm and start making dinner around 10 pm but that’s where I draw the line. I really don’t need to be out until absurd hours of the morning. I prefer to sleep like the dead and then wake up and make the most out of morning, taking advantage of the siesta later in the day. I will also eat whenever the hell I feel like eating, but that’s a post for another day.

This idea of leisure time is startling: la cultura del ocio or the leisure culture. Since there is no such thing as free time in the U S of A, it’s no wonder that I’m shocked by the whole concept. At home it seems like there is always something to be done, somewhere to be and some great sense of urgency. Just last night we were out walking in a big group and as usual the tall Northeasterners pull out in front.

Es que … tenemos prisa. Somos del noreste” my roommate says (We’re in a hurry, we’re from the Northeast).

Our friend Sam (a West coast native) wants to know why that is. ¡Relajate! (relax). What IS the big rush? The truth is I have no idea. Is it the old Fear of Missing Something Good? or a little bit of Keeping Up With the Joneses? I like to call it Social Guilt, a blend of both of these. It’s when you can’t leave your phone at home, multitask just to survive and it takes a serious breakdown for you to go off the grid. But at the end of the day… does it really matter?

“¡Cállate, rubia!” – Spain says – “Go to the park and leave your watch at home.