If a Millennial travels and doesn’t Instagram it, did it really happen?

No, really. We’ve all heard someone say “pics or it didn’t happen” about something. In this age where we carry cameras in our pockets, travel has become a key target, especially among millennials.

I try to take photos whilst traveling to remind myself of the places I saw and the people I met. When I look at the pictures months or years later they really help jog my memory and bring back stories that would have otherwise been buried. I like turning the pages of printed photo albums and remembering that those moments were real.

That said, I’ve tried to take fewer pictures as I’ve explored more. The ocean may not look exactly the same everywhere, but it’s blue and made of water. I don’t need to take 25 shots of the ocean every time I see it. If the weather is particularly unusual or the landscape surrounding the ocean is unique, yes, definitely. Even better if the photo includes people (either people I’ve just met or those I’m traveling with) as that’s when the pictures truly stop time forever: seeing a day, a moment, a person exactly as it was.

With social media, we now see everyone’s photos all the time. Moments don’t stop. They just keep piling up. People are booking vacations just to get a photograph of a particular location because they saw it on Instagram. While it’s great people are exploring more of this beautiful world, it’s not great when travelers aren’t earth-conscious or respectful of others. Ecosystems are suffering from an influx of human activity which they cannot handle. Economies are booming from tourism and yet the residents are still living without basic necessities. All this, just to get a better Instagram photo than someone else?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t travel. But maybe we should put some thought into our goals and reasons for traveling. Posting a cool pic on social media isn’t really well-thought-out criteria for selecting a travel destination (nor the best use of one’s time, in my personal opinion).  What matters to do? Do you have a list somewhere of things you’d like to accomplish and places you’d like to see? Focus on that. Take pictures and don’t worry about posting them on social media. Stop following people whose posts “give you wanderlust” and choose your own adventure. Seriously, unsubscribe. We’re pummeled with messages about the next coolest destination and the most beautiful locations. Let it go. Those do not have to be your adventures.

It is entirely possible to travel to really awesome places without taking the whole world with you in your pocket. You may find you’re able to enjoy it more because you’re more focused on the moment than the perfect filter for the frame. Don’t travel somewhere because everybody else is. Travel if you want to, where you want to, when you want to. Your adventures are real, whether posted on social media or not. Share your life and adventures with people in real life instead of “sharing” with a screen. I guarantee your grandma will love looking at a photo album and hearing your stories and she won’t care whether it’s the most beautiful picture of the Pacific Ocean she’s ever seen. She cares that you enjoyed yourself and your life is richer because you went somewhere new.

Try traveling and not posting all your pictures. You’ll like it, I promise.

Annual Goals – 2017 list

As a follow up to my earlier post, here are my goals for 2017 as they stand now – I’m sure more will be added.

Practice mandolin at least once per week with book. I bought a mandolin a couple years ago and while I’ve toyed around with it, I haven’t put much time into actually learning my way around. I picked up a book for myself written by a guitarist who learned mandolin after, so it’s going pretty well thus far as I’m in the same position. I’ll keep you posted. I am notoriously bad at intentionally practicing technique versus learning material. 

Pay off my student loan. Now that the Invisalign payments are off the table, this is a no-brainer. 

Write 2 blog posts per week. I know, I slacked off with one per week in 2016. But now the habit has begun, and I’ve started to create a bit of a focus on material. Plus it’s good practice for my writing skills. Still looking for more freelance writing and editing gigs, if you’re reading this and need a writer, editor, or proofreader!

Read “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson as well as at least one John Muir book. I call myself an environmentalist, a tree-hugging adventurer, and a book lover, yet I haven’t read either of the above. I have some work to do to connect with these pioneers of the conservationist movement.

Leave my corporate job. Self-explanatory. We are very likely moving, so it’ll probably happen at the same time, but when we move, I’d like to focus on working for myself and not pick up another corporate gig. I’ve done it before – I can do it again. 

Hike the Long Trail. This will probably happen in conjunction with the move – before we get to our new destination, we can take a month and hike the entire state of Vermont. We’ve done 31 miles on it already – only 241 new ones to check out. 

No more newsletters

I’ve mentioned my daily email digests a few times before. They’re how I discovered the Saugerties Lighthouse and Isla Mujeres.

They’ve also inspired a super-long list of places that might be nice to go to, but were never on my personal list for any particular reason. Instead, they fueled a wanderlust I didn’t really have. It’s true, I still want to experience everything on this planet, but do I need to experience the same things as everyone else? If someone else already went and showed me the photos, I can go somewhere different. Just because another person went there and said it was life-changing doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for me.

It’s important to carve our own paths in this wide world. It’s important to seek out experiences that speak to us as individuals, not just following a list of ideas from a trusted travel site. It’s important to be true to ourselves without letting fear of missing out drive us to a new experience that doesn’t change our lives.

I’ve unsubscribed to these travel newsletters. I know where to find the sites, should I need a recommendation for a location to which I’ve traveled, but I don’t want a website to tell me where to go next. I want my inner voice to tell me.

Dancing With Wolves

This Christmas Eve we decided to do something a little different: go hang out with wolves.

I’ve been to Howling Woods Farm twice before – once by myself mid-week whilst studying for the Foreign Service Exam (that feels like it was in another life) and needing some pup cuddles, and once for my 30th birthday party. It’s a super special place and if you’re an animal lover in the tri-state area, I highly recommend a visit. Mike has a great story and is super passionate about wolf rescue and education.  Plus, who can beat snuggling with a 120lb wolf?

On the Go

If you missed the first post in my “wander lost” series, check this post for some back story!

I love exploring new places – this a blog about going places, after all – but I prefer my adventures to have purpose. I’m not talking about necessarily volunteering everywhere I go (voluntourism can actually hurt some areas, but that’s another post). I also don’t want to travel somewhere new just to work, as Travis has often had to do this year. Rather, my purpose in traveling is to gain an experience I wouldn’t have otherwise. But let’s look deeper. Why can’t I have these experiences in my own backyard? And how can I ensure I have them when I travel?

I’ve been on a plane/out of state at least once per month for the last few months. With the exception of our trip to Hawaii, none of the trips were simply to explore a new locale. We did some house-hunting in different states, attended some events, and connected with old friends. What we didn’t do (again, except for Hawaii) was gain a lot of new experiences. Sure, we checked out new restaurants – with the help of Yelp or recommendations from friends. We hiked and biked in new areas – with the help of park and trail websites allowing us to plan our routes ahead of time. But we didn’t hang out with locals, take chances off the beaten path, or try something we’d never tried before. We were simply doing what we enjoy doing with a new backdrop.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, but it does make me want to ensure we’re discerning when it comes to places we choose to experience. Hopping a plane to an area similar to ours – suburban, established, close to a large city, commercialized, relatively flat – wouldn’t be our first choice for adventures. If we have to go for work, that’s different, but if it’s our choice, I want to see something new: huge mountains, old trees, desert that extends past the horizon, animals I’ve never heard of. I can’t have THOSE experiences in my backyard because they don’t exist. I can seek them out when I travel, but only to an extent. I can’t create adventure, but I won’t end that with “where there is none” – adventure can always be found. Where we live could be perfectly unusual for someone living somewhere very different, and that’s fine! I think it’s awesome to learn about different ways of living. While working as a nanny in college, I met an Austrian au pair who had never eaten peanut butter because the grocery stores there don’t carry it. I couldn’t imagine a life without peanut butter. She couldn’t imagine why I thought it was so great.

I guess the point is, not every single place in this world is going to excite me. Therefore, I don’t need to go to every single place. The double-edged sword of technology driving travel these days allows me to virtually visit any destination prior to buying a ticket. I won’t see everything, but I can often get enough of a sense (especially in the US) if it’s a destination I’ll find interesting. Can I play outside? Is there fresh produce? Can I have an experience I can’t have where I live? But I don’t think it’s worth my time trying to just check locations off a list. True, without technology, I might want to go more places I’d only heard of once or twice and never bothered researching. But will that truly enrich my life, or has technology allowed me to narrow my focus as to what I really like, so I can cut out the noise and pressure to go somewhere I’m not sold on going?

More to come, as always.

Lake Champlain Sunshine

I’m trying to crank out a few extra posts per day at the moment, and I have lots of photos to share. There are stories behind each. I realized some I’ve shared to Instagram without much backstory. Here’s a photo of the sun lazily hanging above Lake Champlain in September, and the story behind it.

We went to Burlington to find a house. We were also visiting friends and riding bikes, but we wanted to see if it would be a good fit for us to live. We found the perfect house about 35 minutes outside of downtown Burlington, but neither of us managed to secure a job. I’d been scouring job boards for months with no luck, so we weren’t sure whether this was going to work out for us or not.

We still don’t. I wish I had an update on where we think we’ll end up next, but we don’t (yet).

That said, all adventures enrich our lives. Riding our bikes on the causeway out into the middle of Lake Champlain was beautiful and a reminder that, even when it feels like we’re all alone in the world, we have each other. I took this photo after maybe 15 miles or so of riding one afternoon. We watched the sun set after this and – although we didn’t have answers – we had each other.

Food memories

Another mini mobile post, this time about food.

Every time I travel I try to find a new food to enjoy…or at least sample. This way, months or years and thousands of miles later, I can bring myself right back to a travel memory.

I haven’t made arepas for a while, but arepas with eggs, tomatoes, and onions served with a cup of hot chocolate remind me of Colombia.

Shakshuka brings me back to the shores of the Dead Sea, cooking over a camping stove with my friends.

Most recently, fresh tropical fruit is totally Hawaiian but difficult to find on the east coast. Instead, my gastronomic reminder is a bowl of Bakery on Main maple cranberry nut granola. The host at our Air B&B had a bag waiting for us in the hut and we devoured it like we hadn’t eaten in days. This morning – a humid, misty, gray morning of around 60* – I had a bowl and remembered the misty gray mornings in the open-air hut.

What reminds you of your adventures?

Photo album ordered

I stayed up far too late last night deciding which photos would make it into my nice pretty new hardcover printed photo album from Shutterfly. Then I decided to change which photos I was including today, so I’ve spent another few hours deconstructing and rearranging.

Luckily for me, it’s all behind me now. WOOHOO!! I’ve actually ordered a photo album! It includes photos going back about a decade or so…featuring bad haircuts, old friends with poor facial hair choices, way too many late nights, and some big adventures. It’s a small book, so it’s not like the images will be huge, but it’ll be cool to have a tangible album of photos.

I realized going through them I’ve not shared the photos from my adventures abroad with Travis. Sure, he’s seen some here and there, but we’ve never sat down and gone through the digital albums whilst telling stories. Now that I’ve pared the albums down to more manageable selections, I think it’s time we did just that.

Unplugging the Collection

It’s really getting down to the wire here for reaching my goal of 52 posts this year. It seems such a small number, and yet, I couldn’t get myself to write even a simple post once per week.

So now I’m cranking them out any spare moment I have. I’m not joking when I tell prospective employers I work extremely well under tight deadlines.

I’ve freed myself from the mindset that each and every post has to be 750 words or longer, or else filled with an array of photos. I’m simply WRITING. More on that to come (soon, obviously).

For today, since I’m in the middle of another project, I’ll tell you about it.

Along with focusing more on writing, I’m trying to focus a whole lot less on everything else. Earlier this week I announced my intent to step away from the massive time-suck known as Facebook at the end of the year. More people than I expected have expressed sadness, but it’s also made me look at how I manage relationships with the people in my life. Are they true, authentic, and genuine relationships, or have I been collecting “friends” the way I had, for years, collected music and photos?

This digital age allows us to amass huge “collections” of whatever we desire: music, movies, books, photos, inspiration, and yes, even friends. But do we really value what we collect?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been purging my obnoxiously-large iTunes library. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I listened to about 94% of the music on there. Why do I let it sit there, collecting digital dust? Do I want to honor the money I spent buying the songs? Am I trying to impress anyone with an offhand, “oh yeah, I have that album” comment? Or is it time to let go? I tossed all but about 15 of my CDs in the Goodwill bin about six months ago, and I haven’t missed a single one. It’s time to do that digitally. Sure, I’ll keep some rare music, or albums from local bands I loved who’ve since broken up, but I really don’t need every single Ben Harper album. I can just go listen on Spotify if that’s what I really want. As the Minimalists state, access, not excess.

So too have I begun purging my photo collection. I realized not only do I have way too many photos, but I’ve also shared way too many. What happened to my pioneer mentality? Pioneers didn’t bother showing people what they were doing. They just did it, and appreciated it themselves. I went back and deleted about half the photos I’d shared on social media because they weren’t contributing anything to the world, aside of stroking my ego with “likes.” Then the truly tough task began: purging the photos from my phone and computer.

I was able to narrow down the pics I wanted to keep into a few key categories: family, friends, pets, music (as in, bands I was in, or gigs I played – probably not a very standard category), adventures/travel, and current life. Quite serendipitously, I received a free photo book coupon from Shutterfly when we ordered our holiday cards, so – as with the blog – I had a deadline to narrow down my photos in order to get a printed fancy photo album.

You may have by now guessed I’m in the middle of arranging the album, and that’s why I stopped to write today’s blog post. Turns out I had fewer photos than I expected, after deleting ones that didn’t truly bring me joy. So instead of being just an album of family and pets, I’m having to take the next step and pare down my adventure photos to 10-11 per trip and pop them on a page too. I wanted to put that off, because I didn’t want to narrow my travel photos down. How do I choose the best photos from over 200-300? But, back to the pioneer mentality, who NEEDS 300 photos from one week of their lives?

Sure, I’ll keep some of the travel photos on my computer to post on my Instagram and on this site when I’m writing about certain places, but are they all album-worthy? Is every single photo worth putting into physical form and carrying around with me, wherever we end up next?

I thought not.

Having deleted over half the photos on my phone and thousands off my computer, everything feels lighter. It’s also allowing me to spend less time on my devices. If I open Instagram with the intent to post a photo but realize I only have pictures of my cat and my fiancé on my phone – which matter to me, but nobody else – I put my phone away and stop the over-sharing. Baby steps. The photo book coupon expires Thursday, so I have one more day to review my choices. Whew.

 

Suggestion to airlines

We’ve returned from Hawaii! Or, as we dubbed it, Hawa-whee! There was so much to do and experience on the Big Island.

 

Since I’m typing this on my phone (to knock out some of those remaining posts), this won’t get too detailed. But I’ll start with the travel. Sometimes a trip isn’t just about the destination, but the journey. Cliche, I know, but I’ve had some adventurous journeys (flat tires in Arizona? Grabbing beers in London en route home from Israel? Meeting Travis in the woods?) that led to good stories.

Unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. We had two layovers each way, for a total of about 19hrs travel time. Eek. We flew Delta and I have to give them a huge nod for delivering us on time to every stop – even though our first flight took off 40mins late. Impressive!!

That said, I have one suggestion for airlines in general. Is it possible to have child-friendly and child-free sections on planes? I know first-class already exists, but I’m talking maybe a few rows in economy where you could guarantee you won’t be kicked in the back for 5 hours, or sneezed on, or poked in the arm, or being tripped over by a too-eager kid.

We both experienced some fairly challenging parents on this trip too – the parents were generally worse than the kids. The child who tripped over my backpack was not told by his parents to wait their turn to exit the plane (they were a few rows behind me and as soon as the seatbelt sign went off, he dashed up the aisle). Travis spent hours being kicked by a screaming toddler whose parents completely ignored the child’s behavior. Most infuriating for me was a couple with a sleeping infant. The child was great, but as the parents moved him between one another’s arms, they arranged him with his head lolling over in my direction. I’d been reading the entire flight with the help of my reading light as it was dark. They did not say a word to me, but saw the baby’s face in the light, reached up, and redirected my reading light…into the aisle. Not cool, guys. Seriously, just ask politely first. I would have had no issue accommodating a polite request, but that was totally disrespectful.

So, for the sake of the many types of travelers everywhere, can airlines consider child-friendly and child-free zones? I don’t need the leg room and service in first class, but I would like to be able to read in peace.

 

Thoughts??