How To Tell That Your Friend’s Vacation Was Straight-Up #CuratedLife

The following is the joint brain child of myself and the fabulous Michelle Rick, whom you can stalk on Instagram here. Also, check out her website here

The perfect trip does not exist.

The perfect trip does not exist firstly because the perfect life does not exist, but also, shit happens when you catch flights – mosquito bites, missed planes, food poisoning, having to wear all your clothes to dodge Easy Jet fees. Anyone who describes their trip as “perfect” or “a dream” is BS-ing you at least a little.

Social media, of course, makes it super easy to create and maintain the image of a perfect trip–or even a perfect life. If you’re like us and follow a plethora of travel accounts on Instagram, it’s easy to idealize traveling and forget that even the girls perfectly posed in paradise with a pineapple paloma in their paw (that was fun) have the same travel troubles as we mere mortals. Like, if you went to Renaissance Island and didn’t take a picture of you pretending to feed a flamingo, did you even Aruba?

These days, social media makes sure we’re interconnected to the point where we’re seeing Fijian beach pictures from the vacation of a girl we haven’t talked to since the seventh grade.

Fast forward another 12 years, and the seventh grade acquaintance in question, let’s call her Mindy, is doing the tree pose in a rainforest somewhere, pricking her finger on the top of the Louvre pyramid, and adorning her Thai island pics with quotes Marilyn Monroe definitely didn’t say, and thanks to social media, you get to see it all. 

We can’t help but wonder: if Mindy really felt as #blessed as she claims to be, would she feel so compelled to convince her IG followers that this was the case? Similar to the phenomenon that couples who over-post on social media are overall not as happy as the ones who don’t.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 ways you know that your friend’s picture-perfect vacation was, for whatever reason, not perfect.

“I Really Like The Post Of That Yoga Post From That Place You Visited” #irony

1. Excessive Facebook check-ins

Anyone have that one friend who suddenly becomes a FB check-in machine once they go somewhere new and suddenly your feed is flooded with random check-ins?

You don’t need to check in twice during your layover in Cleveland – we know. You’re sitting in an airport lounge waiting for McDonald’s to open and fighting for an outlet so you can charge your phone to provide more unnecessary updates.

2. Instagrams a lot – but doesn’t Snapchat as much

Snapchat is in the moment, so it’s harder to fabricate a dope trip that way, whereas Instagram makes it easier.

3. …Or, alternatively, only posts one photo when they’re gone for a long time

There are exceptions, but if someone posts 5 pictures a week of their cat, their friends, their new shoes, etc. when they’re home in Missouri but then suddenly posts one picture for their two weeks in Amsterdam, something doesn’t add up.

4. Flowery quotes about how amazing and life-changing everything is

Your picture of you on those swings in the sea in Indonesia is cool enough. No need to accompany it with a super long quote that’s meant to be inspiring.

The aforementioned swings. Photo credit: Dennis Keller. https://www.flickr.com/photos/dennisk/

5. Documents every meal they ate/fancy cocktail they drank

Don’t get us wrong, 1-2 are acceptable. Okay, 3-4. No more than 4. But if you’ve seen one paella and sangria picture, you’ve kinda seen them all.

6. Too many selfies

If you’re off doing cool stuff, why can’t you leave your phone alone for more than 3 minutes at a time? Don’t you want to conserve battery for more than just your face?

7. Posts about how great their trip was–six months later

When you’ve posted the same picture twice with the #takemeback hashtag, you know you’re trying too hard.

8. Tagging the same random people they met at their hostel one time in posts weeks or months later – when nobody tagged them in anything

…bonus points if they use a caption like “missing my bitches from Prague.”

9. Doesn’t have any good stories about their trip when you see them in real life…

…because all the good parts (or with some people, every damn moment) is documented in their social media. It’s like a movie where all the good parts were given away in the previews. If you’ve ever stayed in a hostel, you know you haven’t really done it right until there’s at least one story you can’t put on the internet or tell your grandma.

Also, if you ask them how their trip was, they don’t tell you any stories but repeatedly assert that it was “incredible”–that’s the word people think they’re supposed to use.

10. …and yet clings to the same anecdote over and over

“You went to Olive Garden last night? Ohhhh my godddd the pasta I ate in Rome eight months ago was sooooo good I literally died.”

Photo credit: Glenn3095. https://www.flickr.com/photos/steamster/

Don’t get us wrong – there’s nothing wrong with posting about your travels on Instagram, and we’re pretty active on the ‘Gram ourselves. We just want the Mindys of the world to know that it’s OK if your trip wasn’t perfect. Sometimes, it’s the not-perfect trips that make for the better stories. Social media isn’t everything. We’d rather hear an awesome story than double-tap your Eiffel Tower pictures any day.

Do you have a friend that does this? Have you had a trip that was less than Instagram-perfect? Let us know in the comments!

TL;DR: Social media isn’t everything. We’d rather hear an awesome story than double-tap your Eiffel Tower pictures any day.


An Open Letter To Everyone Who’s Afraid to Travel Alone

Dear Individual Who’s Afraid To Travel Alone,

Hey! How are you? Your hair looks great today, has anyone told you that yet?

So! You want to travel. You’re in your final semester of high school and planning to go to college, but don’t feel mentally prepared to start yet. Or, you’re about to finish college, and you don’t quite feel ready to be a real adult with a real job. Or, you recently got out of a six-year relationship and want to be somewhere else for a while. Or, nothing dramatic happened, but you’ve simply never been out of your home country and you just want to see what else is out there.

You have an O.K. amount of money in your bank account and an idea of where you want to go, but you don’t know anyone with whom you can imagine traveling, so obviously, that’s not happening, because you clearly can’t go alone. Right?

Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

And no, this isn’t going to be one of those “if you can dream it you can do it” blog posts, don’t worry. I’m aware that the Internet is filled with cute little Pinterest pictures of supermodel-looking girls sitting on a mountain at that place in Turkey with all the hot air balloons–if you’ve spent any time on Instagram, you know what I’m talking about–or gazing out on some landscape involving a waterfall accompanied by big, bold text about how to travel alone is to know yourself or how the world is your oyster or something to that effect.

Most of your “traveling alone” selfies will look like this–backpack, sweat, no makeup. But yo, the park behind me is pretty. (Parque El Retiro, Madrid, June 2016)

Most of what I’ve read online about traveling alone (especially for women, but this post is for everyone) either says that:

a) you’ll have the most amazing time and amazing Instagram pictures to go along with it

OR

b) it’s super dangerous and scary and you’ll be alone and sad and scared.

I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s both. You’ll most likely have an amazing time, and you’ll also most likely be sad and scared sometimes. The thing is, traveling alone is like everything else in life. Nothing else is either this thing or that thing, so why would this be an exception?

Even though you’ll have scary and sad and maybe even dangerous moments, what I want to make sure you take away from this is that, at least for me, it was 100 percent worth it.

Before you decide if it’s worth it for you or not, because everyone’s different, let’s rewind back six years for a second so I can tell you my story.

The year is 2011, I’m four months into 19 years old, and eight months past finishing an exhausting, intensive four years of high school, during which I struggled to pass every math- or science-related class I took, drowned daily in a pile of homework, barely slept, and almost never raised my hand. I had plenty of friends, and had no trouble making new ones one-on-one or in small groups, but public speaking was the scariest thing in the world to me. I was too anxious to even show up to a friend’s birthday party by myself.

I had known since the beginning of my last year of high school that I needed a break before starting college, so I applied to a bunch of colleges with the plan to defer for a year once I got accepted, but I didn’t really have a plan for what I wanted to do with my extra year.

I ended up staying home in Santa Cruz, California to work two jobs while all my friends went to colleges all over the country. I really wanted to go somewhere to get better at my Spanish–I had taken it in school for the better part of 13 years, so I could speak pretty decent textbook Spanish (“where is the bathroom in the library? The pen of my uncle is on the green table”), but I had always wanted to be fluent.

My stepdad had gone to Guatemala years before to take Spanish classes, and said it was one of the cheapest countries to do that in, but all the programs I found online wanted you to pay an arm and a leg to only volunteer for two or three weeks. And, I was afraid to go by myself.

One night, my stepdad’s friend came over for dinner and said he knew of a volunteer program in Guatemala called Common Hope, that didn’t make you pay to volunteer and allowed you to do so for 1-6 weeks if you met certain requirements. He also said that plenty of people went there on their own to volunteer, so that once I was there, I wouldn’t be completely alone. I applied for the program, and got accepted to work in their daycare unit. I also applied for (and got accepted to) a language school, which also set me up with a host family.

So, after two more months of working in Santa Cruz, I found myself on an airplane on February 6, 2011, heading to a foreign country by myself for the first time ever. I’d been on two family vacations to Mexico when I was younger, but aside from that, I’d never left the U.S., and definitely not by myself.

Fountain at Parque Central from my first day in Antigua

I arrived at my host family’s house at nighttime and in a daze and immediately fell asleep. The next morning I woke up super early, ate breakfast with my host family, and stumbled through Spanish small talk.

Check out this excerpt I found from the blogspot.com blog I kept while I was gone to prove to my friends and family that I was alive–it perfectly sums up the minor breakdown I had while trying to unpack after breakfast that day:

after breakfast i kinda freaked out…everyone was at school or work and i had this moment like, what the hell am i doing, im all alone, im bad at reading maps and also directions, i dont have a working phone, i don’t speak fluent spanish, GOD I AM SO DUMB WHY AM I DOING THIS. but then i was like yo broski, this is what you’ve wanted to do all year. this is what they call “diving in headfirst,” and you’re here now, so put your big girl panties on and just dive. (yeah i talk to myself and yeah i call myself broski when i do it.)
so i dove!
and i got lost!
but im alive, hi.
and it was fun!

Once I pulled myself together, I spent a confusing but pleasant morning walking through the town’s cobblestone streets and stopping to look at every interesting statue, garden, or storefront.

From my blog post exactly six years ago

I’m not going to lie–my three months in Guatemala started out rough. Over the first few weeks, I dealt with getting ripped off, first while buying a phone to use while I was there and then while buying credit for my phone (multiple times), I fell ill to the point of being unable to eat or stand, and once I ended up on the wrong bus going to the wrong city with no map or phone credit.

When little emergencies happen in the comfort of your home country when your family is right there, they’re easier to deal with. When they happen to you when you’re completely on your own thousands of miles away, you have to deal with them yourself right then and there. And doing that made me way, way stronger.

After a month or so of being in Guatemala on my own, even though I had the best host family ever and a few housemates, I got pretty lonely. Everyone was doing their own thing, and I basically did the same activities every day–volunteer job, language classes–and read a lot alone in my room.

Two months in, my (incredible) Spanish teacher told me that there was another girl around my age from California at the same school who took Spanish classes in the morning (mine were in the afternoon), so one day I went to school a little early, and looked for a girl about my age.

I saw some girl reading by herself in the corner, so I walked up to her and said, “Hey! This is super random, but I’m from California, and I’m here by myself. My teacher told me there was another girl alone here from California, and that’s you, right?”

She said yes, and I asked if she wanted to hang out sometime, since we were from the same place and by ourselves, and she said okay.

24 hours later we were dancing at a club together making plans to climb Volcán Pacaya (one of the many volcanoes in Guatemala) the next morning.

The following morning, as I was ascending an active volcano with a girl I had met 48 hours earlier, she told me I had intimidated her when I first came up to her because I seemed so confident. She said she would have never just walked up to a random girl and asked if she wanted to hang out, and I realized that two months earlier, I wouldn’t have either.

Volcano climbin’

The chick who once had been afraid to go to a birthday party by herself and didn’t talk between 7th and 12th grades was now going up to people she didn’t know, asking them to hang out, and climbing volcanoes with them two days later. Whoda thunk!

The month that followed was my last one in Guatemala, and by far the best. While climbing the volcano, I met a bunch of people from all over the world, and for the next week, we all met at the same spot every night to hang out, play cards, drink wine and go to bars.

In my last two weeks in the country, I had my first experience staying in a hostel–and loved it (at Lake Atítlan), I rode horses at sunset on the most beautiful beach I’d ever been to (Monterrico), I went on a candle-lit cave tour despite the reviews I read online saying it was unsafe, and it ended up being amazing (at the Lanquin Caves), and I visited the beautiful, naturally turquoise pools of Semuc Champey–all with people I had just met.

At the Lanquin Caves – the only light we had was from the melting candles we were holding!

 

Hiking through the forests of Semuc Champey to get to the pools. It was too hot for clothes, so hiking boots and bikinis was the obvious choice.

I arrived back in California on May 5, 2011, a much, much more confident person. That confidence got me through five years of college, that confidence got me my bachelor’s degree in journalism, and that confidence got me to and from 13 more countries since then.

Since that first morning in Guatemala, arriving in a new country has always been exciting, and not scary, because I know I can do it–because I’ve done it before.

Traveling alone gave me confidence that I don’t think I could have gotten from any other experience. There’s nothing quite like showing up to a new country completely alone and having to learn how to navigate the city you’re in by yourself (especially if you’re directionally challenged like I am), getting sick, dealing with language barriers, etc. etc. etc.

Also, it’s waaay scarier thinking about traveling alone than it is once you’re there doing it.

If you wanna go, work work work, save up money for a plane ticket, put ya big girl panties on, and just dive.

Love,

Jessica

P.S. Here are some resources you can use to find people with whom to meet up and do things with once you’re there:

  1. Gapyear.com discussion board – membership to the site is free
  2. Tourlina – If you identify as a woman, this app helps you find other female travel companions (and no, I don’t work for them, I just think it’s a great idea)
  3. Backpackr – This app helps anyone find travel buddies of any gender

TL;DR: Traveling alone can be scary but also so worth it. 

Semuc Champey

Women Writers to Watch in 2017

Everyone and their mother has a travel blog these days, or at least an Instagram account packed with envy-inducing travel photos a-plenty.

With all the travel bloggers/influencers out there, it might be hard to pick which ones to keep up with and which ones to ignore.

Here are some of my favorite female travel bloggers and their online presences that are definitely worth checking out.

From www.blondeseashell.com

1. Nadine Rohner

Originally from Switzerland and now living and writing in Bali, Indonesia, Nadine Rohner covers all things Bali on her blog, Blonde Seashell: where to stay, where to eat, and everything else you might want to know about one of the most-Instagrammed tropical paradises.

Originally, Nadine said, her blog was just a way to keep in touch with her friends while she traveled, and was more about her personal traveling experiences instead of full of travel advice, as it is now.

Nadine said that several months ago, she decided to think of her blog as more of a business instead.

“I started writing about what to do and see instead of only writing about my personal daily life,” Nadine said.

Talk about an an envy-inducing IG account–Nadine’s Instagram is full of palm trees, tropical beaches, and the occasional pineapple that make you want to book a plane ticket to Bali ASAP.

Nadine said the #1 place she would love to travel to is the Maldives, the luxurious chain of tropical islands in the Indian Ocean.


Studio Classes without Studio Prices at 24 Hour Fitness!

2. Michelle Rick

Speaking of Bali, I featured Michelle on my blog in October when I posted her “Basic Bitch’s Guide to Bali.”

Michelle is currently based in California. On traveling, Michelle says, “The hardest part is going. You never really know what to expect, but that’s part of the fun!”

Michelle’s website also features a blog, full of advice regarding books, films, travel, and life in general.

“There are so many times I was nervous to board a plane to a place I’d never been, but it always turned out great,” Michelle said. “Not perfect, since there’s no such thing in travel, but great.”

High up on Michelle’s travel bucket list is Dublin, Ireland.

“When in doubt, just book the ticket and let life do the rest,” she says.

You can follow Michelle on Instagram here.

From travelhippies.in

3. Purvi Kamaliya

A self-described “travel addict,” Mumbai-based teacher Purvi writes her blog, Travel Hippies, to be more like a collection of stories than a blog. Most of her posts are to help readers plan trips to and around India. Reading her blog is like you’re talking to a friend who just got back from a trip.

“Traveling…is an adventure where you get out of your comfort zone,” she says.

Purvi would love to explore Croatia to see its “beautiful and secluded beaches, museums and cathedrals.”

Check out Purvi’s colorful Instagram here.

From www.memoriesabroad.wordpress.com

4. Lizzy and Eloise

Lizzy and Eloise are too mysterious to have last names. Like Madonna. Or Cher.

Or, they just didn’t tell me and don’t have them listed on their blog or IG, take your pick.

From Germany (Lizzy) and Australia (Eloise), Lizzy and Eloise decided to start their travel blog, “Memories Abroad,” when they were working as au pairs together in the U.S.

“We bonded over how much more we felt at home (in the U.S.) rather than in our home countries, so we decided to share this with others, along with our travel experiences,” Eloise said.

Eloise’s dream destination is Greece.

“As a child, I would always talk to my Nan about going to see the blue water and white buildings, and we plan to go together someday,” she said.
Lizzy said she wants to visit Australia so she can “make my childhood dream of walking up the stairs of the Sydney Opera House come true.”

Give ’em a follow on the ‘Gram.

Know any badass babe bloggers I missed? Lemme know in the comments!

 



Why I Ditched My Own College Graduation

I have always been a huge proponent of taking chances. For one, it makes for way better stories. I’m not talking like Steve-O level stuff, but more like, taking a year off after high school and moving to Guatemala (check), singing karaoke at a bar in Costa Rica when you’re the only non-native Spanish speaker there (check), or staying out all night before your early morning flight and just sleeping on the plane (check times a billion).

The latest chance I took is that I skipped my own college graduation yesterday and wore my cap and tassel on a beach in Colombia instead.

Five months ago, my best friend since I was born (literally) invited me to meet her in Cartagena, Colombia over Memorial Day Weekend. I live in California and she lives in New York, so I see her for 24 hours out of the year if I’m lucky. I said I would go and started saving up, and two months ago when I went to buy the ticket, I realized that those dates coincided with graduation weekend.

I spent the better part of three weeks debating about what to do, and you already know what I decided. I only regretted it for a few minutes when I saw my graduating friends’ Snapchats of them all together at graduation, and I had a serious case of FOMO…for five minutes, and then I remembered I had been floating around in the Caribbean with my best friend I never get to see instead of standing in a hot, crowded stadium for six hours, and I felt better.

Last summer, I backpacked around Europe with a friend and fell head over heels in love with Barcelona, Spain. Ever since I left eleven months ago, I’ve been saying I wanted to live there and have a post-college non-office job for a few months before I decided to Adult. After buying my Cartagena ticket with no real plan, I decided just to go for it.

Next week, I’m traveling to Madrid, Spain by myself for four days before moving to Barcelona.

I have no idea how long I’ll end up doing that for or what I’m doing after, and about once a day, I have a momentary freak out about traveling alone, running out of money, etc. etc. etc. But this is what I’m doing, and obviously, I’m pretty excited about it.

Do it for the story, yo.

Lurk the IG if you want to see what I’m up to.