Tag Archives: travel

[I Am] Untitled: Travel

Welcome to my UNTITLED series, where I get overly personal, melodramatic, and attempt to rage my way into self growth.

I want to address something I don’t think I fully fleshed out in my previous post. As I’ve mentioned, if I’m just a big ball o’ restless energy desiring adventure and to smash myself into a new person — why don’t I just travel for like a year or something?

Ignoring how privileged that is for a moment —

Traveling — the escape, the exposure to new things, the adventure, the opportunity to meet new people and experience new cultures — is something I’ve craved since I can remember. It’s not just something I want to do; I think adventure might be a core part of my makeup (which is funny, considering I’m so often paralyzed from even making an impromptu trip to the grocery store).

Yet I’ve always held myself back from doing something really big — like the one-way ticket to anywhere I mentioned, or signing up for AmeriCorps, or whatever. Some of this is my weird paralysis, some situational, some is trauma-related.

But now, in this moment, I tell myself I have a horde of four-legged children. I have a partner who’s attached enough to his job that he can’t/won’t drop it just because. We have familial obligations and financial concerns and things that might fall apart and —

The reality is, all of that is fear talking. All of this could be figured out, if the adventure was worth the sacrifice of stability and actually making money and whatever else.

But then, I feel like I’ve gotten past the stage of socially accepted fuck-off-and-travel age though. Like I’ve somehow wasted my early 20s being responsible and restless and going in circles. That’s a lie too; it’s never too late to travel and do whatever you want. And it is a heck of lot easier now than it’d be after owning our own house or something that would fundamentally tie us to one place. Even if it’s the wrong move, I can figure it out, and then I’d know.

I just got back from Costa Rica, and had an absolutely incredible time. We’ll be paying off the credit card for a while, but it was worth it. That country is filled with such an intensity of wildlife and color; I even enjoyed the temperature and humidity (and I am not a heat person). Being there… was a little like feeding my soul.

It struck me, that as I looked up at the stars in Costa Rica one night, the same stars I look at in the Pacific NW, how content I felt. Was it just because I was on vacation? Was it because I had the ability to stop and breathe? Was it because I’d been exploring national forests and bio-luminescent lagoons and another culture?

I still dealt with my black-hole brain and other issues while I was there, and I definitely needed recovery when I got back. But it felt like some part of me was being ‘fed.’ Like I was breathing into a space in myself I didn’t normally get to breathe into. As if a frantic space in my head finally relaxed.

Which kind of makes it sound like the answer is to my issues is travel, doesn’t it?

I’m not independently wealthy, so it’s not like it’s feasible to travel all the time, though there alternate ways of traveling. I could do what 1Bike1World does and just cycle through the continent with a cat. I could make it work, somehow, I do think that.

But I want to interrogate this idea a little more.

My desire to fling myself off a cliff is because of gnawing restlessness; adventuring and traveling seems to suit that need. But I don’t think it solves the actual problem.

I think the contentment I felt looking at the stars in Costa Rica was because I was doing something interesting. I was learning. Experiencing. Enjoying. Something I’m missing desperately in all of my life-crap. And because I feel deprived of it, it’s that much more impactful.

I think the learning and experiencing was the core of it, not wanderlust itself.

I think a big part of this acute restlessness is just my ill-content with myself and what I’m doing. Traveling may help ease the symptoms, but will it solve the actual issue? I want to try to get the core of it, not just run away.

Furthermore. There’s that saying about traveling — the one about how you leave home to find it. And I think I recognized looking at the stars in Costa Rica that I haven’t found it. I’ve found people who are home and things I like; but I want to belong to a place. I don’t think I’ve ever made a place my home before. I want… I don’t know, roots, I suppose. I want to belong somewhere and have somewhere belong to me.

I’ve always felt pulled in two directions. Half of me wants to throw off all bonds of constraint and wander and explore till I fall off the earth. But the other half of me wants this belonging.

All that being said. Now I’m going to sound like I’m reversing my position here and say that I think travel is going to be instrumental for me figuring myself out. But I don’t think it’s the answer. I need to be more intentional about it. It seems silly, but I think my head got stuck in a paralysis loop of “well if I can’t do The Big Adventure then I’m just stuck and whatever.” I got into the all-or-nothing head-space. And that’s not how it goes.

Even though part of me hates the idea that adventure has to be planned, that I have to organize around responsibilities, so really I’m walking through life dependent on other people’s whims instead of my own.

(Yeesh, all of this sounds so self-centered. I’m just getting melodramatic, as I warned you all, trying to deep dive into my f e e l i n g s.)

ANYWAY.

So travel can be a tool. Especially as it helps break through my paralysis problems. But the answer, I think, is to figure out how to craft myself and my life around things that will be fulfilling long term. Which I suppose that’s a duh, we’re all looking for fulfillment. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get to that understanding. Or maybe I knew it and just had to talk myself there.

And hey, traveling fits into my Learning Idea/Ideal I talked about in my last post. (Though, traveling via airplane or car isn’t exactly environmentally sound, which I’ve been thinking about lately.)

All right, if you’ve made it through this rambling mess a post, I congratulate you! This one kinda of stumbled around, and I’m not entirely sure I made a coherent point.

Now I’m gearing up to actually do something with all this rambling about myself. Not that I think the rambling will stop, since I overthink everything. But I’m going to try to turn the overthinking into … you know, actually doing something.

Anyway, whatever. Have some Costa Rica pictures, because it’s beautiful and wonderful there.

(You can see the full story on my Instagram if you’re interested.)

At the Manuel Antonio National Park

Some other highlights.


A New Perspective on Perspective

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My recent trip to the Philippines was my first trip overseas – but far from my last. So many things were seen – everything from every day village life, the craziness of driving there, and the wonders of places like the Banaue Rice Terraces. I knew that a new perspective was inevitable when traveling to another country, and a developing one at that. But what I didn’t expect was the new respect I have for my own country.

I’ve always had a logical understanding of the privileges that come from being born in this country. I’ve always tried to be the person who reminds herself that “there are starving children in Africa” when I get bogged down in my own troubles. But it’s quite different from understanding that reality in your heart– I’m not sure how to describe it any other way.

I was surprised at the lack of pity I felt over the abject poverty there. Certain situations were very sad, don’t get me wrong – the emaciated animals, the mansions next to the family living in a shack, the mountains of garbage – but I didn’t feel pity. The more I learned about the people there, the more I realized they are strong orchestrators of their own fate. They are at the mercy of low pay and little national infrastructure, but this does not make them helpless. They are just as capable as you or I.

It seems to me there is a pervading national culture of acceptance of one’s position, with no interest in changing. (This cannot to be said for everyone there, of course, and goodness knows three weeks does not make me an expert.) But it seemed so very stark compared to what I see in my home country. Sure, I know quite a few lazy American peers who use little effort to get through life. But not like it was there.

There was also incredible generosity that I saw there – usually within a family, but generosity all the same. And there’s something important to be said about being happy about your lot in life and making the best of your situation. There are a few materialistic Americans I can think of who could partake in some acceptance.

All of this makes me wonder about evolution of culture. I understand it’s human nature to find comfortability, and that we don’t like to change from the status quo. It’s exhausting to be constantly energized and challenging everything, and it’s also a truth that as we grow older we grow more conservative and less likely to change. With the general trend of American citizens becoming increasingly uncaring and not engaging with government or reality, I wonder if we’re headed in the direction of the overt acceptance I saw overseas. And with the development currently happening in the Philippines, I wonder if there will be a surge of energy from the coming generations that will look a lot like the energy of the U.S.

Either which way, I didn’t expect to come to these conclusions. I expected to learn about another culture, but ended up seeing my own culture in more clarity. But I suppose that’s the funny thing about perspective – you can have an idea of what you may learn, but you’ll find lessons you don’t expect.

This was a bit of a mish-mash of some of my observations there, more of which I’m sure will follow. What do you all think? Have you had experiences that resulted in surprising conclusions? Tell me about your over-seas adventures!


There and Back Again

I am within United States borders again! The Philippines was pretty incredible, and I learned and experienced… so much. I have a lot to share, but for the time-constrained moment I’m writing this, I will stick with hello again! How are you all doing!?

In writing news, I did get some writing done while away on my overseas road trip. I also received a request to view my full manuscript – which is very exciting and I can hardly stand it, but I am keeping calm about the whole situation and just waiting to see what happens. It’ll be a while before I hear back – and I have winding up for NaNoWriMo to think about anyway!

(Speaking of that, I’m going to try my hand at Scrivner this November – what do you all think? Any experience with the program?)

While you all wait in breathless anticipation for the regaling of my adventures (I’m sure), I’ve snagged a few pictures out of the literally hundreds we took.

*cue the sharing of travel adventure tales*

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Why an English Degree hurts Writing

One of the first bit of advice about writing I ever received was to never take writing classes. This was from a veteran author with decent success in the Science Fiction market, so take it as you will. But she had a point then, and she has a point now, based off of my albeit limited experience.

I think there are two stories revolving around this. A writing degree, and by extension an English Literature degree, could greatly benefit someone: teach them what excellent writing looks like, what the rules are, the tricks of the trade. There’s a lot of books out there by people who would really benefit from a few classes (*cough* E.L. James *cough*).

But then, there are the people who get hurt by writing classes: because of the rigidity and grading structure, individual style and voice can get beat out of them. ‘This is the right way to write this idea/interpret novel, your way is wrong’ sort of issues. Because a grade is necessary to pass the class, there is no choice between following the rules or sticking to your style. Your grade depends on it.

A lot like how forcing kids to read can cause them to hate reading, I know a few people who have been unable to write (or sometimes even read) after they finished their degree. The critical, editing voice has been built up to such a degree that their creativity and flow has been stifled; it’s no longer fun, fulfilling, or engaging as it once was. Reading has become a chore, filled with the right and wrong ways to interpret a novel. All of this, of course, can be gotten over. And I am sure there is benefit from these classes. But it makes you wonder if it’s really worth it.

Writers are people who write; a degree makes a writer not. If you’re already going to write, going to work to improve yourself and your craft, why spend a lot of money on a degree to have someone else tell you the “right” way of writing when your way of writing will be different anyway? Or, for an English degree, pay someone to tell you what you’re reading? (Especially with all the online help that’s available nowadays, too)

Of course, you need a degree in said thing if you’re going to teach it. I see that. And maybe your ideal job requires said degree (publishing, maybe? Or maybe a job that doesn’t have anything to do with writing but the position you want). But even then, I feel that this can work against people. For instance, my step father has a degree in fine art. What does he do? Runs a multi-million dollar business as its President and co-owner. Why? Because he thinks outside of the box. His art degree is more valuable than the business degree because it’s creative, and learning the rules of business only gets you the rules, not the ability to adapt and thrive.

So as writers, what are we really writing about? Life. Experience. Love. Survival. Maybe dragons and unicorns. These things are learned through living, not a classroom.

Yes, yes, getting all those things on paper in a decent way generally has to be learned. Some have the natural talent for it, some do not. But as I reiterated above, there are SO many resources out there available for people to learn good writing skills and develop oneself as a writer. It’s there for the taking. Even all those books you read in English classes, too. Right there.

This, of course, takes a lot of personal time and effort to do without a structured course. If you’re anything like me, it’s harder to make that effort when there isn’t an instructor hanging over you wielding the grade stick. Well, maybe it’s time to suck it up. We can all improve. And even if you do want/need classes, you’re going to have to continue to improve yourself anyway. And sometimes you have to unlearn the things professors have taught you to really be able to write as you should.

So. Instead of spending all that money on an English or Writing degree, maybe you should book a flight to South America and immerse yourself in the culture so you have real experience of the place when it comes time to write that book about the teenagers in Brazil who get possessed by soul aliens that haven’t been seen since Aztec times and –

Wait. Hold on, that’s me with that story idea. Whoops. Nevermind.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you don’t need a degree in Writing or English to be a writer. All you have to do is write. And gain experience. And live life. And be happy (or depressed, whatever floats your boat).

Now, don’t write about soul aliens in Brazil, go write your own story.

P.S. If you’re one of those people who thrive on English/Writing classes, you’re probably awesome and know more about writing than I ever will. Just remember once you’ve gotten out and don’t have to worry about grades anymore, you can be your own writer, too.