There are some moments while traveling when I find that I’m almost embarrassed to be an American. I am grateful for the many things that my birthright has given me, don’t get me wrong–I have a passport that allows me to go most anywhere in the world without hassle, and I was lucky enough to be born in a country where I’ve been afforded great opportunity for success both as a person, and as a woman. No–it’s not those things I’m embarrassed about. It’s the feeding into stereotypes; our politics; and the events that take place in my country (and ultimately the reaction to those events) that I find so embarrassing, and oftentimes, so hard to defend.
It’s always been my belief that when you travel abroad, you should behave as an ambassador for your country, but when you don’t agree with most of what’s going on in your nation, it can be very difficult.
Despite the fact that Philadelphia is, in fact, two hours east of where I grew up in Pennsylvania, it’s always felt like home to me. And it’s where I often tell people that I’m from (because honestly, it’s easier than “do you know where Harrisburg is? Yeah, I’m from 45 minutes south of there.”).
I always look forward to going back for a visit, seeing my friends, being in familiar territory, and eating all the delicious foods. When my friend and I were planning the route for the road trip from Austin back to Pennsylvania, she was eager to see all of these Northeastern cities she’d never visited. And unfortunately, due to a time constraint, we knew we’d only have time to see Philadelphia for a short while before making our way to New York City.
I’m really excited to let all of you in on what I’ll be up to for the next few weeks!
After a short, but beautiful, two weeks in Scotland exploring Glasgow, Edinburgh, and the highlands, I’m off to a few new destinations!
Up first: Italy!
My first stop in Italy will be Genoa, where I’ll be meeting up with friend and fellow BlogHouse Toronto graduate, Cindy of PointsandTravel! We’re fortunate enough to be staying in the gorgeous suite with city views at the BW City Hotel.
What this post really should be titled is “getting a great thigh workout in Edinburgh.” But, I digress.
I haven’t been on this journey for all that long, but to stay it’s been hard is an understatement. I’ve never traveled alone extensively and so planning a several-month solo trip was ambitious, to put it lightly.
The first day I arrived, I was so exhausted that I literally just went to my hotel in Glasgow and crashed. I didn’t eat anything at all that day, didn’t walk anywhere, didn’t do anything. I crawled into bed, turned on some crappy TV, and zonked out. I woke up a few times and felt a bit panicky, all alone in a foreign city in a foreign country, wondering if I could do this day in and day out for months. (To be honest, I still can’t answer that.)
A few months ago I first heard Lord Huron‘s album, Lonesome Dreams, and imagined myself blasting that album the entire drive to Pennsylvania, singing along to these lyrics that would become my travel anthems: I been dreaming again of a lonesome world; Where I’m lost and I’ve got no friends; Just the rocks and the trees in my lonesome dreams; And a road that don’t never end; I been dreaming again of a lonesome world; Where I’m lost and I’m on my own; What am I destined to be? It’s a mystery baby.
I dreamt of the open road, and getting some serious introspection on, formulating a plan for things I wanted to work on personally while traveling and things I wanted to do while traveling.
“How long are you in Scotland?” inquires the passport control desk agent. I always feel incredibly uncomfortable landing in the UK and being interrogated by passport control. Somehow, I always feel like I’m a common criminal due to the line of questioning and I get flustered, red, and sweaty, hoping that they’ll let me stay for my allotted period of time.
“Just for two weeks.”
“And where will you go after?”
“Um, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, and Lithuania,” I stutter back at her.
“When do you plan to return to the United States?”
“Sometime in January, I think.”
“And how are you funding this? What do you do?”
“I’m a.. travel writer?”
Thus begins my several months of solo travel.
South Korea isn’t a country that most people know a lot about. There’s a lot of stigma surrounding the country because of their grumpy neighbors to the North. I love Korea and have always felt incredibly safe here. If you’re considering moving or traveling to Korea, here are 5 experiences you won’t want to miss!
1. See the country!
Seoul is great, but it doesn’t give you a true feel for what Korea is really like.
Here are some amazing places you can see if you get out of the capital city for a bit:
Dongnae Eupseong Fortress is a hidden gem because it’s tucked away amongst the tall buildings and bustle of South Korea’s second largest city, Busan. Here you can you see the old fortress walls (reconstructed) that were put up to protect Busan from Japanese invasions. There’s also a science park, museum and ancient burial mounds! It’s my absolute favorite place in Busan.
Dongnae Eupseong Fortress, Busan
When I slowly started telling people about quitting my job and traveling for a few months, the reactions were varied, but fell under one of two categories:
“Oh man! That’s so awesome!! Tell me more.”
And, “Oh, well that’s.. neat?”
I calmed my nerves enough to stop from shaking uncontrollably as I took that fateful walk–ten feet from my cubicle to my boss’ office. This part is always the worst–the overwhelming anxiety over, and the insurmountable guilt for what is about to transpire.
“Do you have a few minutes?”
“..sure.” (Does she already suspect what’s coming next?)
“I have made the difficult decision to leave this position. I have very much enjoyed working here and with all of you, and appreciate everything you have done for me over the past three years. I just feel it’s time for me to move on–not just from this job, but from this state. So, with that said, my last day will be August 30th.”
Years ago I had my first viewing of the film Baraka, which features some of the most stunning footage of countries and cultures from all across the world that I’ve ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on. One particular scene though, really struck a chord with me and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since.