Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Post: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Travel

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Hudson
Ireland, 2011

As many of you know, I LOVE traveling! If you're in need of inspiration to purchase your next plane ticket, look no further. Today I am proud to feature a guest post by Elizabeth Hudson.  Elizabeth offers witty wonderful insights on travel through her latest trip to Ireland. 

Three weeks ago, I boarded a plane and landed on the west coast of Ireland, 6:25am local time. In the dark and rain of early morning, my companions and I managed to maneuver a little black Skoda along back country roads, hearts in our throats and white knuckles on the wheel as we stayed to the left of the center line.

There is nothing more unnatural than driving on what you have always thought of as the wrong side of the road.

We could have chosen safe and sound and less stressful alternatives: train, tour bus, an entire vacation in the city and its suburbs. But I didn’t want that. And I argued until both my companions agreed to a rental car [with full insurance, of course]. Even if it meant shifting gears with the left hand, learning to navigate sign posts in Irish, and driving on two-way roads scarcely wide enough for one car.

But it paid off.

Travel is nothing without risk. It’s about throwing off your own habits to embrace a culture vastly different from your own. It’s about learning to go about life differently.

The truest travel is not spent poolside at resorts but on the side streets, in the open markets, shoulder to shoulder with the locals.

And it changes you – for better and worse.

Let me explain . . .

The Good
Whether you find yourself in an advanced English-speaking city or the middle of nowhere in a developing country, sooner or later, you will be pushed from your comfort zone.

That’s the beauty of travel.

Though, it may hardly seem beautiful at the time.

In Blarney, we took a wrong turn out of the pub (too many pints, perhaps?) and found ourselves lost in a maze of dead ends and dark streets, with only the moon to light our way.

The beauty? That night we met the sweetest two women in the world. They refused to point us in the right direction, instead seeing us all the way back to our accommodation, lively stories and conversation along the way.

While waiting outside of a Galway store, an older gentleman, who spoke no English, only Irish, cornered me for half an hour, a conversation played out in hand gestures and an awkward moment where he wanted to touch my hair.

The jewel in this story? At the end of the half hour, the man’s [insanely] attractive [ginger] grandson met us on the street, blushing as he admitted his grandfather’s intentions: he thought his grandson needed an American girlfriend. I couldn’t have agreed more.

In Clifden, after checking into what seemed a pleasant B&B [on a poorly lit road], we realized too late that we had, in fact, checked into the Bates Motel, Norman Bates’ Irish doppelganger included. After a restless night and a few quick showers later, we moved on. Only then did one of my companions admit to waking up as someone had tried to get into the room around 3am. What she had sleepily attributed to a tipsy tourist at the wrong room, we suspected Norman of later.

The bright side? We checked out.

An adventure is never complete without a night of worrying whether you’ll make it to daylight. As I said, the best parts of travel are rarely planned.

The Bad
Traveling abroad helped me to realize one thing ever so clearly: as an American, you can never outrun the stereotype of the American.

As soon as we opened our mouths, our reputation preceded us.

We apologized for allowing both the Kennedy family and George W. Bush into politics.

We apologized for our extravagance, driving large cars and trucks and vans.

We apologized for our brash manner of living.

In every stereotype, there is a bit of truth, sometimes a great deal of truth. And when traveling to foreign locales, it’s important to remember the stereotypes of your culture, and it’s essential to travel with awareness. After all, we want to be the ones who prove the negative stereotypes wrong.

The Ugly
There is nothing uglier, nothing I tell you, than the post-travel blues.

Since I’ve been back on home soil, I’ve been unbearable, family and friends only too happy to point this out. And I know it.

Blame it on my personality, blame it on my age, but settling back into routine after the excitement of travel is akin to death. I assure you, there is no melodrama here.

Too often travelers are prepared only for the trip and not for the period that begins once the plane touches town and bags are unpacked. The period when you realize that your next vacation is a year [or more] off. 

The period when you realize you don’t know when the next trip will be.

I’ve spent the last few days in denial of being completely home, dreaming of another trip, a longer one, while my lap is full of MFA applications and my desk stained with coffee rings.

But there’s always the hope of plans going awry. And so far, 2012 is an awfully empty year.

Perfect for a little [or a lot] of travel.

Guest Blogger Bio:
Elizabeth Hudson is a freelance writer 
and professional dreamer in pursuit of 
professional author status. She speaks
with a slight twang, has no problem 
incorporating chocolate into breakfast,
 and will argue to the death that U2 is 
the single greatest band since the dawn
of creation. 

Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her blog!

1 comment:

  1. Liz, love this post! Hoping you exchanged numbers with that hot Irish guy.... excuse to visit Ireland again soon lol?


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