Four Years: How My Travel Has Changed
Travel is an experience that changes your life on every trip. You gain insight, you discover new things, you form new opinions. Everyone who travels realizes this (I hope!). However, something many people do not stop to examine is how your life and experiences can change the way you travel. For me, 2007 marked the year when I really started traveling in earnest, and though I still travel a lot, my life has changed a great deal since 2007. Along with those life changes have come changes in the way that I travel, and I felt it might be a good idea to write a bit about them. Without further ado, here’s what my travel looked like then, and what it looks like now:
Transport: Most of my prior travel was done alone, in the driver’s seat of my old, much-abused Toyota pickup truck. I drove it back and forth from Boston, MA to Houston, TX at least three times, I drove aimlessly through much of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont, and I lived out of it for nine months while driving it all over the eastern coast of North America. Though it was a tin can deathtrap, I loved that truck.
Packing: I overpacked. I reeeeeally overpacked. When I lived out of my truck, I had five large, plastic bins in the back. One each for clothes for winter, summer, and fall/spring, one of reenacting gear, and one of miscellaneous crap like books. When I went to Switzerland for six weeks, I brought a giant duffle bag that could fit me and probably a friend inside. I got so frustrated with dragging it through the streets that I vowed never go to that route again. When I went to South Korea for a year to teach, I brought two of the largest bags that LL Bean makes, packed to the gills. Though I was glad to have plenty of clothes due to the difficulties of getting clothing for *ahem* curvy women in Korea, I didn’t need to bring a 6-month supply of my shampoo, or enough vitamins for a year.
Safety: I was very carefree about my security and assumed that I was mostly safe at all times. I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings, and wasn’t cautious about taking out my camera or lugging my laptop around on the streets.
Socializing: I was a crotchety old man when it came to socializing. I even went so far, occasionally, as to pretend to not speak English in order to avoid having to hang out with hostelmates. I loved meeting locals, but I regarded my fellow travelers with distaste and contempt. I’ll be honest: I was kind of a bitch.
Solo Travel: The only kind of travel I ever did back then was solo travel, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I considered companions to be dead weight and a nuisance. While I loved the zen-like state I could achieve while driving 14 hours in a day on my own, traveling alone also meant that I had no support when things weren’t so great. I spent a lot of my free time driving around rural Massachusetts alone in my truck, and while I was in Switzerland I relished being able to hike on my own.
Blogging: While 2011 marked my 10 year anniversary for blogging, my blog looked and sounded very, very different up until about 2009. First of all, I did all my blogging on Livejournal, on the same blog I had kept since 2001. It was written very informally, and was written for the folks who had been on my friends list for years. It was also, frankly, rather ranty because I used it as something akin to free therapy. When I went to Korea I played around with keeping a travel blog, but I didn’t really get the hang of it until the spring of 2009, which was ironically at the end of my stay there.
Motivation: 2007 was a big year for me for travel. I drove back and forth from Amherst to Boston an unimaginable number of times for my thesis, I spent 6 weeks in Switzerland, some time in Holland and Belgium, and spent from August of 2007 to April of 2008 driving aimlessly around the east coast of the USA and Canada, visiting friends. I had some money thanks to a small inheritance, and my travel style was very spontaneous.
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Transport: I almost never travel by car anymore, at least not as the driver. I don’t have a car anymore, and though I have access to Marc’s car for work or errands, that has put a serious cramp in my ability to take off on a whim and drive the back roads in search of good diners.
Packing: I pack as light as I possibly can. I spent 9 weeks in France with only a 40L backpack and my camera bag. I now not only know that I can find clothes abroad, I also know that shopping for them can be a fun experience. Packing lightly has become something of a game for me, and I now try to see just how little I can get by with on a given trip.
Safety: After getting mugged in Belgium and having my laptop stolen from my hands, I am now much more aware of safety issues. I avoid sketchy areas at night, I don’t walk around with my camera out of my bag, and I even developed a way to connect my camera strap to my belt when I do have it out, so that it can’t be wrenched away. I also now use the “false wallet” technique.
Socializing: While I’m not exactly the life of the party, I have learned to be nice and can even be coaxed away from processing my photos for long enough to go out for a drink! While I was in France this summer I really felt much more isolated than I usually do, despite speaking the language, and as a result I really began to make friends with the folks I met in hostels, even if many of them remarked about “how old I was to be staying in a hostel” (at 28. HA!).
Solo Travel: While I still love solo travel, I have gained a great appreciation for traveling with a companion. Whether it’s Marc or another friend, I’ve learned that taking someone along with me can bring a richness to my travel that it otherwise lacks. Having someone around to kick me in the ass on occasion doesn’t hurt either.
Blogging: Nowadays the line between my blog and my life is very blurred. I have multiple subject-specific blogs and I am constantly writing, shooting, or otherwise producing content for one or more of them. A camera bag and a laptop are no longer luxuries when I travel, they are now necessities.
Travel Style: These days, I mostly take shorter trips on weekends, with a few exceptions. Marc and I travel a lot on weekends, and between reenactments and occasional local jaunts, we’re gone almost half the weekends in a given year. I did spend 9 weeks in France this summer, and Marc and I will shortly be taking a 5-6 day trip up to New England, but I now have a more local and less spontaneous travel style than I used to. My work affords me a lot of freedom, but not a lot of cash, so I travel in a way to make the best use of both.
Those are some of the major ways in which my personal experiences with travel as well as changes in my life have changed the way I travel. There are a few minor differences in addition to these, but they have more to do with differences in technology than personal choices, so I didn’t include them. I would love to hear how travel has changed over the years for some of you readers and I bet that others would as well, so if you feel that your travel style has changed since you started traveling, please let us all know in a comment!