I often find myself wondering if I’m too independent. Too opinionated. Too… much. Not enough like everyone else. I think all those things go together. I find myself debating with my own inner dialogue, but sometimes with those I care about as well. When other people weigh in, it usually goes along the lines of them telling me I have stronger opinions on somethings that I probably shouldn’t even really care about, but I should still just go with it. You be you kind of thing. Internally, it depends on the day.

There’s moments I truly think I have split personalities. Not in the legit I have a medical problem, just depending on the day. There’s the ‘I want to be social and go hang out with everyone I know and I can’t sit still and just want to do all the things’ days and then there’s the ‘I don’t want anything to do with people and binge watching Netflix or reading a book in my hammock for 8 hours sounds like the highlight of life and even answering a text seems too social for me’ kind of days. So on my more introverted days, I tend to think maybe I need to conform to what most of society deems “normal.” But on extroverted days… HA! Society can go… well, this is a family friendly blog. So choose your own adventure to fill in that blank.

It’s a conundrum, nevertheless. It’s not easy to be an extrovert AND an introvert. It’s especially difficult when you think you’re feeling extroverted and you meet up with humans and BAM! You really just want to be by yourself. I know I’m not the only one that struggles with this! So do you frantically look for excuses to leave? What if they came to your house?! Now you’re stuck! The horrors. This is a real thing, people. Nightmarish.

Anyway. This timeshare has been calling me for the past 2 weeks and never leaves a message. And it’s not that I don’t want to talk to them – talking usually results in some decent perks – I just am never around my phone when they call. But on the rare occasions I am, I might be in that introverted, dealing with humans is way too overwhelming mode, even via phone calls. In case you were wondering, I finally touched based with them and have a new vacation to plan in the next year or so! Vacation planning is difficult for me, though. My schedule with work is in such a constant flux that it’s difficult to plan more than a few weeks in advance for many things. Which can be great for last minute deals. But flights pretty much never have such discounts and availability can become an issue too. And my people who have more normal scheduled jobs find it difficult to get time off with that short of a notice.

In most instances, that just means I’ll go by myself. Adventuring alone is a pretty sweet gig. I do what I want, only what I want, and don’t have to worry about someone else not getting their way. It sounds pretty selfish and it is. But it’s awesome in it’s own right to have that freedom to literally seize the day I any which way you see fit. Sharing those experiences is great too. You get a different perspective and all that goes along with spending quality time with someone else. And this is where I find myself getting in my own head.

Would I rather go through life having that freedom or those shared moments? Am I too independent to truly share my adventures with someone else all the time? I’m not speaking just to romantically inclined relationships, either. Ski trips with my fencing team from high school or dive trips with my college friends fall into this question too (ok, diving is a bad example since I wouldn’t go diving alone, but it conveys the point that platonic relationships count as well). And I don’t know if I have an answer to that yet. So I go back and forth with the pros and cons of such. And maybe it doesn’t need an answer. Trips I’ve ventured on solo or with people have been epic. Would they have been enhanced if I wasn’t by myself or had I gone on my own? Probably in some aspects. It can be lonely dining alone. But it can also be refreshing. First world problems, I’m telling you. The struggle is real!

At any rate, you gotta do what makes you happy! Hakuna Matata!


Life Paths

As more and more of my friends get engaged and married and have children or get pets, I find myself wondering how my life may have been different if I didn’t follow the paths I did.  There are days when I think it would be the coolest thing in the world to have a mini human.  They are few and far between, but they are there.  And there are days when I miss my little monster (I use this term affectionately) so damn freaking much that I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly ever want to not experience the joy a puppy could bring.  But then I think of how heartbroken I was having to leave him every morning to go to school and work and life.

I am a nomad.  I literally just moved less than three months ago and I’m jonesing to go somewhere else.  It’s really hard to travel when you’ve got a dog who can’t go with you.  Or kids, I’d imagine.  But it’s hard to travel with adults too.  I started this blog shortly after I got to New Zealand.  After spending 6 months on my own in Germany.  I’ve posted about the challenges of living in a foreign country, not knowing the language or people and being 6 hours and 5,000 miles off from your people.  I stand by those sentiments still.  Before I did the study abroad in Italy, I couldn’t even go to a fast food place by myself, even just to pick up food to go let alone live in a different country by myself.  I would rather starve than be by myself.  Not because I wanted to be around other people, but because I hated appearing lonely in front of other people.  I don’t know why that distinction was important, but it was.

Europe made me change that mindset.  I wanted to see what was out there.  And I didn’t know anyone so I had to go by myself if I wanted to have that adventure.  And in traveling solo, I discovered something incredible.  I met people I would have never given the time of day to ordinarily.  I spent time on the things I thought were fascinating and skipped the boring stuff.  To me.  That’s the beauty of people, though.  We all are enchanted by different things.  Finding someone who will like and dislike the exact same things as you is nearly impossible.  Sure, there will be some similarities, but we all do appreciate different things.  Having that opportunity to experience things at your own pace is something everyone should be afforded.  It made me stronger.  And more independent.

Traveling alone, however, can also lose some of the magic.  It is nice to share certain moments with other people, especially those you love (platonic or otherwise!).  I’m planning my next adventure – it shall be epic.  There’s driving across the country, and gallivanting through different bodies of water, and cruising to countries I’ve only read about.  And I don’t want to go alone.  But I do.  Because planning this adventure is proving to be more stressful than I anticipated.  Mostly because I’ve become so accustomed to doing what I want, when I want, I don’t know how to compromise.  Well.  I don’t want to.  And because visas are involved.  And consulates.  And no email addresses and I have to call people and speak to them.  On the phone: I hate the phone.  This is 2016 for goodness sake!  I should be able to text someone to get a visa!

But when adventuring with other people, you have to take into consideration their stuff.  Well, at least you should. So back to seeing my friends committing to other people and all.  I can’t even commit to where to go for dinner!  And I wonder.  If I never went to Italy, if I never moved to Germany, or studied in New Zealand, or worked for Continental: Where would I be?  Would I want to travel?  Would I still be with my college boyfriend? Would I have the career path I found myself in?  Would I have more education?  Maybe I would be living back in New York. Maybe I’d have my dog.  Who knows?  I think things happen for a reason.  What those reasons are?  No idea.  But we end up where we do to affect someone or something.  In my opinion.  Good or bad – we have purpose.

It’s crazy how many variables there are out there.  But ultimately, mine has been pretty freaking awesome.  It’s been a roller coaster, but I’m ready for the next turn.

Silver Things

I love my birthday.  Birthdays in general, actually.  But I especially love mine.  My first birthday was spent in Disney World.  Maybe that’s part of the reason why I feel the need to return time and again.  A pilgrimage of sorts.  I’ve had a myriad of birthday parties and the like.  Bowling was a recurring one when I was still in those single digits.  There was a year that an amusement park was opened just for us (my brother and I share birthdays in the same week) because my dad was buddies with the owner.  I’m not a huge party person, though.  As I got older, the more I realized the large groups of people was not my style.  So it became sleepovers and dinner at Gino’s (my favorite restaurant) and a hike or trip to Great Adventure  or carving pumpkins with my closer friends.

Instead of a Sweet 16 party that probably costs more than some people’s weddings the way some people throw these festivities, I went to Disney World with my family.  Way better than a night of getting dressed up and dancing and being with a lot of people who you really don’t get to spend time with.  To me at least.  People like different things and that’s good for them.  I like spending time with me and my close people.  And even that has to be controlled.  I am close to a lot of people.  I never thought I’d say that, but I am.  I have a LOT of close friends who I would literally do anything for and who would reciprocate that.  But I still don’t won’t to spend time with all of those people I love and care about all at once.  If I ever get married, that’s going to be a struggle!  Anyway.

When I turned 20, I was living in Germany and my boyfriend at the time came to visit me for the weekend.  He got there on my birthday and we did touristy things in Munich before heading to Austria to go skiing on a glacier.  I like to go all out for my birthdays!  The very idea of being by myself on my birthday was outrageous to me.  I couldn’t be alone!  That would be more than depressing.  But merely five years later, I almost welcomed the idea.  At first, I was disappointed when I found out I had to work on my birthday.  I haven’t had to work or go to school on my birthday in six years!  And that meant I couldn’t go to the Big Island with my parents as originally planned.  But I ended up making the most out of the day.

After work, I rented a jeep and set off for Aulani, A Disney Resort (I swear, they don’t pay me to advertise).  I thoroughly enjoyed their hydro garden I had access to at the spa prior to my massage (this experience deserves it’s own post: I promise you it’s worth it though if I don’t get to writing about it in more detail), and then I had dinner at their fancy restaurant on the water.  A table set for one.  I’m pretty sure my waiter felt sorry for me (or maybe he didn’t care at all, but he seemed confused nevertheless).  I was once in those shoes.  I distinctly recall a woman who ate at Gino’s every week on her own.  I know this because I too ate at Gino’s every week back in the day with my mom or a friend or anyone really.  Sometimes multiple times in a week!  I used to feel bad for her.  She was older and usually had a book.  I thought of her often when I was going to meet people at a restaurant and I was the first person there and the like.  It was uncomfortable being there alone for 5 minutes, let alone a whole meal.

As I traipsed through Europe and jet-setted throughout the US on my own, I avoided dining out alone.  Take out and microwaveable options were my go to choices.  Food carts weren’t too bad either.  But eating a meal by myself in a restaurant was the awkward experience.  It’s crazy how much my thoughts on this have changed.  Much like traveling by myself is one of my more looked forward to adventures now, eating dinner in public by myself is no longer an issue.  While it’s still not at the top of my list of things to do, I don’t really care anymore if I want to try their food or simply miss eating somewhere.  I find it remarkable how much a few years can change perception.

Traveling Solo

I read an article the other day with the title somewhere along the lines of “How to Travel Safely Solo as a Female.”  It had valid points, but the title and audience it was directed to rather annoyed me.  The gender equality topic is an exhaustive one.  We should be treated as equals, but reality and biology  says we are not the same.  Equals, but not the same.  Does that make sense?

In the military, PT test standards are different for men and women and for different age groups.  No one seems to be up in arms about the fact that a man aged 40-44 in the Navy must run 1.5 miles in no more than 15:30 versus a man 20 years younger, who has 2 minutes less to run the same distance.  We all accept that as we age, our capabilities may not be as they once were.  Women aged 40-44, however, have a run time of 17:15, whereas their younger counterparts are expected to maintain the distance at a maximum of 15:30.

This two minute gap between men and women of the same age is a cry of outrage for some.  But men and women are physically built differently, as much as joints and muscles aging 20 years as a man, apparently.  Did anyone notice that females 20 years older only get an additional 1:45, where men get 2 minutes?  Could it be that women age better than men and that’s the logic behind it?  At any rate, we’re not the same in this regard.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know 50 year old guys who easily pass their 20 year old counterparts and women who can crank out more push ups in the 2 minute time period than anyone else doing the test.  We are all capable of better (and of course, these are the minimum standards).

Anyway, I’m digressing.  Solo female traveling.  Right.  It bothers me because women have been vying for equality, but then we single ourselves out on these things.  Solo male traveling can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than solo female traveling.  Men are stronger.  Sure, maybe.  Men also have more tendencies to do stupid things.  Sure, maybe.  Men can’t be raped.  Men can’t be mugged.  WRONG!  Of course they can.  Such things aren’t reported as often as they occur for numerous reasons, mainly, it’s more ’embarrassing’ for men to admit to such things.

If a woman is raped, maybe she had it coming.  She was wearing something revealing and was drunk and flirty and she was ‘asking for it.’  That’s a horrifying thought, but we play the blame game, and unfortunately, in many cases, we focus on how the victim seduced the offender.  You see a picture of a female in a mini skirt and low top and clearly she was looking for sex.  It’s preposterous to believe she wore that outfit simply because it made her feel good and sexy without actually wanting sex.  But it shouldn’t be.  And then there’s those women who are raped who were wearing baggy jeans and a t-shirt.  Were they asking for it too?  That’s what I thought.  But most women almost expect to be raped.  Statistics say 1 in 4 women are victims of sexual assault.  25%.  We know statistics can be manipulated, but even so, those are TERRIBLE odds.  There are 6 females in the room I am sitting in right now.  Statistics say that at least one of us has been assaulted.  Pretty daunting when you think about.

If a man is raped, they are less of a man.  They have been emasculated and it’s internalized because, well, they’d be mocked and ridiculed because they let another person take advantage of them.  No one brings up what a guy was wearing if he was assaulted.  If he even discloses that he was attacked.  But all of those things apply to females as well.  Because we ARE equal.  We are human and such an abominable experience will affect us.  It is that simple.

So the article. Traveling solo.  Like I said earlier, it was a good article.  But there was absolutely no reason it had to be directed at solo females.  It had a lot of common sense stuff.  Don’t walk down dark streets at night, let someone know where you’re going, ask locals about the area, protect your valuables, have copies of your important documents, list serial numbers of electronics in a safe place like an online server to prove it’s yours if stolen.  None of these things apply solely to females.  This doesn’t even solely apply to solo travelers.  These are tips for ANYONE who travels!  I think the only thing that did apply to solo travelers, but not just female ones, was that it can be extremely liberating and empowering to travel sans others.  Truth.

For those of you who may not know, I have done some extensive traveling on my own.  I moved to Germany for a job opportunity in 2010 without knowing a word of German.  It was after a summer study abroad with a group of people I didn’t know at the beginning of the trip.  That group of people are some of my closest friends now, even if it only has been 4 and a half years since I’ve met them.  There’s an extremely unique experience when you are a fish in a sea with only a handful of other fish who can truly understand you and what you’re going through.  But we’ll save the group travel for another day.  There’s something rewarding about moving to a place where you know no one and succeeding that words really can’t describe.  In my last post, I talked about the hardest emotional thing I’ve had to do as of yet.  Living in Germany for six months was an extremely close second.

During my time in Germany, I traveled throughout Europe, mostly by myself.  I explored Prague after learning that trains split in half (and being on the wrong half), I attended concerts in Vienna, toured Salzburg and found myself on a bus to see the sights from The Sound of Music, climbed Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, wandered alleys in Oslo, explored my heritage in Budapest and Krakow, navigated New Zealand embassy difficulties in Berlin as well as learning about the wall, hiked mountains in southern Bavaria, visited castles, experienced Oktoberfest, discovered the more in-depth horrors of concentration camps, marveled at the Eiffel Tower, and the list goes on (man, I miss those days…).  I usually figured out hostels before I bought the train ticket or flight, but that was about it.  I packed along my Rick Steve’s Guide to Europe and researched on the train and by talking to the people I met on the way or in the streets there.  I did not have a phone.  I’m still here.  Not once did I EVER find myself in a situation I felt uncomfortable because of other people.

The worst situation I found myself in was when that train to Prague split in half and I ended up in Hof at 11:30 at night (not many trains run after this time).  I thought I could still get to Prague that night and 40 euros later, I was in a new train station, much less populated than the one I had been at, and all alone.  Gracious cafe owners, and quite certainly the ONLY people in a 10km radius, gave me some food and tea and tried to get me back to where I’d been, but it was way too late.  I ended up walking back 15km in the middle of night in the snow of a German December by myself.  As the 5 cars passed by throughout that journey, I considered hitch hiking.  I had done it once before and I was still alive and well.  But it didn’t feel right, and I kept on trekking.  When I finally got back to the train station, it was locked.  But there was a police office with a light on and thus, my salvation.  With some difficulty, we finally managed to understand each other and the wonderful men of the Hof station, opened the building, moved a bench in front of the heater for me, and bought me the right ticket I needed to finally get to Prague.

Consequently, when I went to Buenos Aires with my then boyfriend and one of my roommates, a person did try to mug me and the two males I was with did absolutely NOTHING to help me fight off the perpetrator.  Of all my adventures, the one scenario where I was with 2 men was the one time I felt more threatened.  I won’t say that I always found myself in situations that were 100% safe, but I never felt threatened by other people being creepy when I was traveling solo.  Perhaps it’s naive, but I believe people are inherently good.  It’s the select few who ruin it for the many.  At any rate.  Travel.  By yourself, with others, whatever you feel like doing.  Traveling is the best.  But always maintain situational awareness and common sense.

Hakuna Matata!