Category Archives: travel

Travel Gap

I was on the couch one day with my Grampa. I had just returned from Europe. He says “I don’t understand why you women are always out of the house now. Always doing something.” I say “We are catching up on the years we couldn’t.”

“Fair enough,” is his response.

I haven’t traveled everywhere yet, but there’s time and I frequently use books to fuel my travel obsession. Yet there’s something that I’ve noticed that continues to bother me as I wander through the Barnes and Nobles travel section. This week looking for Miami and Thailand information. Where’s all the books from women? I find a total of two.

-Wanderful, a book about how to look good in various cities, i.e, Stevie Nicks type wraps in New Orleans. (P.S. having been to NOLA I don’t suggest those type wraps on Bourbon Street or Jackson Square)

-We’ll always have Paris, a book I can only assume is about the enigma that is the famous city and one girls romance with the city or a man or both.

This week I settle with the books Havana by Mark Kurlansky and Travel as a Political Act by Rick Steves. But I’m still perplexed. What is the system that is making it so there aren’t more books written by women in travel? Or simply more books of substance by women? Women have stories to tell. Especially about travel. Are women simply not writing about their experiences? Or are they being written and told by a publisher that unless it coincides with the typical gender expectations that it won’t make it to the shelves. The female gender has made it past the point of being able to write only home and garden type columns, or what to wear to fit a certain body type.

Now it may sound like I am bashing the women who have books on the shelves. My response is no I’m not. I am simply stating that the whole picture of female travel is incomplete. Yes, there are women who go to these places and make it a top priority to look good, you can take a look back to when I had photoshoots done in Paris and Barcelona. But there are also female travelers who run around wearing the same pants for days on end, whose hair is matted into dreads and has blades of grass wrapped inside. There are women who travel with children and raise families on the road while being a digital nomad and supporting her two loves. These are stories that could inspire an entirely different group to see the world.

Women have stories and they should be heard. In the past 5 years I have had the pleasure of meeting a variety of female travelers, they create their own maps and guides. Women who have sailed around the Caribbean at eighteen, women who have hiked to Machu Picchu, women that pack up and move to Japan all while raising a child, and women that move to Australia just because her instincts told her to. To miss out on these stories is to miss out on half of the big picture. We are out there and we are seeing the same countries as men, but from a woman’s perspective the same country could be a different world altogether.

Sex in the Cities

To say that my desire to travel is fully instinctual would be a lie. For me travel is like sex. I didn’t know how great it could be until I tried it. And just like with sex I had some bad experiences and some great ones. But now that I have tried it I don’t want to stop. I get my fix and for a moment I’m on cloud nine. But after a couple of weeks I feel the twitch in my legs, a second nature desire to run to somewhere new.

All of these destinations are not orgasmic, some are just foreplay for the main event. In Europe I found that Lisbon was an early orgasm that I couldn’t have expected. The food and architecture screamed different, as if she was the wild child of the family. She was the lover that probably did cocaine before getting it on, perhaps with more than one person.

Barcelona, was my closeted lover. There was a feminine energy behind this masculine appearing city. The roads had angles that you’d see on a mans body. But everything that Gaudí touched had a clear woman’s touch. The curves, the color, the aura. Very delicate. She/He would make their mind up someday but for now they’d rather not mark the gender in the polls.

Paris was my sophisticated lover. She was Miss. Gray. Elegant and mysterious. Never giving me more than a sexy glance in public or a brush of the hand in the daytime. But at night she put on the latex and had her furry handcuffs ready. She would slip on her Louis Vuitton heels and take me for a ride that would last the weekend. Then she transitions back to her pompously reserved self as Sunday approaches. She recognizes the toll of Notre Dame bringing herself back to piety.

Berlin was my frat boy lover. So many had so much to say about Berlin. How great he was. But upon landing Berlin treated me like the ugly girl who couldn’t get into any of the sororities. I would try to see the good in Berlin but every time I stepped out it seemed as though the city was determined to ruin my day. And more often than not I decided it was better to stay at home rather than go out with Berlin.

To travel is to love. But you can’t always get a gracious lover. It takes time and plenty of practice and you most likely won’t get it right the first time but after a few tries you’ll figure out your type.

Just remember to bring protection.

Hostel or Hostile

So if you’ve traveled on a budget before you’ve probably used a hostel once or twice, or completely exclusively. Since my travel started when I was young I never had to worry about my accommodations, it was my parents responsibility. But times arrow marched forward and now I’m responsible for me. So when I started wanting to travel again this new word entered my vocabulary, Hostel. Now here I am, (only ever hearing this word once before in a scary movie title) trying to backpack Europe on a budget and figure out where I am going to lay my head. One of my best friends used to work in a hostel so she finally convinced me to try it and it changed everything.

My first stop in Europe was in Lisbon, Portugal. A beautiful city with stunning architecture and delicious food and gorgeous people. I landed mid-afternoon so I had to find my hostel before the night fall, which I learned later seems to be a bit late. I eventually found my hostel named appropriately Lost Inn Lisbon. I climbed the stairs and was greeted so warmly by the staff. They offered sangria which I got to try on my third night (it was amazing, total game changer for sangria) and I was showed to my shared room. The beds were the comfiest beds I’ve ever felt while traveling, the bunks were pretty private considering there were eight of us in a room, everything was so clean, the bathrooms were beautiful and roomy, which is weird to say but when traveling I suppose that’s one of the little things. I couldn’t believe how nice it was. They offered fantastic tours, and nightly in-hostel events like “Mama’s Soup” or Sangria. The free breakfast was so good and offered a pretty wide variety. Everything was so perfect! Lost Inn Lisbon set the standard for me in terms of hostels. Plus it made Lisbon a winner in my book. I didn’t expect anything out of Lisbon but when I left all I wanted was to go back.

Unfortunately…..there’s also hostels that are more on the hostile side. When I was in Barcelona, my hostel there was Casa Kessler and it was awful. Everyone was cramped, whether it was the bathrooms, the kitchen, the common room, or quarters. I got the dreaded top bunk and I didn’t have enough space in it to even sit up. My locker was teeny tiny so I used it only to hold my dirty laundry. The staff there was unapologetically rude. They couldn’t be bothered by anything, not even to check me in. I stood waiting for at least 30 minutes before the staff finished their discussion in front of me, to check me in. This made what I had hoped to be my favorite destination, awful. Even my fellow bunkmates were rude, and I can’t blame them. When we were piled on top of each other night after night with zero privacy, I’d be rude too. Also don’t get me wrong Barcelona is a stunning city with incredible history, and who could miss out on Gaudi’s architecture? Everyone should see Barcelona once, but boy was it tough for me to love it the same way as Lisbon.

My most recent hostel experience was in New Orleans, I stayed at Site 61. This was an interesting hostel because appearance wise and location wasn’t the best, it wasn’t as high tech as Lost Inn Lisbon, but the people were a million times more friendly then in Barcelona. So much so that staying in for a day was sometimes the best thing to do. I would grab my morning coffee and sit in the common room and chat with the staff as they would come by, some would sit down with me and we’d laugh at commercials and whatever else was on the tv. It’s that damn southern hospitality it’s somethings so incredible I have even thought of going back down to New Orleans to just visit them.

Where you lay your head matters. In some cases it can make or break a trip. Now obviously always check reviews before going and remember that there will always be things that are completely out of control i.e. snoring bunkmates, bad bunk placement, but the rest can always be avoided by checking the places reviews. Use your tools, google is your friend. But the important thing to do in hostels is socialize, everyone there has one thing in common, travel. Talk about it.

Naturally Urban

Many have heard of random places throughout Japan that boast an uncommon amount of wildlife like foxes, rabbits, cats. In Nara, it’s deer. The deer have been a staple part of the cities life that without them the city wouldn’t be the same. What has caused such a high population? Legends, of course.

The legends go like this, when the city was built the god Takemikazuchi arrived on a white deer to protect the city. They are the steeds of the Gods and messing with them comes with consequences. Up until the good ol days of 1637 it was punishable by death to harm one of these deer, unfortunately after World War II they were no longer considered sacred and were stripped of the status, which I’m sure the deer themselves didn’t notice….but they are still national treasures. Talk about a demotion though.

The deer themselves are considered wild but act quite tame. They mind their business unless they want something and that something is usually always food. Shika-Senbei are available for purchase all throughout Nara park, these are essentially deer crackers. Pretty tasteless and have a cardboard consistency which I learned through trial and error the same way I learned to not put them in my back pocket or you might find a deer trying to get too friendly. But the deer go crazy and will chase you down for them, the more polite deer will kindly bow for the crackers, a lovely trick I’m sure was taught by the humans around them.

This city is a must do for any animal lover! The day I spent in Nara Park was completely magical and left me feeling like a modern Snow White. All in all if you find yourself in Japan take a weekend and go down to Nara, won’t regret it.

House of the Rising Sun

New Orleans

Intrigue

Spirit

Rebirth


I’m going to keep moving. I don’t know what’s in my cards even though I’ve had them read. But I’ll keep moving. I was waiting for my mom after work while looking at cheap tickets. And there it was New Orleans round trip for $75. So off I went again. When I landed at night the city didn’t look special. So when my first day came around I lounged in the common room of the hostel for most of the morning and into the afternoon until I decided to not waste a vacation. I walked two miles to French quarter and immediately went in search of voodoo stores. I felt at home in them. The spirituality of each store was tangible. Each gris-gris bag and voodoo doll had an aura around it, when picked up you could feel the energy. The books felt like they had answers in ways that can’t be written down. The smell of herbs and ash stayed with me throughout the week.

I tried to make time to visit other locations within the city. Parks and zoos. However I always felt a pull to the voodoo stores and French quarter. The lively music through the streets and the smell of herbs mixed with wasted beer spilled on the hot street made this area seem like a zombie. Close to death but just alive enough to rattle you.Having just left Puerto Rico the energy of New Orleans felt so similar. The music, the chatter, the welcoming nature and southern hospitality. Although the city has its past with Mother Nature. Walking through the city a careful eye could notice lines along many houses. This was a marker of where the water reached in Katrina, on many of the houses it matched my height; which I can imagine must’ve been horrifying for those involved. Even in Puerto Rico we never reached the point of insane flooding. But we too just had our Category Five, Hurricane Maria.I didn’t realize until my vacation came to an end. While last minute gift shopping an older lady stopped me and asked where I was from. After I told her her eyes filled with empathy. She explained that she too had to leave her home in New Orleans but now was returning. She embraced me and told me everything would be okay, time heals, and people will always rebuild. This was the most important encounter in New Orleans. It reminded me that even though times are tough the human spirit is hard to break and we always persevere. New Orleans will stay with me and every so often I feel the urge to book a ticket and go back, to soak in the music and air again.