Chapter 3: The Blank Spaces on the Map

No One Can Tell You How to Travel

A friend posted about her discovery that she doesn’t have to be a stereotypical budget backpacker to be a twenty-something traveler.  She realized that if she wants to sleep on something nicer than someone else’s couch, that’s ok.  If every trip hits her in the health, maybe she should reevaluate what kinds of trips she takes.  Couchsurfing, hostel-hopping, and hitchhiking may not be her thing, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

She makes a good point.  I don’t mind crashing on couches, buses, or rooftops, and the more budget my travel is, the more I tend to like it, but I had to discover for myself that it’s because of the type of person I am, not because I read an article about the “Top Ten Things Every Twenty-Something Should Do Before Becoming a Corporate Drone” or whatever generic list they’re churning out these days telling you how to be unique and independent.

It took me a while to figure out that this may be the only time in my life that I can literally do whatever I want.  There are so many different ways to travel, and if I was unhappy with what I was doing (which I was), no one cares if I do something different.  If I need time alone to write, read, and think, I can get a private room somewhere and avoid talking to anyone.  I can learn how to hitchhike or upgrade to a first-class train seat.  I can skip the tourist “must-sees”, or stay long enough to truly see each one.

I can decide I don’t want to travel unless I can stay long enough to leave part of my heart in a place.

The first two months of my trip seem short and shallow, a slideshow of foreign places sliding past the train window.  Funny enough, the best part of that period is the fights I had with my sister.  She’s the only thing in my path at the time that has any of my heart, and once she left, I felt detached.  It’s crazy how living without roots can make the world look pointless.


Morocco stands out much more vividly in my mind because I allowed myself to slow down, orient myself, and get to know people.  Camping on a beachside cliff watching stars splattered across the sky more thickly than I’ve ever seen is cool and picturesque, but what made it vivid was the girls with whom I was sharing country songs and a whiskey bottle.  Making pancakes is so much more worthwhile when I see the look on the faces of my European friends who have only had crepes before.  Speaking Spanish with someone is better when we switch languages just to keep half the world from eavesdropping.

Once I stopped playing by what I thought were the travel rules and started making my own rules, I not only realized my need to connect, but also learned that I can take initiative every once in a while rather than allowing myself to be inexorably pulled along by what I know how to do.

No one was ever telling me how to travel; I simply needed to shift my perception.  Travel blogs are resources, not holy books.  As for those who say every millennial needs to budget travel–or travel at all–to have a complete life, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree.  I’m all for holding your breath and jumping in even if you’re apprehensive–if you truly want to adventure–but if you don’t want to, you’re not “missing” anything.

Travel how you want, or not at all.  You know yourself best.


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