One of my lovely roommates turned 25 earlier this month. To celebrate, she invited nine of her closest girlfriends to join her for a vacation in Puerto Rico. Talk about ambitious!
10 young women + 5 nights + 4 bedrooms + 2 futons = 1 trip of a lifetime!
It was also a time to reflect. I thought about my place in the world, my perspective, my hopes, dreams and motives and, of course, my faith. I decided to come up with a list--mainly for the wanderluster in me, but also for you because if you're reading this, it's probably of interest to you. Here's what I want to always remember when I travel, whether domestically or internationally...
Don't do the usual.
Don't do what you'd normally do in the town you live in. The point is to experience the world from someone else's perspective. The first day I was in Puerto Rico I ordered a side of fries and I immediately regretted that decision. I thought to myself: "Of all the options, why did I have to go and be so basic?" From that point on, I challenged myself to truly immerse myself in the culture and cuisine whenever possible.
Don't do it for the gram.
Trust me, the world knows you're on vacation. They can tell by your Snaps, Facebook check ins, Insta posts and tweets. But don't let that be the sole reason for your escapades. The people following you are likely doing so because they already find you cool in some way, so try not to think of this as an opportunity to humble brag or clog people's feeds. In fact, you'll likely get more Likes the more spread out your photos are anyway. Absolutely take photos, flattering ones at that. Select the best filters when posting them on your social feed. But seek to strike a balance. Don't forget to enjoy the moment. Every single event won't require a camera, for the memories you'll make will be worth far more.
Take your time while on vacation--and through life, for that matter. You won't ever get that moment back, so take it in. Marvel at the beauty of it. Cry if you have to. Yell to the mountaintops and ignore those who may think you're crazy. To put it in perspective, hiking isn't my favorite thing to do. While hiking through the tropical rainforest, I was already anticipating our next stop: the beach. Stick bugs and spiders that made themselves disappear were of no interest to me. So I found myself wanting it to be over almost as soon as it began. In that moment, I had to remind myself to take my time and be grateful that I could experience wildlife like I never had before. I remembered to check myself and it paid off.
Don't say no.
Unless, of course, you're asked to do something dangerous. Like actually dangerous and not at all thrilling, which excludes skydiving, hot air ballooning, rollercoasters, and the likes. What I'm saying is: be willing to try most things at least once. The saying "don't knock it til' you try it" exists for a reason. A whole world of adventure exists just beyond your comfort zone. Take that first step and explore it.
Don't spend more than you have to.
I don't know about you, but I'm no trust fund kid, so I'm watching every dime. I like to say that I'm living a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget. The best advice I can give you for doing the same is to shop around and don't spend more than you have to for anything. The key is to plan and stick to a budget--you'd be surprised by how far it can go. This trip, including airfare, accommodations and spending money, cost me roughly $1,000. It can be done.
Don't have a bad attitude.
You may think there's no way a group of ten twenty-something women can't travel together without drama or chaos, but my friends and I have proven otherwise. We all had very different personalities--whether reserved or talkative or adventurous or reluctant to try new things. And somehow, very organically, our trip went off without a hitch. I think it's because we had came in with the right attitude. Vacations were meant to be enjoyed, so act like it! Leave your bad mood, selfishness and laziness back at home, for they will get you nowhere. In fact, seek to eliminate them in your daily life all together.
The reality is that many people in our country and around the world don't have the liberty to travel for leisure. It isn't to be taken for granted but to be grateful for. I'm grateful for every single moment--even being at the mercy of a mangrove channel while kayaking in the dark of night. More times than I can count, I was whacked over the head by one as my teammate and I struggled to make our way to Laguna Grande. After much beating, we finally got to the bay where we saw the sky lit with stars like never before. We also met glowing friends, the Pyrodinium Bahamense, a microscopic plankton that produce natural light at the touch of your hand. The beating was worth it and that adventure alone showed me how I operate under pressure and attack. I think that's reflective of travel in general. Although you go somewhere that isn't part of your daily schedule, you take who you are with you. Each time, your knowledge of self deepens.
To travel means to make a journey. I believe it's possible to both lose yourself and find yourself in it. That's what makes life deleesh.