By Melissa B. Doman
So, it’s July 2011 and I had just finished two of the hardest years of my life: graduate school, also known as countless hours of reading, writing, internship, class discussions, and wiping the sweat away from my forehead while awaiting my final semester grades.
I had told myself during my second year that I wanted to celebrate my graduation by going on a long trip…
…but, I figured I’d only do it if someone came with me. Why? Because I’ve always gone to foreign countries with other people, never solo. There was always comfort in knowing I would be journeying internationally with a familiar face.
My final semester of grad school came and I decided I wanted to go trekking in Central America, specifically Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala — areas of the world I had yet to explore — and areas where the backpacking tours were not for the faint of heart. They would require living with the bare minimum for one month and not being afraid to get down and dirty.
For me, that was awesome! For some of my friends, it sounded like their worst nightmare.
I was confronted with a choice: Do I go on this trip alone and try to get to know the folks I’m assigned with? Or do I forego the trip and do something closer to home because it would be easier? I opted for the former option, and let me tell you, I’m so intensely happy I did.
Make no mistake, going on a backpacking tour for four weeks with a bunch of strangers was definitely a risk. Would I like the people? Would I be able to handle the constant travel? Would my possessions be safe…?
But how would I know if I was capable of going on the trip unless I tried?
In July 2011, I packed a large backpack and flew to San Jose, Costa Rica into the unknown. Scary? Yes! But the minute I landed, I was thrilled and so thankful I had the lady guts to take on this endeavor on my own without knowing a single soul.
We often freak ourselves out ahead of a big change. But once that change happens, and you arrive at your destination, you see why you ultimately did it in the first place.
My experience challenged me in ways I never thought possible, but it showed me new things about my stamina as a traveler, my tolerance for ambiguity, and my open-mindedness to trying new things.
After all, if I can handle sleeping in a hostel in the middle of a jungle on an island in Lake Nicaragua with a hornets nest in the corner of my room and freezing water for a shower… I have a feeling anyone can.
Let me leave you with a few questions to pose to yourself if you’re considering doing some solo globetrotting:
You may find that you have fear and hesitations about traveling off into the infinite abyss. These are often unfounded and can be conquered by just biting the bullet and taking a leap of faith… and doing so will be a good test of your adaptability, resiliency, and ability to tolerate discomfort.
Do yourself a favor, and just try!
Melissa Doman is a Master’s-level human development professional, health & wellness blogger, public speaker, and globetrotter from Bethesda, Maryland. She has traveled internationally to 27 countries and lived abroad in South Korea and Australia. She is passionate about challenging herself to grow through new experiences, personal development through international travel, and living life like someone left the gate open. Melissa has served as the Expert on Expatriate Emotional Health for Abroad101.com and is currently the in-house blogger for the In Her Shoes Foundation. You can read more about Melissa on her website at: melissadoman.squarespace.com.
…and how to get to them.
Mardis Gras, Fat Tuesday, Carnival… whatever you call today’s festival of plenty, we like to think of it as the official kickoff of the festival year. And the celebrate, we’ve compiled this list of 2014′s best festivals (including some opportunities to go!)
Get ready to party.
Holi Festival of Colors, India. March 13 to 23
- Signifying the beginning of spring, this national holiday culminates in an incredible explosion of color… literally. Participants spray each other with colored powder, which turns the whole place into a living rainbow.
- Want to go??Book your trip today and you could be headed to India in two weeks for this incredible festival!
St. Patrick’s Day. Dublin, Ireland. March 17, 2014
- Irish. Guiness. ‘Nuff said.
- Experience Ireland’s best craft beers on this invigorating three- or five-day brewery hop!
SXSW, Austin, Texas. March 7 to 16
- Music meets film meets tech at this hipster heaven that has historically introduced indie bands from around the country to the main stage. Nowadays it’s a haven for ideas… with some music on the side.
2014 FIFA World Cup, Brazil. June 12 to July 13
- The epitome of a world competition, this soccer spectacle draws fans from just about every country in the world to Brazil to watch 32 national teams battle it out in a round robin-turns-eliminate style tournament.
Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain. July 9 to 15
- Made internationally famous by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises, this local festival signifies the beginning of the bull fighting season in Spain. Which means there is plenty of wine and tapas to go around.
- Want to go??Check out our awesome trip to Pamplona for the event — including tours of the local area and wineries and premier balcony seating.
Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany. September 20 to October 5
- Beer. German beer. Two weeks of German beer. Pack your dirndl and lederhosen.Get your liver ready.
- Want to go??We’ve got a pending trip to the fest! Crave it and we’ll let you know when it’s available.
New Year’s Eve. Everywhere, World. December 31
- True, New Year’s is celebrated everywhere, but for a righteous way to ring in the New Year, check out our sailing trip to St. Barth’s. Then book a spot… there’s nothing like sun and sand to start the year out right.
Welp, the culmination of Hollywood Love Fest season hits us this weekend… Yes, the Oscars are nigh. But as we’ve watched the lovely dresses parade by at each awards show this season, we can’t help but think… isn’t it awesome when a film can sweep you away to another part of the world for two hours?
Yes. Yes it is.
But wouldn’t it be even better if you could actually visit those places you’ve seen on the silver screen?
Yes. Yes it would.
Fortunately, you can. Take a look at our trips to places featured in some of the best films. Then get packing!
TRIP: Craft Beer Hop in Ireland
TRIP: Yoga and Wine in Sonoma
FILM: La Dolce Vita
TRIP: Everyday Paleo Culture and Culinary Adventure
FILM: Zorba the Greek
TRIP: A Climbing Adventure in Greece
FILM: In Bruges
TRIP: Beercycling in Belgium
FILM: The Sun Also Rises
TRIP: Running of the Bulls in Pamplona
FILM: Eat. Pray. Love.
TRIP: Yoga Retreat in Bali
Have you seen a film that has inspired your dreams to travel? What was it? Where do you want to go?
Apparently Americans need to take more time off…
…at least, according to this little organization called the US Travel Association. Earlier this week, the LA Times printed an article noting that…
- “…more than 40% of American workers who receive paid time off finish the year without using all of their allotted vacation time.”
As most red-blooded, hard-working Americans might say… so what? America is one of the most productive nations in the world. Were it not for the Lean-In culture, would we have iPhones? eBooks? Status updates? Would we have a (relatively) functioning stock market or the most powerful military in the world? Maybe not.
Then again, maybe so. According to an article published in USA Today last summer, the US is the second most productive country in the world according to GDP per capita, and yet is “only marginally better than Germany and France, both developed countries that guarantee among the most vacation time.”
Not to mention the fact that of the happiest countries in the world — according to Forbes — the US ranks 11… after almost all of Scandinavia and Oceania. Countries in these two regions average around 25 vacation days per year (and anyone going anywhere is almost guaranteed to run across a Swedish tourist in any given corner of the globe).
It’s a given that not everyone can just traipse across the world on a whim, leaving their job behind for a few weeks — that’s not financially sustainable. Nor is it necessarily the best approach for families with children who have soccer practice and school to go to. And besides, isn’t vacation meant for stressful cross-country voyages on some of the most travel-clogged days of the year? (AKA visiting family during the holidays).
But it doesn’t have to be. Think about the last vacation you really enjoyed. Was it life-changing? Did you return feeling truly refreshed? Did you have an experience that you’ll never forget? Meet people who you still keep in touch with?
Weighed against all of the money in the world, vacations that really matter — those that have a lasting effect on your life — win every time.
Need more financial backing? The LA Times…
- “The study concluded that if Americans spent all of their allotted vacation time, the economy would gain an additional $160 billion in vacation spending and $21 billion in tax revenues, supporting 1.2 million jobs.”
Now… what’s holding you back? Tell us below.