The unexpected challenge of traveling

One of the greatest feelings of accomplishments I have is right after I have booked a flight for a major vacation. I finally pulled the trigger and finally made the time for me and for one of my greatest passions, which is to travel. This means the opportunity to have my mind expanded beyond what I know, to meet people I would never meet in my day-to-day life, and to see that there are other ways people live vastly different lives from mine. I think for instance of the people who work at the coffee plantation I visited in Kona, the fishermen I saw on a tour of the Mekong Delta in South Vietnam, and the volunteer at the San Satiro church in Milan who told me about the history of the tromp l’oeil painting at the front of the chapel.

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The Holualoa Coffee Plantation near Kona, Hawai’i (Feb 2016)

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A fishing canoe on the Mekong Delta in Vietnam (Jan 2015)

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San Satiro Church’s trompe l’oeil in Milan, Italy (Sept 2015)

What I typically do not think about when I first book a trip is the challenge of it. As I traveled more in the last several years, I have realized that booking a ticket is only the first step for those of us who don’t have unlimited funds and who see the time we spend traveling as one of the most important fruits of the hard work we put in at our jobs day in and day out.

Now that you have locked yourself in with a ticket, it’s time to actually plan the trip. This means booking hotel reservations, researching transportation, making sure you identify what you want to do in the place you are visiting and make any necessary arrangements to do it. After all, you are committing your time and money, two things most of us do not have in abundance. This is probably more time consuming than most of us bargained for. I imagine some people would prefer to avoid this type of work altogether and so they forgo vacations.

When I prepare for a trip in fact, I find myself drawing on administrative and coordinating skills I have used professionally. The undervalued skill of planning ahead, if done right, can save you money and increase the value of your time, yet it is time-consuming and as a result can be stressful.

If this unexpected challenge of traveling sounds like too much pressure, there is also an unexpected satisfaction in planning a trip. This satisfaction lies in seeing the fruits of your research bear out, of arriving at that hostel whose Yelp reviews you pored over to find out that it indeed is the friendly place that people promised and that the gamble you took by not booking a twice as expensive hotel room was worth it. It is the satisfaction you get from biking around Honolulu to a restaurant slightly off the beaten trail of Waikiki because you figured out it made sense to save money and forgo a third day with a rental car. This satisfaction lies at the intersection of money saved and memories created. There is something unexpectedly fulfilling about a great experience created out of research and limited financial resources.

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Snakes on Elaine: Trying on a new scarf during a Mekong Delta tour in Vietnam (Jan 2015)

So with this reflection on the challenge and satisfaction of traveling, I offer you posts of travel tips and stories for those of you who do not have unlimited time or unlimited funds to hire people with time to plan your trip. Based on recent travels to places like Croatia, Hawaii, Southeast Asia, and the California Coast, I’ll share with you tips and tricks to traveling. These posts are intended for the middle class worker who rightfully wants to take a restful, relaxing, and enriching vacation but feels to overwhelmed to plan & thus forgoes traveling altogether. It is intended for single women and men who don’t want their solo status to hinder their sense of adventure. It is for people who like saving money when they can but know that sometimes it is worth it to spend a little. Based on my own successes and mistakes, I will help you travel better and in the process feel more confident about your ability to independently plan a vacation and enjoy the fruits of your labor.