the travel-self

September 25, 2014 § 1 Comment

Malaga at night

I was hanging halfway out the window in the dark, dimly aware of the sea in the distance as I watched the C-1 line trains rattling past on the way to Malaga, when I realized that I would’ve been doing the same thing in any number of places. I’d actually been there before three times this year alone, and this is my first time in Spain. Not only that, but it was possibly my favourite part of traveling.

How extraordinary, I thought, and promptly forgot about it.

Three hours and too much food later, I circled back to the idea of routines on the long walk up the hill to my hotel. I remembered other nomads telling me that they travel in search of new experiences and then explaining their rituals in the same breath, even the most scatterbrained and last-minute of them; I thought about people who need checklists when they leave for work but, as frequent travelers, know exactly how their days abroad will go. Was it possible that those of us who find ourselves when we’re the only familiar thing around stumble upon patterns when we’re adrift, patterns we can’t find when we’re surrounded by constant familiarity? Is our travel-self our favourite self? Is that why we’re so often on the road? And if that’s the case, is it necessarily a bad thing?

My ritual is taking time to enjoy being transient. It’s isolation that I crave – an unfamiliar view I can’t retrace from memory, somewhere I won’t leave a mark. I could be watching trains or the sea, a busy restaurant or clouds beneath an airplane: there’s a thrill in being a stranger with nothing to fall back on but myself. There’s an even bigger thrill in stillness and silence, being alone with the knowledge that I only need to reemerge and act upon the world on my own terms.

There are worse things than being a creature of habit – mine brought me to the Mediterranean coast to figure this out, then kept me up late to write it down before a day trip to Seville.


Spain, and What Comes After

September 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

The thing about being a writer who loves to travel and trying to blog about it is that both travel and writing are time-consuming. There’s little room for looking ahead when you’re, say, spending five weeks in Paris in the spring. (It was lovely, even though it was work.) I didn’t have time to blog when I went to the Black Sea coast with my friends, and I probably won’t have much to say over the next two weeks, when I’ll be on Costa del Sol. I’ve been working on short stories, but they’re not blog fare; the muse is fickle and the wifi is spotty away from home.

I’m starting grad school in October. It might make traveling harder – I’m already daydreaming about summer hols – but it’s a cultural studies degree that’ll help me be a better nomad down the line. I chose it at 24 for the same reasons I chose sociology after my gap year at 19: culture is endlessly fascinating, and having a toolkit to better understand it brings a measure of discipline to curiosity. Working in the travel industry, while invaluable as an experience, can only get me so far.

So where does this leave the blog?

I’ve been trying to answer that question ever since it came up in my grad school interview. The answer came to me when I considered deleting the account and found I couldn’t bring myself to do it: I’ve been a blogger since 2006, and it’s as much a part of my identity as everything else I love, from talking about songs well into the early hours to putting the map away and venturing into new cities like I have all the time in the world. Built to Roam should reflect all of that.

Going into specifics is trickier, but here goes. The thing that came up the most is how much I miss writing about music. I used to review something every day, but that was when I had the workload of a highschooler. A good way to go about it now would be to talk about the music I recommend to my friends, which I’ll be starting as soon as I come back from Spain. I won’t be doing much traveling because of school, but half my time online is spent on travel websites and inspiration boards; I’ll share my findings and bucket list entries here instead of sighing and clicking out of the tab. Art, of course, will take up a good chunk of future posts, because when left to my own devices I’ll somehow wind up either in a museum or on a gallery’s artists page. There’s a whole world of wonderful stuff out there, and there’s no reason to hoard any of it.

Above all, I want this to be an adventure, because that’s how I live and what I want to inspire in others. In that spirit, I’ll leave you with this photo of gorgeous Costa del Sol – I have a plane to catch!

Nerja Beach

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