Sunday, July 13, 2014

I went to Europe and learned about myself. How Cliché

I have always despised how travel seems to make people really pretentious. You know, your ex boyfriend goes to Korea to teach English, your good friend from high school spends a summer at an organic fig farm in Australia(only slightly fictional examples), and they come back way more annoying than you remember. "Oh Ruth," they say "You need to travel. You just don't know what the world has to offer!" Like they're so much better than me.  Like I'm small and stupid for not wanting to live out of backpack for months on end, or wear Birkenstocks, or eat endless amounts of noodles and weird fish. Every time I hear someone rave about how their travels have changed their perspective or taught them sooooo much about life, I satisfy my superiority complex by thinking that I don't need to go anywhere else to find myself. I'm intelligent enough to figure my shit out from home. A line from the show Daria plays in my head: "Life sucks no matter what, so don't be fooled by location changes."

The truth is, Birkenstocks are kind of in style this summer, and I've always been jealous of people who feel free to go somewhere else for an extended period of time. I mean the kind of jealousy where I never actually want to do it. I'm a homebody. It's not that I've never been anywhere-I'm just more of a "trips" person. A weekend in New York or Montreal, a week in Vancouver, or to my parent's cottage in Nova Scotia. A girl's trip to Vegas, Barbados. That's my kind of travel. I like my comfort zone. I like the people I know. I like doing laundry whenever I want, and eating lean protein and vegetables that I cooked in my own kitchen. And ok, I can totally see why well traveled people might think I'm sheltered and not very worldly, but I'm cool with that.

Thankfully I have a friend who can talk me into doing anything and going anywhere. Last month, she got me to step as far out of that comfort zone as I've been so far. We went to Europe for two weeks, just the two of us-one week each in Spain and Portugal. And yes, I know that's about the bare minimal time anyone from North America spends in Europe, and no, we didn't stray from the major cities (other than one day in Portugal on a private car tour). But I'm the kind of gal who spends Saturday nights at home re-reading Chuck Klosterman books and writing in a blog. So two weeks in Europe was a big deal for me. And now I get to be one of those super annoying people who goes on a trip, reevalulates life and feels the need to tell everyone about it. Because of course, I had an amazing experience and came home with my own set of revelations.

My first lesson started within an hour of landing in Spain, when we discovered that our baggage had been left behind on the layover in Dublin. To make me feel worse, I had recorded a YouTube video before I left Canada, showing what I planned to pack in my carry on. In that video I stated that I might pack a change of clothes, but probably not because I trusted the airline to get my luggage to Barcelona. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Fuck. So I had the clothes I wore for the long flight over, a pair of sweatpants in case it was cold on the plane, 2 pairs of extra underwear, and no makeup. Not even my eyebrow powder. Nothing. If you even kind of know me, you're probably thinking that I had some sort of meltdown. That's certainly what I would have predicted. But it turns out, I actually dealt with it ok. I didn't even cry. I just sort of felt like...well....this is happening. I went out and explored the city that first day in dirty clothes and absolutely no makeup. And I enjoyed it. I couldn't believe that I was the furthest away I'd ever been from home and all I had was a large tote bag full of books and magazines(which were apparently more important than toiletries). I was basically overcome with joy when our luggage was delivered to us around dinnertime on the second day. But I'm proud of how unexpectedly well I handled the whole situation, especially not being able to fill in my eyebrows. I learned that I can deal.

The moment we were reunited with our luggage
One of the books I had in my sparesly-packed tote bag was Stephen King's "On Writing", which is sort of half memoir, half instructional book. I love Stephen King, and I love writing so it seemed like a good choice. I always bring books with my when I go anywhere. Books make me feel comfortable, and give me something to do while nursing a hangover-which is what I was doing while reading this particular book, lying on the futon in our shabby rented apartment in Lisbon. I guess it's kind of a cop-out to say that I got any of my "travel" lessons while reading a book, lying on a couch, which I could have been doing at home. But I wasn't at home, I was in Portugal. Which automatically makes anything I did there more important.

Anyway, in the book, King encourages the reader (and hopeful writer) to write what is true to them. I know, he writes fiction, so it seems odd advice. I don't feel like getting into explaining it, just read the book if you want to get all his advice. But I started thinking about what feels true to me. And one thing that came to the front of my mind is that I am sick of writing and talking about makeup. Writing about makeup was never my plan-it just sort of happened. It's easy to talk about, it's non-controversial. It got me into the habit of writing, and then making videos on YouTube. But it's not what I really care about. I have other things to say, I have ideas and opinions.So if y'all don't mind I may switch gears with my blog. I'd like to step out of my comfort zone in a different way, and start writing about my opinions on current events, issues and politics. As one of my favourite lines in On Writing states (pg 148); "If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway."

On the topic of politics, one of the biggest things I realized while I was away is that I am ready to go back to school full time to finish my degree in Political Science. My journey through post-secondary education is a long blog post for another time. I've been putting off finishing my degree for any number of reasons, and I had been thinking that once again this September I'd work full time time and maybe take a class or two as I had done the previous year. But within days of arriving in Spain, and without putting much direct thought into the whole thing, I came to the realization that if I am going to finish my degree, now is the time. I have a lot of issues with university as an institution, but on a personal level I enjoy the time I spend taking classes. We'll see how long that attitude lasts now that I'm registered full time for the year. But it's happening, and I think it will at the very least give me some interesting things to write about.

That's not everything I learned about myself while I was away. I also discovered that I don't like anchovies, I feel kind of awkward around topless women at the beach, and I can't party like I'm 21 anymore. Or even like I'm 28. It was an amazing trip, and I'd love to tell you every detail about it. But I know how fucking boring it is to listen to other people's travel stories, so I'm going to leave it at that. Here's a photo. I hear they're worth a thousand words.

Cabo de Roca-The Westernmost point of Europe

I've been totally lazy on the blogging for a while now-like months. I think I was just feeling a bit lost and uninspired. Now that I've decided to take a new direction, and gotten through the post vacation depression (it was really rough this time), and moving into a new apartment I hope to get back to writing more frequently. As always, I really appreciate that you've taken the time to read this. If you have any exciting suggestions for future blog posts that might be more "issues" related, please let me know.

Oh, and if you really just want to hear about makeup, don't worry. Once summer is over and I can actually wear makeup without it melting off my face I'm sure I'll find my interests in all things superficial renewed.

As they say in Barcelona.....Goodbye!
(Because they speak English. We're the only ones too lazy to learn another language)