Tag Archives: travel

An alcoholic abroad

Halfway through week 17 of TSM, things are going decently well.  I’ve cut my drinking roughly in half, so I feel good about that, even though I’m having trouble cutting down any lower.  The hangovers on naltrexone are so epically bad, I think half the motivation not to drink is just out of fear.  It’s amazing how much it’s possible to throw up on an empty stomach.  That kind of misery needs to be avoided.

For that reason, I’m considering not taking naltrexone during the two weeks I’ll be in Europe.  I’m worried about setting back my progress, but on the other hand, I want to be able to party hardy–especially in Amsterdam and Berlin–without spending the whole next day writhing in a hostel bunk bed.

I don’t know how much I’ll be on social media while I’m gone, but look up the hashtag #drinkingeurope to check in on my adventures.

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Travel blogger privilege

As I prepare for my next big trip, I’ve been reading a lot of travel blogs searching for advice on ways to cut costs.  A common theme that exists across travel blogs is the insistence that anyone can afford it if they just try hard enough, and that’s a really ignorant idea that’s dripping with privilege.

I do agree that most people in the Western world living above the poverty line can budget in a way to make travel a priority if they want to.  I’m a lower-middle-class white woman living in a big city who is able to travel, and yes, there are definitely things I could do to be able to afford to travel more frequently.  My rent would be significantly cheaper if I had roommates or lived in a less desirable area.  I’d save money on food if I brought sack lunches to work more often.  I could opt to have really shitty internet that barely works for about a fifth of the price I currently pay.  I could stop going to rock shows.  The fact that I’m not willing to give up those things impedes my ability to budget for traveling.  That’s a choice I make.

But so many people–all over the world and here at home in the US–don’t even have the option to choose whether they want to budget for traveling or not, because their wages are too low and their expenses too high.  It’s not an option for them to cut back on spending, because they’re already only spending on basic necessities.  Suggesting that they could backpack across Europe if they budgeted a little better is insulting and oblivious to reality.

Traveling is a luxury and a privilege.  Even if you’re living out of a backpack and staying in hostel dorms, it’s a luxury and a privilege.  No, not anyone can do it.  I’m lucky that I’m going to have the chance to go to Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin this fall.  I’m lucky I’m in that position.  I recognize that, and I’m grateful for it.  I don’t take it for granted.

South Africa, January 2016

Well, it’s been a bit over a year since my trip to South Africa, and I still haven’t written about it.  It’s time, isn’t it?

Back in fall of 2015, at our mutual birthday party, my sister brought up that she was going to South Africa and was looking for a companion.  Turns out that her South African boyfriend Francois had run out of a US work visa and was back home, and she was planning on visiting him and his family in January 2016.  They said she could bring a guest, and I lucked out, because her best friend couldn’t go.  I was next in line!

I put the whole trip on my credit card, having just been to Greece a few months before.  But nearly $2000 in debt later, I still consider it the best trip of my life!

She got there a few days before I did.  I wanted to give her and Francois some privacy (in his parents’ house…) and also, honestly, I was scared about flying with my only sibling, for my parents’ sake.  I got a flight on Lufthansa, which is the best airline I’ve ever taken.  They gave me so much wine I couldn’t have stood if I wanted to, and when I woke up, I was in Munich with a long layover!  I immediately took the train out to Marienplatz.

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New Town Hall

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Streets of Marienplatz, Munich

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From my research, it sounded like Marienplatz was pretty hipster, or kind of the Logan Square of Munich, so that’s where I went because I figured it’d feel like home.  I got a sandwich and fries and a beer at a local pub.  Then I got back on the eternal flight.

From the airport in Johannesburg, I immediately pulled out onto the freeway in a rental car, from the right side of the car but on the left side of the four-lane freeway.  It was the most terrifying drive of my life.  I’m not sure how I made it to Francois’ family’s house in Eloff, but after many a pot-hole-ridden dirt road, I saw my sister again.  We had a nice evening in Francois’ sister’s hot tub, and we spent the night there.

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Driving on the wrong side

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South African countryside

The next morning I had a long drive out to Hazyview, outside Kruger National Park.  I was staying at a hostel in Hazyview and then going on a safari in the park the next day.  It was a four-hour drive (again, on the left) over winding roads through the mountains of South Africa.  I was cruising and playing glam rock on my phone and enjoying the scenery.  Eventually I got to the town of Nelspruit as it was getting dark, and my phone had just died, so I decided to pull over and look for the charger.

And it was gone.  I was in a grocery store parking lot, digging under the seats anxiously, as people started to move closer and closer, circling my car.  I was an easy target.  I couldn’t stay there, so I kept driving as best I could based on the map I’d printed out.  It took me into the woods, and I ended up in a vacant lot.  By this point it was pitch black, and I was certain I was going to die.  I was about to get murdered in the woods of the South African countryside.  I drove in aimless circles through the woods, crying like a maniac, trying to come up with any idea to save myself.

Then I remembered: I drove past a tiny hospital in Nelspruit.  If I could remember how to get back there, that was my best option for a safe place to find the charger and charge my phone.

Even luckier, though, was that along the way I saw a light in the distance and found a restaurant.  The parking lot was lit up brightly, so I felt safe enough to get out of my car and keep digging for the charger.  And I found it!  But this was Francois’ South African charger, and it turned out it wasn’t very compatible with my American phone.  It zapped about 1% battery life into my phone, and then it wouldn’t charge anymore.  That 1% had to get me directions to my hostel in a hurry.

By some miracle I got there.  The room was full of bugs and geckos, and I was afraid to even pull the sheets down on the bed because I was sure there were snakes in it.  But I got drunk at the hostel bar and got a few hours of sleep before my safari.

The safari was excellent.  I booked a group safari because it was more affordable, but it turned out nobody else was scheduled for that day with my chosen tour company, so it was just me in a giant Jeep with a very sweet and incredibly well-informed guide.  Of the Big Five, I saw all but a leopard, as they’re notoriously elusive.  But elephants, lions, zebras, buffalo, hippos, giraffes, various monkeys, warthogs, rhinos, and more all made an appearance!  Kruger National Park was gorgeous and I hope to go back there someday.

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On a safari

That night after the safari, my mom did the sweetest thing.  Because I’d texted her the day before about all the bugs and geckos at the hostel, she booked me a swanky hotel room nearby.  My parents don’t have tons of money, but for a splurge of $100 USD, she was able to get me a really nice, fancy room.  I was so grateful!  The hotel was surrounded by streams, and signs warned of alligators and hippos coming onto the property.  I had a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant ($20 USD for a three-course meal and a bottle of wine), and a hippo emerged in the yard!

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I got back to Francois’ family’s house outside Johannesburg the next evening, and the following morning, we got a flight on Mango Airlines to Durban.

Let’s talk for a minute about domestic travel in South Africa.  You don’t have to take off your shoes.  You can bring liquids of any kind and size.  You can fly without your fucking passport if you have a photo of it on your phone.  So yeah.  This is in stark contrast from the time I flew from Greece to Canada to the US, and had to go through an extra security checkpoint in Canada just because I was flying to the States.  Okay.

From Durban, Francois took us to his family friend’s cute little hut near the beach in Hibberdene.

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Passed out on the way to Hibberdene

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We spent the next four days swimming in the ocean, feeding the ducks and other birds, eating veggie pot pies, and drinking from the time we woke up until we went to bed.  I wish I could provide more info than that, but we stayed consistently drunk and in the sun.  It was one of the best times in my life.

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Beach community

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Bridge to the ocean

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My bedroom in the loft of the round hut

On our last day, Francois took us back to Durban, where we went to the combination aquarium/water park, Ushaka Marine World.  It was my first time at a water park in years, and on top of that, you could drink!  We spent the day shotgunning beers between water slides, and then we toured the aquarium.

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We finished off with dinner and drinks on the pier, and the next morning we flew back to Johannesburg.  Then it was back to the US for Laura and me.

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This time we flew together, and again, I was scared for my parents because no one should ever have their only children on the same flight together.  Then again, maybe most people aren’t as terrified of flying as I am.  I have to say, it was nice to have a travel companion for the 21-hour flight.

Needless to say I drank a lot, and Laura imbibed quite a bit herself.  We had a short layover in Frankfurt, where I accidentally left the book Colin had bought me for Christmas.  If anyone has a copy of The Plague, I need to read the last couple depressing chapters.

All in all, my trip to South Africa was amazing.  It was all fun, but my time in Hibberdene by the beach was best of all.  I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Endless thanks to Francois and his family for their hospitality and welcoming.  I hope to visit again someday.

Next up: Amsterdam and Berlin with my work-friend Julia!

Life & Love

Being that this winter in the Midwest has been exceptionally cold and snowy, I naturally can’t help missing California, especially since their winter has been exceptionally warm and sunny.  Actually, though, the weather hasn’t affected me much (minus the car crash) because I’m never outside.  Sometimes I have to walk a few blocks from the el to a venue or a friend’s house, but for the most part, I’m always out of the elements.

Regardless, California is such a lovely place, and I can see myself possibly moving back there someday.  Chicago is where I want to spend the rest of my groupie years, though.  It’s a great place for it.  Once I’m too old for that, in my thirties, I’ll focus on traveling instead.  Hopefully I’ll have a little money and be able to explore foreign continents as authentically as possible.  After I’ve accomplished a good amount of my travel goals, that’s when I’ll start considering having a house and putting down serious roots.  Since I’ll have seen more of the world, I’ll have a better idea of where I want my home base to be.  Maybe it’ll be California.  Maybe it won’t.

It’s cool to have sort of a basic map for the road of life ahead, because I spent my whole life up to age 20 waiting for the now.  The life I’ve had for the past five years–but especially the past year–is what I’ve always been working toward.  But it’s going to come and go, and I was never really sure what I’d do next, besides write my autobiography.  Now I have plans of seeing Europe and South America and then DIY-building my dream home somewhere.  I also want to get more involved with feminist activism and mentoring young girls.  Now look, I realize I might be an unlikely role model, but I think I have a lot to offer because I’m realistic.  I’m not gonna bullshit kids.  I can give advice and friendship, but I’ll also be honest about stuff–like, say, the fact that most drugs are actually okay in moderation, or that it’s fine to change to fit in as long as you’re still true to yourself, or that fun should always trump responsibility and conventionality.

Someone recently told me that I was wasting my time by doing this casual dating stuff, and I thought about it for awhile simply due to how wrong it was.  Clearly, my time is not being wasted when I’m enjoying myself so much and having such meaningful interactions with men.  When I’m positively on cloud nine dancing around with someone and hugging and kissing and singing my heart out, feeling so momentarily in love, nothing is being wasted.  Just because we all have other sexual partners too doesn’t mean the way we feel about each other isn’t genuine and special and beautiful.  Nothing of the sort.

Different romantic partners can fill a different need in a person’s life.  Some girls give really great head.  Other girls have really great conversations.  There are all sorts of needs to fulfill, and I like that I can fill one or another need in a guy’s life, just as different guys fill the different needs in my life.  It’s all relative to experiences, anyway.  For some guys, I’m that girl who’s awesome in bed, and for other guys, I’m the one with the highest intellect.  It’s totally relative to each person’s lifestyle and other partners.  But none of us are less or more important for it.

Links Post

Fewer women are changing their last names after marriage!  And, they’re perceived as smarter for it!  Hooray for feminism and personal identity!

Concert etiquette. 

Just when I thought Cosmo couldn’t get any more absurd and offensive, I learned that Cosmo for Latinas exists.

Funny notes from little kids.

Someday when I’m not too poor to even buy regular soap, I’m totally going to be all about making my own, organic, natural beauty supplies.

Affordable travel ideas for 2014.  Of course, “affordable” is relative.

And just in case you somehow managed to forget, Downton Abbey is back!

Update

I got back down to my goal weight of 115, which I feel awesome about.  I look pretty damn good, too.  Hopefully I can start wearing size 1 jeans again, instead of 3’s.

I need to start doing some research to see if BDSM is right for me.  I never thought it was, but considering how sexually fucked up I am at this point, it’s starting to seem appealing.  Vanilla sex has weirded me out for a while now.  I like it violent.

As far as I’m concerned, anything north of Irving isn’t really Chicago.  But, it looks like I’ll probably end up living up there.  If I refer to living in Wisconsin, what I mean is Rogers Park.

How ironic that I had to quit my AR job in California the same day they prepared the offer of full-time, permanent employment, right?  Oh well.  Turns out they were really happy with me and I let them down.  Figures.

But, I talked to the lady I know at the staffing agency in Chicago, and she’s going to send me to interview with the company I used to love working for.  Yayayayayeaahhhhwoooo!

I hope to travel out of the country within the next 18 months.  Either Europe or South America.  It won’t happen, but keeping it in mind might help motivate me.

It’s amazing how lonely I’ve been, even though I’m surrounded by family all the time.  At least tomorrow night some friends said they’ll go out for my birthday.