I’ve made a lot of mistakes while travelling. A lot. I’ve been ripped off, I’ve lost things, I’ve spent too much money, and I’ve wasted valuable travel time on things that could have been avoided. There are certain mistakes I don’t think are worth making at all – things like spending too much on credit card fees, not checking if your phone plan covers data roaming, and drinking that damn glass of orange juice in Morocco – but there are a lot of mistakes I think are OK to make once or twice, or even ones I think that we should all make quite a bit in our travels. Here are a few of the “mistakes” I’ve enjoyed making over the past ten years of travelling, and some stories detailing when I’ve made them myself.
Three days ago I was there, in the place you see photographed above: Cinque Terre, Italy (and that, specifically, is the village of Vernazza). I had an amazing time in Italy, my sixth time to the country; I ate lots of great food, went hiking on beautiful trails, sat by the water with glasses of wine, drank far too many espressos, and even met some handsome Italians (that always helps). And then, with one two hour flight from Pisa and a bus from Stansted airport, I was at home in my flat, unpacking and doing laundry and wondering whether or not I could eat enough sushi to warrant the minimum delivery surcharge (spoiler: I could, even though I ordered so much they delivered it to me with four sets of chopsticks).
Something I often think about – and quite frankly, something I often worry about – is whether or not I’m addicted to travelling. That, perhaps, I’m too consumed by it, and, what frightens me the most, is that I’m often the happiest when I’m on the road. So what does it mean to be addicted to travelling?
When I was growing up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, a mid-sized city smack-dab in the middle of the Canadian prairies, I used to lose myself in books – they were a way to take adventures. Later, in my teenage years, I became completely obsessed with the idea of travelling. I studied maps, I read National Geographic magazines, I watched as many travel documentaries as I could. And while I come from a family of travellers – my parents lived in a van in Europe in the 70s, and my sister went backpacking with friends around Australia and Asia just out of high school – most of the people I was seeing on TV or in magazines were men. I hadn’t yet discovered women like Freya Stark or Dervla Murphy, and blogs weren’t even a thing. The travellers I saw were weather-beaten and bearded, their names Pete and David and Jack. One of the first real backpackers I met, the one who helped actualise my wanderlust, was also male.
So, without further ado, here are fourteen amazing female travel bloggers – they are travellers, they are businesswomen, they are photographers, they are writers, they are innovators, and, to me, they are inspirational. They also happen to be my friends.
I once met a girl named Courtney while I was travelling through Nicaragua. She was tall and rail thin, her body covered in tattoos. From Seattle originally, we met on a volcano-boarding tour just outside of Léon, a small colonial city where all the buildings were painted dark pinks and greens and blues. We’d spent the day climbing Cerro Negro Volcano and then riding on sleds down the side of it, hurtling ourselves down the soft black ash.
“I just got this one before I left for Central America… look.” She instructed me to pull down the back of her t-shirt, revealing sprawling script across her shoulders. I recognised the words; it was a quote by Saint Augustine. I had heard the quote a few times before, seen it on a mug or read it on a blog. This was before it became one of the most popular travel quotes splashed across the internet, found on thousands of Pinterest boards, the text always written over the image of a pristine beach or a young woman standing on a mountaintop, her blonde hair blowing in the wind.
The thing is… I hate this quote.
I recently got an email from a reader; let’s call her Olivia. In her email, Olivia told me about her plans after college and of how she was excited to get a job in the field that she studied. She then asked me this question:
“I love the idea of travelling; I love reading travel blogs and studying maps. The thing is, I don’t really know if I want to travel beyond a couple of weeks away at a time, and only with my boyfriend or my friends. I like my life here and I’m happy with what I’ve created. I feel like a fraud by saying that it’s not really my dream to travel. What do you think? Am I being crazy?”
When I was a little girl I really only dreamt of one thing: to travel. It’s what I wrote in all my journals, it’s what I told people I wanted to do, it’s what I thought about when I couldn’t sleep. I would make lists of all the places I’d go and all the things I’d see. But is this dream for everyone?
This year, I will say that I’m thankful for the things I normally list: my friends and family, my health, the health of those I love, my job, my flat, this blog and all of the amazing people who read it, and so on. But this year, I’m thankful for something else, too: for being present.
My mum has been saying this to me for years: be present. I’ve also thought that to be present is a key quality I want and need from the other important people in my life, whether they’re friends or romantic partners. So what do I mean by being present? I mean to be fully engaged and aware, to take in what’s going on around you, and to appreciate the life you’re living. To really listen when someone’s talking to you. To take some time to look around you when you walk somewhere. To actively seek new and fun experiences, even in your hometown. I’ve felt it a lot when I’ve travelled, but it’s not as easy to do when you’re living in the same city for a while, or living a more repetitive life.