As I prepare for my final trip out-of-town for the summer, I realize I’ve actually had quite the fabulous past year or so of travel. I’ve been to New Orleans, Seattle, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, Boston, Cedar Point, and places no one else would really recognize the names of.
I’m also far from rich and I don’t have a wealthy patron or anything, so I’ve had to be creative with my travel. At the same time, I consider myself a faux-fancy lady and, admittedly, am a bit of a creature of comfort. Somehow I’ve still managed to do all that traveling without really dipping into my savings and without having a single travel-related nervous breakdown. Now, I’m sure there are people who could give much more expert/practical advice, but here’s what I’ve learned over the past year of being a poor-yet-fancy poet jet-setter.
- Figure out which of your friends are good road trip buddies. – I’ve got 2 who are champions of the road trip. Find yours and drive places. It’s usually cheaper than flying if you have a buddy and more liberating than taking a bus. Silence isn’t bad. If you can be quiet with someone, I feel like that’s a good sign.
- At the same time, don’t scoff at flying – Seriously. Megabus and its virus-filled recycled air can go pound salt (as my dad would say). I love a good road trip, but when you add it all up, flying is sometimes actually cheaper than driving certain places if you buy your ticket in advance, and the next time I catch the Megabus plague will be a cold day in hell. Could I drive to Chicago for my poetry reading this October? Yes. Will I? Absolutely not.
- If you’re on a plane or train, read poetry that makes you cry – Actually, I’m not sure how good this advice really is, but I’ve always found it to be a cathartic act, the release of emotion in the liminal space that is an airplane or a train. It’s very romantic. Or I’m just crazy and you can ignore this point.
- Make plans and then abruptly stop caring if you stick to them – Because you won’t. And then you’ll go nuts if you get all stupid about it. Trust me.
- Listen to people when they tell you, “You should really go here!” – Not because they’re always going to be right, but because sometimes they’re right and being rigid won’t get you anywhere. I mean, apparently there’s a winery right next to a place where you can ride an elephant in Wisconsin. I just found out about it from a random Facebook friend and I might go ride an elephant and drink wine next week. Who knows? Bonus: You get an excuse to talk about your trip.
- Flirt – If there’s one thing I learned while in New Orleans last summer, it’s how useful and fun it is to learn how to be charming and flirty. I don’t think I paid for a single drink in that city. To be fair, New Orleans is a magical place full of southern gentlemen who really do just want to tell you you’re beautiful and then buy you a cocktail. Or recite a poem for you on the street because you’re a “real lady”. So maybe this rule is “Go to New Orleans”.
- Learn to accept kindness – It’s very difficult for me to accept things like someone paying for my dinner (yes, yes – I know I told you to flirt your way into free drinks just now), or paying for my travel. However, sometimes your friends love you and they’ll offer (I never ever ask for anything like this and urge people to not even hint around or even have it in your mind). As I have learned from my dear friend Kennedy, if it feels genuine, it’s okay to say yes sometimes. Two of my friends paid for my plane tickets to and from Seattle, and it was very difficult for me to accept that, but I did and I hope I thanked them enough for it (if not – thank you again and again and again, Kelly and Gio!). Be gracious.
- Always be able to take care of yourself – The above being said, never rely on someone else. Know what you’ll do if you don’t have a place to stay. Always be able to feed yourself. If you miss your plane, your bus, your train, know what you will do. It will happen at some point and you can’t fall apart because what does that accomplish?
- Dress outrageously – It’s not like anyone is going to recognize you anyway. And then you can do something like stroll through Central Park in a corset with your lace parasol or be the only person in Seattle wearing color.
- Talk to strangers every so often – I mean, pick your strangers carefully and all, but I started having much, much better experiences during travel when I started being nice to strangers rather than treating all of them with suspicion. In fact, I think this is just straight up life advice. When I was in Milwaukee this summer my friend Natalie made a new friend at every bar we went to. Be more like Natalie.
- Be willing to go outside your comfort zone – In Boston I danced with a homeless man on the street. For my New York trip, I left town unsure where I would sleep that night. In Seattle I approached one of my heroes to talk to him (And I got a hug! Hooray!). One of the truest things for me this past year has been that travel is all about growth. It may sound corny, but I don’t think I would be where I am now were it not for the places I’ve traveled.
So go forth and travel and be absurd about it! And maybe cry on an airplane and talk to a stranger!*
*I’m really not sure I should be giving advice…