Meaningful Travel

I’m A Little Different, And So Is My Travel Style

Growing up, I always felt that I was different from the other kids in school – but I couldn’t quite figure out how. In elementary and middle school I analyzed the differences in my body compared to the other girls to try to explain it. While I (of course) found some differences, they never panned out to be what I was searching to explain. By high school I still hadn’t cracked the secret, and I started to try various fashion styles and music to see if the ambiguous feeling had to do with my personal tastes. But no luck there either. When I would change my looks, the way I dressed, or the types of music I listened to in order to try to find the elusive “real me,” none of the changes ever felt right.

It’s taken twenty years since I first started exploring other “Eliz” options, and I feel I finally understand what the difference is: what makes me happy.

Miami Beach, May 2013

Miami Beach, May 2013

Here’s a good example. I’m only five years out of college and Ibiza is nowhere near the top of my travel list. If Eliz were a brand, Ibiza would be considered “off brand.” I don’t go clubbing. I don’t research trendy restaurants. You are far more likely to find me on a winery tour than a pub crawl.

I work at a media agency, where I often joke that I’m a Gen X’er in a Millennial body. While that’s not necessarily true outside of my taste in television (which may actually be closer to Baby Boomer status), I’ll admit that I have very mature travel tendencies. I always opt for the nicest hotel we can afford. When my boyfriend and I went to Vancouver in 2013, we were twenty-five year old tourists who stayed at the Four Seasons because we found a good deal. More often than not we are the youngest people in our hotels/B&B’s by ten to twenty years because our top priority is a very clean, comfortable pillow.

Further, I must admit I haven’t stayed in a hostel in eighteen months. Some Millennial readers and travelers may frown on that decision, citing the importance of the camaraderie and affordability that hostels provide. By all means, you do you! While I like meeting new people, I like nice mattresses more. Nice mattresses make me a very happy tourist.

Side Note: I have not written off hostels all together. I will most likely stay in one again.

With that said, I wanted to make sure to disclose all of these preferences and priorities to you, dear reader, because I am a travel blogger who writes about budgeting for travel. Meaningful travel may mean different things to different people, but the end goal is always the same:  a truly enjoyable vacation.

I hope you budget for travel that you know will make you happy. The good news is that you know yourself best! You probably already have an idea about what kind of travel would bring you the most joy at your personal budget level. My only advice is that you should always trust your gut. I’m not here to try to tell you what to do, I’m here to help and inspire you to do it.  🙂

Like I said, I’m a little different…and I finally know why. I’ve come to terms with my tendencies to travel above my age bracket. I’ve accepted and embraced this (as well as other older-skewing interests) about myself…and I hope you will, too!

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TAOMO – The Art of Missing Out

FOMO. YOLO. Pop culture has turned these acronyms into the greatest forms of peer pressure in history.

These common phrases coupled with the popularity of photo sharing on social media have turned my entire generation into sightseeing fanatics. We want the coolest vacation picture. We want to see every tourist site and go to the trendiest restaurants.

My best friend Rachel and me on the rocky cliffs of Inishmore in the Aran Islands of Ireland.

My best friend Rachel and me on the rocky cliffs of Inishmore in the Aran Islands of Ireland.

Call me crazy, but not only do I get inspired on vacation – but I also get tired. Don’t judge. Hear me out.

Me resting in our hotel bed in Bath after a long day of sightseeing.

Me resting in our hotel bed in Bath after a long day of sightseeing.

Simply put, there are so many new things to see and so many sites on my list that I sometimes need down time in order to embrace being a tourist to the fullest. I inherently experience sensory overload from the abundance of new sights, sounds, and smells at each destination.

Additionally, being constantly on the go clashes with my desire to dwell in one place if I feel inspired or captivated.

Stopping to enjoy the stunning view at Bodnant Gardens in Wales.

That said, I’m not saying that I factor in slack days in order to recharge (although I may recommend it in specific circumstances). Au contraire! I’m saying that I have accepted that I may need to make compromises within my itinerary if I’m going to experience truly meaningful travel.

Which leads me to introduce my new acronym to you, dear reader:  TAOMO

It stands for “The Art of Missing Out.” TAOMO is the ability to say “no” to yourself while on vacation so you can savor parts of your adventure that you feel are enriching your soul the most.

At first it may feel unnerving. What if you never come back to this place!? You can’t afford to miss out on anything on your itinerary!

You want me to take a BREAK from sightseeing!?

You want me to take a BREAK from sightseeing!?

Take a deep breath, grasshopper.

Let’s use my experience of living in London as an example. When I resided in London for five months in 2009, I tried to hit up as many tourist attractions as I could afford on my small collegiate budget. However, it’s a HUGE city! Most tourists can’t see the whole thing in a full week! Plus, at the time, I was working a thirty-hour-per-week internship while also taking four classes. Therefore, when it came time for me to fly home after five months, I was shocked to realize I had not visited every place I wanted to see!

I never went to Tate Britain. I never stood on the Prime Meridian in Greenwich. I never took a photo while crossing Abbey Road. I never even went to Wimbledon despite being a life-long tennis player!

How could I not have seen everything I wanted to see?

How could I not have seen everything I wanted to see?

At first I was crushed. How could I not have prioritized seeing those last few sights when they felt so important to me!? But, when I started recounting the stories of my adventures to my family and friends at home, I realized that I had taken the time to embrace the true history and society of Britain. I had exercised TAOMO by prioritizing experiences that immersed me in British culture.

Outside our local tube station (Queensway).

Outside our local tube station (Queensway).

For example, on the same weekend that I toured the Tower of London, my friends and I also found a local pub in our neighborhood to call our own. I had also discovered a favorite fish and chips joint deep in the heart of Notting Hill. Further, I even started using quirky British phrases like “I couldn’t be bothered to go to the shop” in my daily speech! In essence, I had become a true Londoner during my time abroad – something I would not have accomplished if I had spent the entire time on the London Eye.

In the London Eye

The London Eye is actually pretty cool, just super touristy. 🙂

So, when I went back to London last summer for the first time in five years, I didn’t have a burning sense to cross the remaining attractions off my bucket list. Instead, I had developed an acceptance that the time I would spend soaking up London’s culture was far more valuable than having a photo in front of every monument.

That being said, I admit that I finally stood on the Prime Meridian last summer during my trip. However, I still have not been to Wimbledon. Or Tate Britain. But no FOMO here, folks! You can call it TAOMO, since I plan to go back to London again and again, and this gives me a reason to do just that!

Standing with Derek on the Prime Meridian.

Standing with Derek on the Prime Meridian in July 2014.

Do you have any thoughts about TAOMO or experiences with it that you want to share? Please feel free to add them in the comments!

The Importance of Having The Right Attitude When You Travel

I’ve found that in the lifestyle and travel press, discussion topics typically steer towards the importance of “escaping the ordinary” rather than the importance of traveling with the right mindset. In my opinion, the reason we don’t talk about “packing a positive attitude” is likely because it is far easier to temporarily change someone’s location than to change the way they think.

Thus, if someone chooses to be angry or close-minded, they could literally travel the world and find something to complain about at each destination!

Personally, I find that to be a terrifying thought.

But…let’s back up a little. I didn’t come to this realization until last week, so let me lay the groundwork.

Lately I’ve been listening to many podcasts on my commutes to/from work. One of my favorites is (not shockingly) Travel With Rick Steves. Last week I caught up on one from April 4th where Rick interviews a long-time travel journalist named Pico Iyer, who discusses his book and TED talk called The Art of Stillness.

I found the interview absolutely inspiring.

What has stayed with me most over the past week has been the dialogue below:

Rick Steves:  Pico, when we’re talking about turning our travels into more than just a collection of sights – but rich insights – so often our attitude shapes the potential of the travel experience we’re going to enjoy. In my experience as a tour guide, two people can go to the same place and come away with two completely different experiences – one great, and the other one riddled with complaints and disappointments.

Pico Iyer:  Yes, I often tell myself you can take an angry man to the Himalayas and he’ll just continue complaining about the food. But then you can take a responsive, appreciative person to Newark, NJ and she will find an amazing Tibetan museum that’s tucked into downtown Newark. So, I feel that the destination is less important than the spirit you bring to it. And part of the traveler’s job is to prepare her spirit accordingly and to ensure her heart and eyes will be open to what can be found in any place.

In the world of travel journalism, I feel no truer words have been spoken. The idea that one needs to have an open heart and eagerness to explore are the building blocks of meaningful travel experiences.

When I travel in the future, I hereby vow that I will exercise self-awareness of my attitude in order to maximize the value of each experience. Whether I’m near or far. Whether I’m in Indiana or India. Whether in Jersey City or the Isle of Jersey. There is nothing to bemoan about the ability to travel freely.

Instead – as travelers – we have an entire planet to gain. We are all incredibly blessed.

A candid glimpse of me smiling aboard a day cruise from Seattle to Friday Harbor - Aug 2014

A candid glimpse of me smiling aboard a day cruise from Seattle to Friday Harbor – Aug 2013