Ryan in Budapest
What is your first travel memory?
My very first travel memories were most likely miserable 7+ hour car rides to visit family every year growing up. Without a doubt I always got carsick and spent half the time with my head out the window.
It wasn’t until right after graduating high school that I traveled internationally for the first time. With one of my favorite Spanish teachers and a group of classmates (my sister, too), we embarked on a Mexican adventure. I was excited to put my four years of studying Spanish to the test, yet little did I know that I knew so little. I do recall one night walking through the small city of Querétero that I wanted to go abroad one day. This really planted the seed for my desire to travel and just a few months later I was signing up to return to Mexico, this time to explore the Yucatán as part of a freshman year college course studying the Mayan. Looks like the travel bug has been biting ever since.
How do you plan the destinations you are going to travel to?
Quite honestly this last year traveling around Spain and the rest of Europe has been planned rather last minute and haphazardly. The formula has typically consisted of taking advantage of a good flight or train deal, a long weekend, and one or two trusted travel companions.
However, I’ve done quite a few solo trips and love those experiences for different reasons than when traveling in a group. Since many of my former teaching colleagues and other friends from the past year are spread out across Europe, the plan this year is to travel to visit them and get the local take on their (new) hometowns.
What place(s) have you traveled to that surprised you?
I recently wrote about my first city escape from Madrid last year to Toledo, Spain. I was expecting a quaint medieval village where I could relax and recharge. Instead I found a haven of hurried tourists and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds. Luckily I was able to get away from the commotion and still have an awesome day among the ancient architecture and gorgeous views.
What are three things that traveling has taught you?
- Be careful when it comes to setting expectations. I’ve heard people say that you shouldn’t have any expectations at all, but I think that this is just as futile as having expectations that are way too high. Maintaining moderate expectations is important because having some ideas about your future experience isn’t only human nature, but also allows you to have a more meaningful experience when you arrive. Some destinations live up to their hype and on-line beauty, while others seem to fall short. By keeping your expectations in the middle, you’ll never be too far off. Remember that you can always find something good even in a little disappointment.
- In a literal sense, I’ve learned how to navigate the public transit in almost every city I’ve visited. Since I rarely splurge for a taxi, this is a challenge I always have for myself in a new destination. From fearing for my life on a wooden ‘antique’ subway in Budapest to almost missing my flight in Zurich, you’re never quite sure what to expect.
- Arguably, the best and often most difficult lesson for me is to embrace serendipity. One of my favorite travel memories was stumbling upon a Christmas concert in Lisbon last winter. One night I simply followed the lights and music and soon found myself enjoying an amazing show. Even with a language I didn’t understand, I felt a sense of community and joy that defines the holiday season.
Favorite travel quote(s):
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.”
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
People who inspire you to travel?
Growing up I was obsessed with the Travel Channel and some of my favorite travelers are Samantha Brown and Anthony Bourdain. Their contrasting bubbly and brash personalities illustrated travel experiences in such different ways.
From the time I prepared to travel to Spain for the first time to current day, I’m impressed by the raw personality and realness of travel blogger Young Adventuress, Liz Carlson. By one of her Tweets, I discovered the BlogHouse workshop that has been so influential for me.
Finally, I must mention my favorite travel guide writer, Rick Steves, whose philosophy of traveling to a destination expecting to return has alleviated a lot my ‘I haven’t done it all’ anxiety at the end of a long day.
Upcoming Travel Plans:
That’s a great question! Aside from weekend trips around Spain and visiting friends in Edinburgh, London, and a few other spots, I’m saving for a 2-3 week trip throughout Italy that I plan to take in July.
I’ve decided that my previous travel style of paying too much for airfare on a three-day weekend is just not worth it to me. I enjoy taking time to get to know a place and some slow(er) travel once I have time for vacation this summer sounds just right.