1. What I look like.
I hiked Cinque Terre, completed the Lago di Garda bike route, and frequently got caught in heavy spring downpours while exploring Ljubljana. Translation: I seldom cared about leaving my cozy little Airbnb apartments with perfectly done up hair or a made up face. Instead, I did become very thankful for my stretchiest, most comfortable pair of jeans and the multiple hair ties I had taken with me, because I lose about 2 a day.
When I travel I stop caring about what I look like because I want to fade into the background. My focus is on everything else around me rather than on how I come across and my appearance, which lifts an incredible burden off my shoulders, especially as a 27-year old woman working the occasional acting job in LA.
Instead of focusing on taming my unruly hair so a casting director won’t subtract mental points for appearance, I get to focus on a Mantova hotel owner and his family talking to me about the history of their city, or on the incredible smells of the food in the Barcelona market, and the undeniably romantic views in Venice.
I’m not going to jam hair products, tons of makeup, and tens of alternative shirt options in my small packed suitcase. I wear what’s comfortable, easy to travel in, and just go.
2. Personal drama
One of my closest friends isn’t talking to me because I spoke up about her terrible relationship with her boyfriend. The first guy I’ve had chemistry with in a while (tall, Italian, hilarious) decided to drop off the face of the earth rather than go on a fourth date. Yet none of that mattered the second my plane landed just in time for the cherry blossoms in Tokyo.
Real relationships and friendships stand the test of the road, because going away puts life into perspective. Those are the people I miss and keep in contact with while exploring the world. Traveling has a way of quickly separating strong, healthy bonds from dysfunctional, dramatic ones, and I realize that some of the people I leave behind should probably be left behind for good.
3. Most of what I own.
Being on the road boils down my possessions to essentials. I always thought of myself as a pretty simple person when it came to my things, and my friends who frequently call my apartment a “bachelor pad” seem to agree. However, it took a long-term trip to make me really sit down and consider the usefulness of what I owned. I packed what I needed, which was my clothes, my Canon body and lenses, a travel tripod, a couple of books by the masterful Joan Didion and… That’s it?
4. What the hell are all those other things sitting and doing in my apartment?
The second I got back from weeks and weeks spent living (quite comfortably) out of an 18kg suitcase, from Tokyo to Barcelona to Budapest, my apartment looked suffocatingly cluttered in comparison. Lotions and gifted makeup I’ve never once used (thanks auntie, but there are some eye shadow shades that should never have been produced), clothes I haven’t worn since senior year of college but keep around just in case (in case what? my tastes go back to my 20-year old dorm-living self?), and piles of magazines I forgot existed. There was so much stuff everywhere, and I felt like it was keeping me tied down and rooted to this spot.
Within the first week I had packed up half my apartment into plastic bags and given it away to charity.
5. Doubts about the future.
When I’m at home, nagging worries about the future always creep into my mind, as much as I try to keep them at bay. I may not work a steady 9-5 job, but I’m pretty responsible and I have my plans and goals for the future: travel book series, photography exhibits, eventually (fingers crossed) a travel show host. But that little voice always creeps in and tries to ruin everything.
“Have I accomplished enough for my age? Should I be doing better? Should I have more money?” And on and on it goes until it paralyzes me from actually doing anything of importance.
Being on the road puts me in the moment. That voice gets banished to somewhere far away while the only thing I look forward to is the next beautiful, unknown, unfamiliar place I get to explore.
My mind becomes content with the knowledge that it will all work out, and my new surroundings will only inspire me to create more.
6. Social media.
Being a travel blogger, I do not forget about social media entirely while on the road. After all, I have to share my journeys on FB, Instagram, Snapchat — an app I only fully understood thanks to the instruction of my 19-year old cousin — and whatever new social media “must have” will be trending next week.
But the difference is, I stop the endless social media timesuck on the road. I will log on for the exact amount of time needed to share my posts to my audience, and never check back again until the next time another post is needed. The mindless scrolling through the feed of college classmates I’ve half-forgotten and random stalking of exes I am most definitely, certainly, 100% over (but I mean come on, look at this high-maintenance selfie-loving girl, he cannot seriously be with her) goes away. The robotic and frequent opening of my FB app just to check new notifications also stops.
7. Comparing myself to my friends.
I see college classmates who are already company CEOs, high school friends who are on Broadway and TV shows, acquaintances with steady, successful careers and marriages at my age. And I start thinking, “what am I doing wrong?”
But when I hit the road and feel the excitement of venturing to a new, undiscovered place, I stop caring so much about what other people are doing. Everyone has their own path in life, and their own way of achieving it.
When I am traveling, I don’t worry or compare — I know that this is exactly the path I was meant to be on.