From Kansas City, head west on I-70.
Drive until you reach the Rocky Mountains.
Drink champagne for breakfast.
Do something outdoorsy.
Can everyone just take a few minutes out of their day and read this article?
Generally speaking, I feel like I adjusted back to my pre-travel life fairly quickly after I returned from studying abroad. Maybe it was because I was in college and my life was still changing at a relatively constant rate. I had new classes and roommates every few months, new concepts to grasp each day, and long breaks from school to refresh and recharge. I suppose I didn’t realize it at the time but in a way, I was still traveling. My physical journey had just been replaced by a mental one.
Then I spent another year abroad and was constantly being exposed to something new and different every single day. New languages and cultural norms. New food, new friends, new experiences. I could practically feel my mind expanding.
And here I sit, more than six months after returning from one of the greatest adventures of my life, and I can’t help but feel as though I’ve fallen into a rut. I’m restless and I can’t stop thinking about traveling. I wake up at the same time every day, eat the same thing for breakfast, drive the same route to work, sit at the same desk, blah blah blah. Being the type of peson that absolutely thrives on change, the minute my life becomes even the least bit routine, my brain goes straight into “auto pilot” mode. I’ve been fighting an internal battle for too long now, telling myself I can’t write anymore because I’m not creative and I can’t find inspiration like I used to. That being said, you can imagine my relief after reading the article mentioned above. There’s actually some scientific evidence to help explain this feeling of being stuck-in-a-rut. Of course, nothing in the article actually came as a shock to me. I already knew why travel was so beneficial and why my mind, body and soul craved it. I knew why I traveled…but it’s not just me…it’s we.
A few excerpts:
“When we escape from the place we spend most of our time, the mind is suddenly made aware of all those errant ideas we’d suppressed.”
“The larger lesson is that our thoughts are shackled by the familiar. The brain is a neural tangle of near-infinite possibility, which means that it spends a lot of time and energy choosing what not to notice. As a result, creativity is traded away for efficiency; we think in literal prose, not symbolist poetry. A bit of distance, however, helps loosen the chains of cognition, making it easier to see something new in the old; the mundane is grasped from a slightly more abstract perspective.”
Seriously, read this article.
I read this article today and, try as I might, just can’t seem to get it out of my head. It’s about this company called Red Frog Events (ever heard of the Warrior Dash? It appears they are the brains behind it…) and how their employees are allowed unlimited vacation days.
UNLIMITED VACATION DAYS.
I mean…can you imagine? Here I am spending every waking second trying to strategically plan ALL of my allotted vacation days for 2012 in order to have the most travel-filled year possible, and there are people out there getting unlimited amounts of vacation?!
After I read the article I was instantly reminded of a quote I saw on Pinterest awhile back. It said, “taking time to live your life will only inspire your work.” Another bullseye. I’ve found that I always produce my best work when I’m inspired by something. This sort of model would be perfect for a person like me who finds travel to be one of the richest sources for inspiration out there.
In the article the author and founder of the company outlines several reasons as to why this approach works, but I have a few more.
1. Technology. Let’s face it, technology has made all of our jobs easier or more efficient in some way or another. The beauty of technology in so many industries today is that it allows work to be done from just about anywhere in the world…as long there’s an internet connection. Who says you have to be sitting at your desk in a dimly lit office for at least 8 consecutive hours in order to get your work done?
2. Time. In my eyes, a vacation is a vacation no matter if you take 1 day or 10. It doesn’t matter if you go far or stay close to home. It’s a time to explore and recharge, and, at least personally, it’s a time to become inspired by the extra exposure to new and exciting things. Just because you give your employees unlimited vacation days doesn’t mean they are going to disappear for weeks on end. It was only a year ago that I learned to master the “long weekend vacation.” I literally packed a backpack and jetsetted to a different country or town virtually every weekend for about three months straight. Oh, and I never missed a day of work in between my travels. I’m telling you, this sort of thing could work for us!
3. Trust. It’s a two-way street. It’s about having trust, and it’s about proving that you deserve it. I think if more people were given the opportunity to prove they could be trusted, we’d be surprised by the outcome.
Now, let’s have every business adopt this ‘unlimited vacation days’ model so we can all become more inspired, relaxed and better workers, ok?
Also, so my weekends can go back to being full of this:
If you had unlimited vacation days this year, where would you go?
New Orleans Itinerary:
For Andy’s sake, I sort of feel bad about not being able to go gator huntin’ on a swamp tour, but I’m sure he loved gawking at houses in the Garden District so much he doesn’t really care. At least that’s how I feel about it…
Before our trip, I printed off this walking tour, gave it to the guide (Andy) and half listened while I became more and more mesmerized with each corner we turned. I could not get over how breathtaking these homes were! I mean… people actually live here?!
The best part of our little walking tour was that it ended in Lafayette Cemetery. I know a cemetery as a tourist attraction sounds a bit questionable, but the cemeteries in NOLA aren’t the ones most of us are used to seeing every day. The city of New Orleans was built on a swamp so early settlers frequently had problems with floating caskets (awkward..). Eventually the city adopted the Spanish custom of using above ground “vaults” and viola! Problem solved. The tombs are so enormous the cemeteries got the nickname “Cities of the Dead.” I guess it could be kind of creepy at night, but during the day…
A weekend jaunt to New Orleans was just exactly what I needed. Travel, something that had been a major theme for me during the first half of this year seemed practically nonexistent during the second half. I was becoming restless, irritated. The itch was definitely back…and after a long hiatus, it came with an urgent need to be taken care of. So, to the Crescent City we went.
One of my favorite things about living in Europe was the ability to be transported to an entirely different culture, a different world after spending a mere three hours on a plane. One minute you’re sipping a cafe con leche and the next you’re using hand gestures to order pierogies in Krakow. I guess the same is true when you live in Middle America. From my current locale, a three hour plane ride in any direction still yields an incredible amount of uncharted territory. I guess I’ve never really thought about how much my own American culture varies from state to state. Everything from the language to the fashion is subject to change, and change it does! I mean, can you imagine walking into a restaurant in oh, say Billings, Montana and trying to order a fried oyster po-boy with a side of red beans and rice? Or shrimp and grits? Or a spicy, piping hot bowl of auntie’s famous gumbo ya-ya? After last weekend, I sure can’t!
For many visitors to Spain, some of the largest cultural contrasts exist around meal times and eating habits, and rightfully so. It’s an adjustment that certainly takes some getting used to for most foreigners. If you’re wondering what to expect when traveling to Spain, here are some quick and dirty tips that might come in handy:
-Don’t expect to find oatmeal or pancakes on the breakfast menu. If you’re in the south, you’ll likely start your day with a thick, lightly toasted baguette drizzled in olive oil and topped with diced (or sliced) tomatoes and a dash of salt.
-Lunch is the largest and most important meal of the day, but never before 2pm. If it’s before 2pm you’re still eating breakfast. Dinner typically occurs after 10pm and is much lighter than your midday meal. Got that?
-If you’re a vegetarian, try not to act surprised when your salad comes with a heaping pile of tuna on top. Eat your protein. (Just kidding…but not about the tuna).
like love dry cured ham and seeing pig legs hanging from the ceiling of every bar and restaurant, right? Good, because the Spanish take their jamón very seriously and this is not a force to be reckoned with.
-Be prepared to drink alcohol at every meal, but don’t get drunk at every meal-that’s frowned upon. Also, if you want a beer, I hope you aren’t looking for choices because you came to the wrong country for that. I actually commend the way the Spanish have streamlined the alcohol ordering process. None of that “what do you have on tap/in a bottle” business. You just ask for a beer and BOOM, you get a beer.
-If, for some reason you choose not to drink alcohol at every meal just keep in mind that “free refills” don’t exist here. Seriously though, who wants to sip an orange Fanta when you are visiting a place where the wine flows like water? Not this girl.
-Mayo is the new Ranch. Put it on everything. Your eggs, your steak, your vegetables…everything. Same goes for olive oil.
-Don’t worry about putting your napkin in your lap. It will be a small, waxy piece of paper that you will simply wipe your fingertips on once before discarding. They actually don’t even work too well (read: AT ALL) so you’re better off wiping your hands on your jeans or trying to “pet” that cute fluffy dog that keeps passing by… Oh, and hopefully you aren’t environmentally conscious or anything because you will use approximately 100 of these during your meal.
-Finally, don’t wait for your server to bring you the check- you need to ask for it. But don’t stress about leaving a tip either-tipping isn’t really necessary in Spain. You’ll feel like a rebel at first but trust me, you’ll get used to it.
One of my biggest fears before leaving everything behind to teach English in Spain for a year was not being able to find a job when I returned. I honestly thought prospective employers would throw out my resume because I “didn’t have enough experience” or because I wouldn’t appear “serious” enough. I even get a lot of emails (which I love, dear readers!) from people who are considering going abroad but are worried about some of the same things I was.
In all honesty, I was fully prepared to join the masses of the unemployed upon my return from Spain last June, but the truth is… I walked right into a job. Like, I had an interview set up before the jet lag even wore off, and had a job offer well before I had a place to live.
Maybe I was just lucky, but given the reality of the state of our economy…maybe not. I’m just going to go ahead and believe that what I had gained in real world experience during my time abroad more than made up for what I lacked in “business experience.” I mean, would you believe me if I told you that during one of my interviews I talked ONLY about traveling? I repeat…nothing about my job skills, the job I was applying for, or my past internships and experience…ONLY TRAVELING.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always personally believed that a well-traveled person is not only better prepared for life, but also for the workforce, but I seriously doubted that most employers shared my same values. Guess what? They do.