I used to think that I wanted to be a True Traveler, a person who constantly traveled all over the world, living the traveler lifestyle, collecting memories and tokens instead of money. They were tan, their hair messy and their clothes rumpled from being pulled out of a backpack, their eyes and smiles bright from the jungles they’ve been in, both wooded and concrete. I yearned to be that person one day, hungrily reading travel books, magazines, articles, hoping to be gone on so many trips my passport would be full before expiry. But, I realize now that that type of lifestyle isn’t for me. It never was, even if it became a small part of my life during University. It was more of a silly trend for me, like plastic chokers; something that I still wistfully think about from time to time, knowing that I won’t ever follow through.
I still love to travel; I love making memories and finding cool shops and cafes and restaurants everywhere in the world. Instead, I choose to do so with one trip every year (peppered with smaller trips. Hello, Vancouver) and really make it my own. I don’t think of the world as a competitive map where I need to hit every single corner in order to be truly accomplished in traveling and living. I like visiting places more than once, finding those cities that feel like a second home, the ones that make you feel comfortable and safe and exhilarated all at once. A true traveler hits the most exotic, the most hidden destinations of the world. I’ve just come to realize that, for me, it’s not about exploring every crevice and landing in all of the ‘cool kid’ destinations. It’s about making a connection and repeating it.
As a writer, I’m a born storyteller. My stories aren’t necessarily as lavish and exciting or as well written as others, but they’re mine. They’re the stories that fall onto paper when you learn how to board a plane in record time, how to jam 35 outfits into one suitcase – and still leave room for shopping, and where the best places to people watch and smoke in Paris are. While those with expendable means can jet off at a moment’s notice and stay in the grandest hotels, and those who are backpackers at heart can hop on a train and let it take them anywhere, I’m caught somewhere in the middle of these two common, but vastly different lifestyles. And, I can guess most of you are, too. We’re not interested in the classic family vacations, the backpacking adventures, or the yacht club life (okay, I lie. I’m super into that life, I just can’t get there yet). We want to explore the world and feel the heartbeat of each city, but are okay if we don’t hit all the ‘hidden gems’ we’ve read on every blog. We’re also okay if we have to budget out our accommodations instead of pick the best of the best. We will find our own gems, because that’s what hidden jewels of the world truly are; they’re the spaces that people find on their own, the places even locals may not take a second look at, but it’s a space where you’ve found your soul waiting, beckoning you to come in and take a look around. We will find our lavish accommodations, even if lavish means a bed under exposed beams in the 2nd arrondisement just down the street from the cheap hookers. It’s really nice, I swear!
Traveling isn’t meant to be copied; even if you book travel agent approved tours and group vacations, you’ll always end up with a different experience than the person next to you. Traveling is personal and is so much more than getting stamps on your passport, it’s the time to make the world your own and to listen to what it’s trying to tell you.