Friday, June 12, 2015

Not my first rodeo

There is a strange mentality in the South that I've never quite understood nor agreed with.  Not everyone has this mentality, mind you, but I am certainly drawn towards those who don't.  

Some people think the South is the best.  

I'm not trying to say the South is bad in any way.  I was born here, raised here, and spent most of my life here.  We have incredible food, friendly people, and did I mention the food?  

However some people love the South so much that they never leave, have no desire to, and don't believe you should either.  

Even worse, some look down on other people for traveling.  I've actually been sneered at for reminiscing about my time in Paris.  I have been deemed a snob because I traveled somewhere so "fancy".

You don't have to have a lot of money to travel, but you do have to have a large amount of open-mindedness.  Wherever you go will be nothing like home- and that's great!  You get to meet a new kind of people, taste new cuisine, and experience a new culture.  You will find things you don't care for, but adopt some new ideas that you will carry with you for the rest of your life.  

I've warned friends before a trip overseas, "This will change your life in ways I can't put into words, but when you get home no one will care nor will they be excited for you."  

I've found myself refraining from talking about my travels because of the undeserved animosity.

I suppose when people think of Paris they imagine glitz, glamour, and a room at the Ritz.  It was dirty, cold, and I stayed in an old hostel and slept on a metal bunk bed.  The toilet was down the hall.   I ate picnics instead of at restaurants, and only spent $500 for my first 9 day trip to Europe.  That included the flight.  It was awesome.  That's my window.  Up one floor on the left.  I could hear choir practice from my room at night.  The bells were quite loud.  

I had to bring my own sheets, but I was able to go to Paris- something once unimaginable to a poor girl from Arkansas.  I wouldn't change it for anything.  When I say I love Paris, I love this gritty, ugly, magnificent, and very real place- not the postcard perfect idea of what Paris is supposed to be.  Besides, I learned so much about myself and about life that I could not have learned any other way.  It takes being completely out of your comfort zone to see what you're really made of.  I went completely alone.  I struggled at first, adapted, and then thrived.

I've had a few adventures since then and I highly recommend broadening your horizons.  Budget friendly travel books like Rick Steves, Rough Guide, and Bradt will teach you the techniques to travel well for little money.  

Another tip is to book a last minute cruise for pennies on the dollar and use the money you saved for amazing shore excursions, because what's the point of going somewhere without really experiencing it?  

"Wrestling" in the Everglades
Climbing a Mayan pyramid in Belize
Seaplane ride to Fort Jefferson, Garden Key

So is the South really better than anywhere else?  It's a place.  A place just like any other place I've visited.  All have their pros and cons, but when you travel and find things in common with people so different from you- that's when you get it.  No matter where you go and no matter how people look- people are all fundamentally the same.  We love our family.  We want to be happy.  

Once you discover that, Paris really isn't that fancy, Honduras isn't really that exotic, and London is just a big city.  

I do feel pity for the closed-minded ones who never leave home, but they should probably stay there.  They're not ready yet.  

With only 36 days left until I leave for Europe again, I am trying to mentally prepare myself for the culture shock that's bound to happen.  My husband has never been out of the country before (other than a cruise, which doesn't fully count).  Is he ready?  Am I?  

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