Thoughts before my Travels

Los Angeles Travel Blog

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Sydney Surf Camp: Trust me...the waves seemed much larger!
This is going to be a cross between Lonely Planet and Oprah’s Book Club, so I hope it’s not too extreme one way or another for you.  Maybe I’ll have an Lonely Planet or Oprah rating at the beginning of each entry to help you choose what you want to read.  I always hate investing my attention to reading something only to find out once I get to the end that I really could have done without reading that. So...

Oprah Book Club Factor: HIGH, Proceed with caution or if you got a lot of procrastination time on you.

Doing a good travel journal is a hard thing to do.  To produce anything more interesting than a Wikipedia entry of a place, one has to bear a little of the soul.

Bull ray that hung out with us diving at Tasmania. This is the type of ray that killed Steve Irwin.
  Well, for starters, you can’t start sentences with the impersonal, generalized “one” or even, “you.”  The travel journal is inherently a personal narrative.  It has to be somewhat less revealing than your diary but way more intimate than a “This is a picture of the Roman Forum.  It was very hot.  Wish you here!” postcard.  This is like writing a business school essay that’s supposed to show how introspective and self-aware I am. 

That sort of intimate exposure is difficult when you are writing to an unseen audience of mother, father, brother, aunties and uncles, cousins, maybe grandparents (but I’m pretty sure that they will never have an email address, much less be able to access a travelblog), elementary school friends you went through puberty with and have seen you hurling your intestines out in Vegas, college friends who’ve held your hair back and religiously watched the O.

Chilling in Spain: Preparing at 8 AM for Spanish shenanigans! No, that's not Gatorade!
C. with you on Thursday nights, co-workers who laid in the trenches with you through long nights and caffeine highs and lows, random acquaintances met on planes, trains, buses…  Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of best-selling authors whose audience is mostly faceless and admiring of their literary prowess…whose publishing royalties justify the exhibitionist soul-bearing of a true personal narrative.  Practically every one who reads my blog (and I’m being optimistic at 15, 20 tops) will understand my allusions, perhaps, even be a major character in the unfolding of my self-discovery, for lack of a better word.  There’s also an exciting appeal / quasi-celebrity feeling of grandeur to be a main character in someone else’s life.  

I wish I had the energy to produce a site with G-rated entries for Mom and Co.

La Tomatina in Spain! It's like human marinara!
and another with R-rated tales for all the rest, but I suppose being comfortable with being an adult in front of my parents’ eyes is part of being an adult in general.  Nonetheless, I will always be Daddy’s little baby girl and Mom’s favorite child (okay, daughter, even though there’s only me and my bro). 

There is also a certain freedom to embellish when the author is the protagonist.  At times, I may be harsher on myself than necessary like a personal trainer for my soul, at other times, like a spoiling grandmother.  But the key to this whole story, is that it is my story…my story for the creating, my story for the telling, my story for the editing.  I don’t have to adhere to any style of professional business writing, or abstain from excessive usage of “I”, or even be comprehensible.  I am looking forward to not writing in concise bullet points or grammatically correct, non-run-on sentences.  I’m going to end sentences with prepositions, dammit!  I may sporadically spell things in the English manner with excessive usage of “u’s”.  I may use the same words and phrases excessively for lack of a better word.  I may break into consultingese with esoteric and mildly suggestive adages like “Let’s circle back around and touch base in 10,” and “What’s the take home here?”  My ultimate favorite is the excessive and sometimes ridiculous usage of “80/20”.  Multiple books have been written about this magical ratio.  One of the founding partners of my consulting firm became gloriously wealthy (not just from the book) and famous (at least amongst the business self-help book followers) for his series on 80/20.  I honestly don’t really know what the 80/20 actually refers to.

It’s kinda like if people asked you to explain the problem of global warming.  You know it has to do with carbon and greenhouse gases, but you think it’s possible CFCs and nitrogen have some hand in it.  In fact, this muddled understanding of how things work applies to most everything in life.  With Google and Wikipedia at our fingertips wherever there is a wi-fi connection, we never need to really know anything, because we know where to get the answer.  I have had about five thousands items on my Wiki list but I constantly forget, so I have about 2-3 things at any given time.  Like, what do green sea turtles eat?  Who sings that really catchy tune on the iTunes commercial for the video Nano?  (By the way, the answers are seaweed and Feist, respectively).  What is my high school crush doing now?  Ask Facebook or Myspace, or any of the social networks that make innocent voyeurism (obsessive stalking at its extreme) convenient and acceptable. 

So, how did I get here?  Indeed, but where is here?  Existentialism is a fancy word for “I don’t know.”  A year ago, I was basking in the sunshine of an Australian spring, exploring the savannah-like (?) environment of Kakadu, blazing through the Great Ocean Road, freezing my face off but intent on making use of our blue Holden Astra convertible, diving with bull rays, falling in manini waves at surf camp (an embarrassing confession having grown up in Hawaii, but if you’ve seen me surf �" Shay �" then you know, it’d be a reasonable and helpful class), and falling in love with Australia and its culture. 

Three years ago, I started my first “real” job in Los Angeles, surprised that they’d pay me so much when I essentially knew nothing but how to cram a lot of random facts in my head the evening before an exam and subsequently regurgitate them into a little blue book in which I could only write about 8 lines before having to flip to the next flimsy page.  One exhausting month later, I understood why. 

Five years ago, I was stumbling around Spain, making amigos, butchering the Spanish language, and learning important words like borracha and botellona.  I was falling in love with Spain and Spanish men I couldn’t understand but assumed they were uttering sweet nothings.  My mom said she would be fine with me marrying the Prince of Spain, then unwed and owning many yachts.  Today, he is married, with children, and still owning many yachts.  I promised myself I would go back to live in Spain.

Seven years ago, I graduated high school, fifth in my class and a bit resentful that I had not been higher.  I was exhausted and burnt out by the pressure to excel and over-achieve and do five billion extracurricular activities that made me into a quite formidable college applicant.  I was running away from perfection and into freedom, socially sanctioned alcoholism, and learning things the hard way.

Eleven years ago, I spent a summer in Cambridge and Newcastle and caught the travel bug.  Ironically, I developed a recalcitrant flying paranoia that has grown in strength over the years.

So, here I am…sitting on a dry plane, returning to Los Angeles after a three-week business-school exploration tour (really, a chance to see friends).  My hands are desiccated and cracked and look like those of a forty-five-year-old because I forgot / was too lazy to buy travel size moisturizer.  I am tired of grinding up against pot-bellied men loitering in the aisle to get to the lavatory to discover what surprise has been left to me by the previous occupant.  But alas, until atomic transporters become a reality, this is the most convenient and feasible way to travel. 

I am really getting used to sleeping in a different bed each night and beginning to accept that my clothes smell like a mixture of the places I have stayed. 

I have spent the last 2 months writing essays and asking for letters of recommendation to attest to how singularly unique and wonderful I am.  Business school is the self-help graduate school.  Think about it…in law school, you are taught: I am a disciple of prejudice-blind justice; in medical school, I am a healer; and in business school: I am a bad-ass Caesar…I will lead the masses to success and fortune.  So, it seems appropriate that the year before I attain the self-righteousness…ahem, self-confidence imbued by business school, I spend a year to figure out who I am.  I am not coming from any great personal tragedy (knock on wood, as I am OCDishly superstitious) nor life change, but it has been my dream to take a year off for travels and now I have the financial means and mature wherewithal (whatever that means) to do it.  And as my mom insists, “you better do it now and get it out of your system!” as if the travel bug needs to be treated with strong antibiotics and excreted.  But I do appreciate that.  I know I can go on trips for the rest of my life in two-, maybe three-week increments, but never in the soul-exploring, loneliness-inducing way that 9 months can demand from you…which brings me to my greatest fears for the trip (here, comes the bullet points!)

Greatest fears:

-         Typically morbid fears: crashes of all types (mostly aviation-related, even as I write this in a plane, I am extremely superstitious), diseases, crazy murderers (crazy animals don’t bother me as much, in fact, I’ll go seek them in the ocean).  I am an incredibly introspective / metaphorizing person.  My mom often listens to me reflect on one of the many repetitive issues in my life and comments in true amazement that I “think so much.”  I left my therapist in confused silence (or boredom disguised as attentiveness) as I psycho-analyzed myself to bits, mixing metaphors like a DJ such as “being a buoy floating through the sky”, and drawing self-diagnoses like Dr. Phil.  Either way, I found the experience helpful, somewhat like a weekly emotional massage, which even though doesn’t solve the problem, definitely makes everything feel much better. This excessive introspection and reflection only exacerbate my morbidity and fatalism.  I am the type of person who won’t change my position on the couch because I think my movement has in some way an effect on the basketball game played thousands of miles away on tape delay.  To put it simply, I never want to jinx things either by talking or mentioning something, or being overly optimistic.  It isn’t that I’m a pessimist, I just believe hubris and assumptions lead to bad things, worse than making an “ass” out of “u” and “me”.  Red Sox fans will understand.

-         Being lonely.  I am not good at being alone.  I very easily feel lonely.  This will be one of my greatest challenges.  I’d make a very bad soldier because I would surely just surrender rather than spend too much time by myself in the fox hole.

-         Peeing in my pants, or worse.  No joke.  I have an incredibly small bladder, or my brain very quickly senses the liquid in my bladder.  In any case, I have to pee often and not always in convenient situations.  I know I will have to balance dehydration with my pre-school fear of peeing in my pants when I’m on a long bus or train ride without a toilet.  Or worse, because my stomach is so sensitive.  My friend once told me that when the gases reach a certain pressure level in your bowels, they literally explode.  I’m sure you can picture what happens.  Freud would have a field day with my literal anal retentiveness but at least my prolonged solitude will hopefully save me from sharing that scarring experience with any friends, subsequently, former friends. 

I always have this sense of the grass is greener…with boys, traveling, work, school, etc.  This will be another challenge in the next year: " learning to live in the here and now.  Since high school, I’ve always believed that adaptation is the key to human success and unhappiness.  Because we adapt to whatever level of existence, we need more and push ourselves harder, which allows to achieve so many amazing things, but also never really be satisfied…essentially, an addiction for the next hit of success. 

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Sydney Surf Camp: Trust me...the w…
Sydney Surf Camp: Trust me...the …
Bull ray that hung out with us di…
Chilling in Spain: Preparing at 8 …
Chilling in Spain: Preparing at 8…
La Tomatina in Spain!  Its like h…
La Tomatina in Spain! It's like …