Ella, Llangefni, Wales
As you’ve probably guessed, on Her Day Out Loud, we all love travel. It’s how I met Hannah, Clare and Caroline (though some people wouldn’t define staying in one place for a year as travelling) and so, so many other amazing people without whom my life would undoubtedly be far worse.
I’ve never done the backpacking thing myself, but I don’t know a single person who has that wouldn’t say it’s one of the best things they’ve done in their life. From my experience of travelling, I can however say that every trip I take to somewhere new only serves to increase my wanderlust. I believe that even exploring a new city in your own country can be an eye-opening experience. Let’s face it, how many of us can really say they’ve explored their own country properly? Wales is tiny and there are still so, so many places I’ve yet to explore. Heck, I even explored a new part of the island I live on today (Friday) when I went on a group walk to take some photos. Sometimes I feel like discovering a new park a few minutes away from home can be as exciting as exploring an exotic land, especially if I find somewhere that seems so little like my image of where I live that I have to remind myself how close to home I am.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy long distance travel, one of the best trips I ever took was to Tokyo, just after my stint in Bordeaux. Japan was like a whole other world to me, I was amazed at how built up and bustling the city was, with all the bright colourful flashing lights everywhere. I had to get used to looking upwards at signs to find out which stores were in a particular building, as opposed to just looking in the window as I would do over here. Then, in the middle of all this, you can visit the Meiji Shrine, which is so incredibly peaceful, and absolutely beautiful (that’s where I am in the picture) Luckily for me, as I was staying with friends, I managed to see all the main aspects of the city I wanted to, plus a trip to Yokohama, whilst avoiding the tourist traps. In fact I could talk for pages and pages about my time in Japan. Packing all the main things I wanted to do into 10 days meant I didn’t have as much time to enjoy some things as I would have liked, but it was enough to give me a taster, enough for me to say without any doubt that I will be going back at some point, hopefully with stints in Osaka and Kyoto too.
One day I’d love to take a trip around the world and find as many hidden gems as possible, but for now I’ll stick to exploring my own area. Until I win the lottery at least.
Kirsten, Hawzein, Tigray, Ethiopia
I’m sweating and cramped on a large and crowded bus, sitting between an old lady wrapped in swathes of a white cultural shawl and a younger girl sporting some form of jeggings, neon-colored accessories, and chic braids bundled stylishly at the top of her head. By throwing together my basic knowledge of the local language, I’m able to befriend both of them by complimenting their clothes.
I’m on the last leg of my four-hour long journey to visit my friend Natalie, another American volunteer, at her site in Hagar Selam. Rather than meet up in a large city for internet, a hot shower, and foreigner food, we decide to change it up and spend a weekend at her site.
I feel like I’m on vacation as I step off the bus into an unfamiliar rural town, even though this is where my friend lives, works, and experiences her every day.
Traveling as a tourist, I get to experience the highlights and positives of this area.
But traveling as a guest in a resident’s home, I get to see the slower, less exciting, but day-to-day livelihood of the locals. I get to see the context behind my friend’s stories of her day-to-day life and her struggles of living in a foreign country.
But eventually both she and I, along with all the other American volunteers, will leave to return back home to the U.S.
Ethiopia is a very foreign land compared to my suburban hometown in California. But from my short travels to an unfamiliar rural Ethiopian town, I’m reminded that people everywhere have similar tendencies to make a home under any circumstance.
As a temporary aid worker in Ethiopia, it’s important for me to keep in mind that the permanent Ethiopian residents are already making a life for themselves, or at the very least, trying the best they can to make the most of what they have. They already have the potential and desire to succeed in every realm of their life. Rather than trying to help them from a tourist-like lens of “What do I need to do to help these people?” I should instead ask, “How are people already helping their own community?”
Hannah, Modesto, California
Until I was 21 years old, I had never suffered from car sickness. I quite inelegantly discovered this quality on the side of a stunningly beautiful road in the southwest of France. There may have been a night of heavy, German beer drinking the night before. I may have just met Clare’s father for the first time. And, I might have been eating croissants again only a few hours later. My memory is fuzzy, but I can confirm that my arrival in Araux, France was perhaps not my most chic.
Despite the unexpected appearance of regurgitated matter, the following days that I spent in this lovely, rain-splashed French nook of a village were so enticingly pleasant that I returned a few months later and, to this day, look forward to my next visit with great impatience.
For me, is the ugly-pretty truth and value of travelling. For a large portion of my young life, up until I left for France my junior year at UC Berkeley, my life mainly circulated in comfortable spheres. I was privileged, in both explicit and implicit ways, and had grown to feel powerful and knowledgeable in nearly any situation that I found myself in.
So it was jarring and destabilizing to learn that I, the same Hannah Brady that I had known for the past 20 years, was not, in fact, above human error.
Over the course of this first year abroad, I would spend a solid 15 minutes trying to convince a French cobbler that he did indeed have my blue, high-heeled “sock” in the back of his shop only to realize that I was using the word for “sock” instead of the one for “shoe.” I would order confidently off menus without having the slightest idea of the contents of the dish I had ordered. I would spend entire evenings dancing with men whose names I never learned. I would share intimate meals with strangers that quickly became my expanded family in this foreign place.
So it seemed that despite my average humanity, I was still permitted the immense honor of exploring the intoxicating wonders of the people, places and food found all over this planet. And if that wasn’t enough, all of these experiences would work in unison to teach me the most important lessons about myself and my role in the world. I had to become small to learn the big.
Lindsay, Bordeaux, France
The funny thing about traveling is that, to you, the place you visit is new and exciting and inspirational. You find everything to be whimsical and surreal and out-of-this-world. But to the people who reside there, living out their day-to-day lives, it’s just the boring background to normal existence. I can definitely say that growing up in Southern California, I did not fully appreciate the endless sunny days, the ocean always in sight, or the easy access to Mexican food; to me, all of that was just typical everyday stuff. Now, however, I reminisce on a daily basis about eating a burrito on the beach in 80 degree weather.
I give English lessons to a 16-year-old French kid on Friday afternoons. We had skipped the last two weeks of lessons because he was visiting Los Angeles with his basketball team, so this Friday we were set to do an extra-long, 90-minute lesson to try and make up for lost time. Now, this student is not the greatest in English, his grade in school is definitely below average. We had spent four lessons going over the difference between “I play” / “I am playing” and when to use which form in certain situations. Four lessons. Four, one-hour-long, lessons.
So I was happily surprised when I arrived at his house this past Friday to find him bubbling with excitement to start our lesson. I asked him about his trip to LA and we lost a good twenty minutes of lesson time because he just couldn’t stop talking about how great of a time he had. Once we actually got down to business, he had no trouble forming complete sentences or conjugating verbs, no mixing up of “I play” and “I am playing.” I was blown away by how much his work had improved in just a few weeks. I asked how he had improved so quickly and he told me “Well, now I’m really trying because if I get a perfect grade in English, my mom will let me finish high school in LA!”
So that’s where all this motivation came from. I have to say, I’m pretty sure his mom was bluffing, but I couldn’t really blame him for trying. My first trip to France is what made me really want to learn the language, and now I’m living here and speaking it everyday, so hey, I guess it happens. It was nice to see how traveling to the US had really sparked some effort in this kid, who obviously had the capacity to do well before but just needed that extra push to encourage him.
At the end of our lesson, he asked me how I could have ever left such an incredible place. And I tried to explain how when a place is familiar to you, and you experience it every day, it seems banal. Sometimes it takes leaving that place for a while to really appreciate what it was. Traveling inspires you to change your life, to try new things, to take chances, but it also teaches you the value of coming home.
Clare, London, England
Travel is an integral part of modern, Western life, a luxury we often take for granted. Living in the European Union, the freedom of movement is something I’ve grown up with all my life, it has become natural, and I love it.
Though if they could reinstate passport stamps for kids, that would make a lot of happy young Europeans.
Back to Friday, the 3rd of April.
Midnight. After ten days from London to Paris to Clermont-Ferrand back to London via Lyon, I finally get back home. I’ve actually been for research reasons and had an excellent time, lots of new discoveries, met some great new people, and capitalised on the chance to catch up with old friends. Being in France also allowed me to stock up on a few ‘essentials’ – steak frites (steak and chips/fries), blanche (white beer), falafel, ham, a suitcase rammed full of books, Nutella, compote, chocolate and Tariquet wine. ‘Essentials’ because I can repeat them each time I return, which is fairly frequently even on a student budget, but that very word ‘essentials’ shows quite how much this luxury has become ‘normal’.
When I wake up it’s the start of a four-day bank holiday weekend and we’d had plans but it is ‘plueving’ as we refer to it, aka raining, in an odd mix of English and French, and I am mentally and physically exhausted. I adored my ten days away, but right now there is nothing better than the sofa and falling in and out of a haze of nap.
Travel is great. Sitting on the sofa I thought about our ‘travel’ life: Martin, the boyfriend, and I have studied in the UK, France (where we met, and met Hannah, Ella and Caroline, thanks Erasmus), Germany and the US. My family moved across three continents as I grew up and we were lucky enough to travel there extensively during the holidays, and in the last two years I’ve been to three continents for research. So yes, I have travelled, but travelled as a consequence of modern life.
People always talk of the benefits of travel, and seeing the world and experiencing different cultures is fantastic. However, from seeing my contemporaries’ conversation, ‘travelling’ is too often used to exclude against those who haven’t or can’t, which is simply ridiculous. We all have our own stories and experiences to share!