The first time I ever traveled was with my Family, the usual vacations & such. The first time I traveled for business was with my Dad as well, he helps run a production company that does events for the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and a lot of the Major League Baseball things like the World Series. He took us all over the USA, and to Hawaii several times. It was a lot of fun, and I have built up quite a nest egg of Frequent Flyer miles from this. Which allows me to travel more than most people my age. (Note: go through Delta Sky-miles, they never expire. Set one up for your kids, they will appreciate it when they get older, trust me).
The first girl road trip was to Joshua Tree National Park with a friend of mine named Brie, and her friend Sheri. It was one of the most exhilarating and terrifying things I have done. Brie was in Occupational therapy school, and I was in Physical Therapy school. We met after I had decided that I have always wanted to try climbing, which is a bit of a conundrum because I am actually very afraid of heights, or rather from falling from great heights. I had bought my own harness and first pair of shoes, and it came with a sticker for them (can’t even remember what the sticker was now). Well my car at the time was covered in bumper stickers, and so naturally I threw that one on as well. Well I came out of school one day, from a hard day, and there was a white note on my car. First thing I thought when I saw it was that I had gotten a parking ticket, but to my utter supreeeze, it was a cute little note that said, “Hi, my name is Brie, I saw you had a climbing sticker on your car, and I’m always looking from new partners to climb with, call me if you would like to go climbing sometime” with her number at the bottom. Well naturally I jumped on that like white on rice, and called her up. We went climbing a few times in a gym to get the feel of things; and to help me not hyperventilate at the top when she told me to let go and lean back. Well her and Sheri decided to go out to Joshua Tree National Park, the ride out there was super fun, the climbing was amazing, but the stone was like the coarsest sand paper you would lay your hands on, it literally puts holes in your hands if you aren’t careful or have superglue.
Well my first time climbing outside was terrifying, this wasn’t just any sort of climbing, this was crack climbing, or traditional climbing. Where you shove your feet and hands into the cracks of a rock that can be either forearm width or finger width, and haul your butt up a 80 to 800 foot cliff, if you fell on this stuff you would get chewed up quite a bit. Well, my first attempt at a climb was on a 5.8 climb, now for some this may be easy, but for me, I felt like I was attempting to commit suicide by doing this. I mean my stomach hurt, my heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, my mouth was dry sort of fear took over me. They were both so patient and kind to me the whole time, and I knew that there were climbs that were easier (at a 5.3) and there were climbs that were much harder (at a 5.13). So in addition to the fear, I felt stupid that I couldn’t get past the first leg of the first climb outside ever, and they had to leave me at the bottom essentially because I let fear get the better of me. I wanted to fit into this realm, and was mentally flogging myself with thoughts of ‘I’m too fat for this’, ‘they are amazing, I will never be amazing like them’, ‘they are regretting that they took me along now’, ‘look at how much fun they are having, and I just look like the weak link’.
So after this failure of a climb for me, we went to another climb, where they attempted to show me how to climb, then went to an easier climb for me…. I was more determined than I had ever been. I was still mind numbingly terrified, and I think at one point my legs started going numb from hyperventilating while climbing, but I made it up my first climb!!!! I was SOOOO proud of myself!!
They were proud of me too, and Sheri and Brie seriously have hearts of Gold for how patient they were, how fun they made it, and I seriously forever admire them for their free spirits & carefree attitudes, I feel like I have become one of their groupies, lol.
After the climb, Brie gave me a book called ‘The Rock Warriors Way’, its a book about how to overcome fear when you are on the side of a mountain & feel like you are going to die. Now I’m not telling everyone here that they need to go and start climbing mountains to overcome their fear; but I am saying that it helped me train and talk my mind into working through the fear.
After this experience, and continuing to climb with another friend of mine name Joe; I was able to overcome my fear of falling from great heights. Trust my gear, trust my body, and be able to experience the amazing views that were the reward of doing so. Trust me, I came home from JTree bruised from armpits to my knees, and have taken falls, and would still get terrified if I took a risk while climbing. But unless we take risks, and push those internal boundaries, we will never grow.
There are so many aspects of all of our lives that I think fear of ‘what if’ or self depreciating thoughts that inhibit experiences that can really make our character grow. So what I would suggest is this, start small, start by going out to dinner on your OWN — especially you ladies. We all know girls these days can hardly go to the Restroom by themselves because they are social creatures. But seriously, try and go to a Restaurant, sit at a booth, put your phone away and on silent, observe the people around you, SAVOR your food, be in the moment and calm your mind. If you start getting uncomfortable, have a conversation with your waiter and ask them what their goals are, or their kids, or what they do on their off time.
After you have mastered this, take a local road trip, where you are gone the entire day by yourself, exploring your city. Look at Trip Advisor, see what people recommend, I think you will be surprised at some of the things people find on there in your own town that you never even knew about. Once you master this, and can do it without fear or self doubt or self pity, then you can start thinking bigger. Think about going on a trip where you have to fly, somewhere within your own country, where its just you, and you won’t be meeting up with family or cousins or what not.
My first solo trip was actually to Israel and Jordan (I know, go big or go home right). You can read those stories in another blog post here at www.gypsysouladventure.com. But still I was meeting up with a tour group there. I think this was a GREAT baby step for me traveling solo, its like I went solo, but then met some amazing people within the tour group and didn’t feel so alone anymore. We all stayed at the same hotel, had the same transportation, and people got tired of each other after awhile and wanted to know why this 20 something girl was traveling to these places most people are afraid to travel to, because of what they see on the news, all alone.
My first TRUE solo trip was actually to Scotland, I stayed in a Hostel for most of the trip, all over the country (the blog about Scotland will be coming soon, so stay tuned). Yes at times I felt a little lonely, and thought it would be nice to have someone there to see all the amazing things I was seeing. But I think the feeling of how liberating it was, to know that I ALONE was the one who made this trip happen. No one else held my hand, I didn’t get lost (well not a lot anyway), and was able to see a land where my ancestors came from & find out that I actually have a lot of history and connection to this beautiful place that I now feel is partly my home. I had been through some traumatic things about 6 months before going on this trip, and I think going alone gives you time to reflect, and think, and that in and of itself can be scary.
But seeing all the different cultural things, talking with people around me, saying hello etc… made my problems seem small in a way that made my mind be able to logically compartmentalize them more to where I felt at peace again. As Anthony Bourdain says “if you are physically fit, hungry to learn and be better–I urge you to travel, as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how others live, eat and cook. Learn from them, wherever you go”.
I think the thing that is most edifying and enlightening is really connecting with people around the world. As human beings, our minds like to protect us from things that may potentially harm us, so it convinces us to fear and avoid those things, even if those ‘things’ are people, cultures races. Traveling helps you see past those stigmas and see why people think they way they do, and help break the boundaries either you create, the media creates, or someone helps you create. As my Boss always says, ‘Seek first to understand’; and I think the quote that really sums this thought up is by Maya Angelou, “perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but, by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends–“. So this is what we at Gypsy Soul Adventures are trying to create here, a place where we can share stories of overcoming stigmas, breaking those social boundaries, and lines that people tend to cross, and overcoming the fear of traveling alone or with children & help you understand each other a little more so that we can all grow from our collective adventures together.
Janiel Green is a Travel Guru with 21 years of National travel experience in the USA, and 17 years of International Travel experience. She is a highly educated, courageous, driven and dedicated individual to both her professional and personal life. She is the Founder of Culture Trekking LLC, and is dedicated to bringing a celebratory passion for humanity into her writing to make meaningful, useful, and heartfelt recommendations for a culturally enriched travel experience. For inquires please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org