The Best Thing I Did While Traveling

Three years ago at this time, I was in Edinburgh, Scotland. Before that, I had visited London and, very briefly, Oxford. As international travel goes, it was a short trip, but it was also wonderful. I didn’t go all the touristy things the guidebooks say to, but I did spend a lot of time walking around the cities, and had the fortune of meeting people from the cities who showed me a side I wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

 

It’s cliche to say, but the trip really was life changing. I couldn’t be more grateful for having gone on it.

And while I took pictures (literally hundreds), what I’ve found to be even more valuable as I think back to my trip is a small black notebook I carried with me wherever I went. My phone didn’t work overseas, so I was devoid of my usual instant distraction. I found myself soaking in much more than I do on a regular day at home, which was partly due to being in another country, but also due to having set a goal for myself of filling that black notebook by the time I got home. I didn’t quite make it, but I did fill a lot of it.

It was not a perfect trip–at one point, I got sick and threw up into a plastic bag in a London tube station as a train load of people was getting off, and proceeded to spend the rest of that day in bed at the hostel–and there were other more standard traveling hiccups. But while I wouldn’t have taken pictures of those moments, I’m glad I wrote them down. At one point, I wrote:

I think it’s good that I waited so long to do this, too–with my affinity for writing that I’ve only somewhat recently truly realized, I feel like I’m able to appreciate things twice–the first time I’m more aware, because I’m already thinking about how I’m going to recount it in writing later. Graphically speaking, it’s like I get to regurgitate things onto paper later, in the best way possible.

Looking through the photos help me see one dimension of my trip, but reading that notebook fills in so much more. I don’t get to just see the sights, I get to read how I felt as I wandered around Edinburgh Castle, how quickly I fell in love with the oldness of the cities and how every building seems to tell a story, and remember the pride I felt when I successfully navigated my way through London all by myself. They are moments and memories no picture could contain in quite the same way.

I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to travel abroad again, but when I do, I’ll definitely be aiming to fill another little black notebook.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s. What’s the best thing you did while traveling?

I Hate My Smartphone

Sometimes, that is.

We get along really well at times. I like being able to text people, getting notifications for new emails, playing Words with Friends, making the occasional phone call. And Twitter–if it weren’t for my smartphone, I probably wouldn’t bother with it.

But it is very, very easy for me to get sucked into all of it. Not checking my phone sends me into a tizzy, sure I’m missed a crucial text. The battery dies and I’m certain that will be the 5 minute drive home my car breaks down. Gmail stops syncing and I have to pull out my laptop to see if that message giving me some news I’ve been waiting for all my life has arrived yet.

It’s exhausting.

I’m very good at rationalizing it though.

I was a Communication Studies major, after all. I’m a people person. These are just the ways I keep in touch with people, maintain connections that give me energy and help me feel like me.

In May I went on a trip to London and Edinburgh (and half a day in Oxford). (Learned a few things along the way, too) For the duration of my visit I was smartphone-less.

And it kind of rocked.

No texts. No phone calls. No emails. No game notification. No @mentions. At least not while I was out and about for the day.

Standing in line for my coffee, I had nothing to check. Wandering the city, I was forced to be observant. Hanging out with people in a pub, I was able to be truly present. No one could text me, no one could call me. I was fully there.

Yet as soon as my plane touched down in Newark, it was back to normal; returning missed texts, updating my parents on my hectic journey home, posting statuses lamenting flight delays.

And so it goes. Even on my 2 minute walk at work from my desk to the restroom, I often feel the need to bring my phone along to pass the time. Most of the people I pass in the hallways there are doing the same thing.

This isn’t how I want to be though. This isn’t how I should be.

This isn’t how God wants me to be.

Does this mean I’m going to ditch my smartphone? No. The problem isn’t the phone; the problem is me.

They say admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. Being able to honestly admit that I hate my smartphone at times is probably a good way to start then.

It’s taking the rest of the steps that will get tricky. When I was on my trip, discovering new places and meeting new people, it didn’t seem so bad to be disconnected. In my everyday life of working and hanging out with family and friends and writing and reading and watching TV shows, my desire to constantly be connected so I don’t miss out on anything is a lot harder to fight.

But it’s a fight I need, and will continue, to fight.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

Green Is Not My Color

Facebook is a wonderful and terrible thing. Wonderful in that I like it–probably too much. It allows me to keep in touch with people, to share things that amuse or irritate me, and, because my job deals with social media…yes, I get paid to play on Facebook.

It is also a terrible thing, for reasons other than being a giant time suck. (which it is)

Because it allows me to keep in touch with people, and I have slight hoarding tendencies (even when it comes to Facebook friends), I’m still friends with a lot of people I haven’t talked to in real life in ages. Quite possibly I will never speak to some of them again. Yet occasionally their posts happen across my news feed, and I see pictures and status updates and blog posts from their lives. Glamorous lives, it often seems.

Road trips. India. Beaches. Paris. Weddings. Mexico. Celebrities. New York City. Skydiving.

Some of these people are more than casual acquaintances–these are friends I know and love and laugh with, and they are having opportunities to go and see and do amazing places and things. If I were a better person, I’d be happy that these people are getting to have such great experiences. And some days I am.

But other days I’m not. Other days, I am bitter, resentful, and envious. A little green. Or in moments, a lot. Yes, I’ve had some adventures of my own–small scale road trips, fun outings with friends, a trip to the UK. I loved all of those things. But when I fall into that trap of comparing, they don’t begin to match up to the experiences of others. It’s not that I don’t WANT to do those things, though at one point I may have said that. Now though, I would love to be able to go and see places, have more adventures of my own.

Right now though, that’s simply not an option. My life right now is working twenty hours a week, sleeping, Facebooking, and reading more than I should, and trying to become a better manager of my time so as not to waste all those hours when I’m not working. And more often than not, failing at doing just that.

In other words…not very exciting. Not very adventureful. Even boring maybe.

Green is not a good color on me. Though envy may be a feeling I can validate, it is not productive. No good can come from clicking through my Facebook friends’ photos, wishing I could do this or see that or go there.

At its worst, this envy makes me irritated with God. Causes me to question why I am where I am right now, instead of somewhere I deem more glamorous, doing something I deem more exciting. Not that I believe where I’m at right now is outside of his plan–he wants me right here, right now. But that doesn’t mean I always understand why.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Jumbled Thoughts of A Recent College Graduate: The View From Here

Sitting right here, in this very moment, I type on a borrowed laptop. I’m in the middle of day 2 of not working, since I am currently employed only part time. Taking into account the sum of my possessions and the amount in my bank accounts, minus the amount I owe in loans taken out to cover the cost of my education, and I estimate my monetary value in the negative twenty thousands. Ish.  About a month ago I graduated from college and moved out of my shared apartment and into my parent’s house all in the same week. Since then, I have gone on a trip to England and Scotland, resulting in my falling in love with cities I may never see again. Considering my tendency to get attached deeply and quickly, this does not sit well with me.

Only recently have I come to the realization that as much as I crave stability, I fear boredom. Boredom with my job, boredom with my living situation, boredom in my faith. Finding joy in the little things has been something I have classically succeeded at, or at least recognized the importance of, if nothing else. The dangerous thing about travel though is the risk that, upon returning home, nothing can quite compare to the glitter of where I’ve been. Having only gotten glimpses of the places I traveled to, they are still shiny, new, and alluring, while this city that I have lived in my entire life now seems dull in comparison. If I let myself, I could to see this as a gift; an opportunity to rediscover what it is that makes this city that will most likely be my own for the indefinite future such a wonderful place to be. Hopefully I’ll soon be there, but maybe not right now.

On another front, many of the friends that I typically hang out with when I’m in the vicinity of my parent’s house have already or will soon be going a myriad of ways for the summer months. My posse has shrunk to less than half its normal size. I like my friends; I do not like this.

Living with my parents means seeing much more of my married siblings and their children. While I love them madly, this is not always easy for me. Their marriedness, their parenthood, only seem to only accentuate my singleness. The picture wall in my parent’s den has 3 frames: one holds my sister, her husband, and their 2 beautiful blue-eyed girls. Next to their photo live my brother, his wife, and their joyful, dimpled son. And next to them, I hold a spot of my own; my face at least twice as large as any of the others in the photos, as I attempt to fill the frame on my own.

Right now, at this very moment, with my view from right here, nothing seems settled or clear. Locationally, I know where I am: a coffee shop in Kentwood, MI, just a few miles from home. Other than that though, I’m not really sure where I am. Wherever it is, I’m not sure I like it here very much. I find myself, for the umpteenth time in months, realizing that I don’t have a firm grasp on what’s going on in pretty much any facet of my life. Though I’ve discovered that most people don’t have things together nearly as much as they may appear on the outside, this knowledge does very little to calm the unsettledness that lurks on the edges of my thoughts.

As they have many times before, the lyrics of Gungor’s song “This is Not the End” seem fitting…

And you know you’ll be alright
Oh and you know you’ll be alright
This is not the end
This is not the end of us

There is always more to be written.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

Travel Lessons of a Recent College Graduate

A few days ago I returned from a trip I had been planning and looking forward to for months. It was…fantastic. Lovely. Wonderful. And all sorts of other positive adjectives.

I arrived in London and spent several days there, went to Oxford for a day, and ended with a few days in Edinburgh. I enjoyed myself immensely; it was amazing to see places with such history, buildings and landscapes with such beauty, to get just a glimpse of what life is like for people who live in a setting so different than mine. Cliche as it is, it was “an experience I’ll never forget.” I’ve already begun to share stories with my family and friends here, but I’m sure new ones will pop up and old ones will resurface for years to come.

Yet there was so much more to my trip than the buildings and sites I saw, the people I met and the pictures I took. All of those things were pieces, but they alone do not make up the whole. Because, as I am apt to do, while in the midst of my sightseeing and photo capturing, I was also learning. As a college graduate, I suppose that’s what I’m supposed to do: continue to observe and learn for the rest of my life.

So many times I have written about the way I struggle with change and uncertainty, how I like to have things planned out and find it frustrating to not know what’s ahead. This is still, at its core, true of me. But I think I’ve spent too much time telling myself that this is the way I am, allowing myself to buy into the idea that spontaneity and I cannot be friends, and that changes, even small ones, must be difficult. Largely due to these things, I approached my trip with a bit of trepidation, not exactly sure how I would handle things.

I learned that I do not always have to live up to my labels of “doesn’t handle change well,” “needs to be in control,” and “has to have a plan.”

When flying, I had no control over where the plane was going, or, as I experienced on my journey home, no control of when the plane would take off, which flights would be cancelled, and even, to an extent, how I would eventually get home. Much of the time throughout my trip I didn’t know what I would be having for my next meal, and it didn’t even bother me. There were shops, I had money; it would work out. I had a list of a few things I for sure wanted to see and do, most of which I got to, but other than that, I was fine with wandering around the city, seeing what would strike my (or my friend and traveling buddy’s) fancy. We stayed in a hostel in London and at my friend’s flat in Edinburgh. Hostels aren’t exactly the most glamorous of accommodations, but it worked out (mostly) fine.

Everything didn’t always go well. At one point I threw up at the South Kensington Tube station (which is actually quite a funny story). I didn’t get to check every single thing off my to-do list. My trip home took nearly 3 times as long as it should have.

Yet, I survived, and when someone asks me how my trip was, I can wholeheartedly say, “It was fantastic.” Even though I was on a continent I had never seen before, I had no control over many situations, and had no hint of a plan, it all worked out. And it was wonderful.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~