I got bit by the travel bug early in my life, most likely because of my parents. When my parents were first married in the 70s, they were in their 20s and childless. My dad was an Air Force officer working for the Defense Intelligence Agency in Italy, and my Mom was halfway through college and working for an insurance company, while learning Italian so well she spoke it in her dreams. Dad still likes to brag about how they did Europe for a dollar a day. Every weekend that Dad didn’t have to work was a different adventure in a different country, unless of course it was a communist country that Dad had to avoid for security reasons. I know they got to see Paris and Prague, along with most of the Italian countryside.
Dad and Mom instilled their love for travel and the lessons it teaches in both my sister Patty and me. I think part of why they didn’t have kids until ten years after they got married is because they wanted to see as much of the world as they could first. I understand this mentality. I’m in my early thirties, and so far, I’ve been to Italy, England, France, Scotland, China, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, the Isle of Capri, and several islands in the Caribbean. This Christmas and New Year’s, I am going to South America with my parents, my sister, and my brother-in-law Ethan. Usually, during the summer, I teach writing camp and write tests just long enough to make some extra money, and then I leave Atlanta for as long as I can. I try to go to a foreign country, or at least out to the west coast. (Last summer, it was California, the Redwood National Forest, Crater Lake, and Portland. The summer before, it was Seattle and the Washington Peninsula, including Forks and the surrounding wineries). If I’m lucky, this summer, I’ll get to do a long weekend in Charleston to visit a beach and a National Park. Other than that, I’m not going anywhere this summer except for my home city of Atlanta. My family is coming to me for July 4th weekend, including my Aunt and Uncle, so I’m excited about me.
As someone with a wandering south and heightened senses, though, it’s almost painful to me to not be doing much (if any traveling) this summer. I’ve been a writer since I was five years old, and traveling to new places always gives me new ideas and new scenery to describe. But, I have one more credit card to pay off, and until that happens, I’m going to be responsible and not travel anywhere else major. Also, I’m starting a Ph.D. program in the fall. I am super excited about my new Assistantship, but it does involve me taking a sizeable pay cut from my former public school teaching job. So, I’ve decided that I need to get creative this summer, and find ways to make myself feel like I’m on vacation this summer even though I’m technically not. If you’re in the same boat as me (and I’m sure some of you are), here are some of the tips I’m trying:
1. Try a new restaurant: Some of my friends and I tend to gravitate toward the same restaurants, partly because they’re close by, partly because they’re familiar and reliable. However, trying a new place is a good way to shake things up. My friend LeeAnn suggested that we try Red Sky Tapas in Marietta on Friday night, and the tapas and beverages were excellent. You might not love every dish you try at a new restaurant because you don’t yet know what to order, but at least it feels like a new adventure.
2. Go to your pool, or find a friend in an apartment complex or condo who has a nice pool: why pay a ton of money to go to a resort when you can go to a pool with a resort-like fee to it. You’ll save a whole lot of money and get a similar effect.
3. Take advantage of the outdoor parks in your area: The beltine in Piedmont and Inman Park is amazing, and it’s also a fun adventure to take with a friend. Piedmont Park in Atlanta reminds me of Central Park in New York City, a lovely mix of trees and water. If it’s not too hot, find a cool trail to bike or hike. In Atlanta, I recommend Kennesaw Mountain or the Silver Comet Trail. The bike rental fees are very reasonable, and more often than not, you only have to pay about five dollars to park at a National or State park site. Other adventures in my area include Acworth Beach (which I have yet to visit), Sweetwater Creek Park, Redtop Mountain, and Lake Allatoona.
4. Wander around a cool neighborhood in your area and people watch: Yes, it sounds strange, but it’s actually really fun. One of my favorite things about traveling to a new city is getting to see new architecture while people watching. Now, I figure why not do the same thing here in Atlanta. Virginia Highlands, Candler Park, Decatur, and Inman Park are my favorite neighborhoods/small cities, so they’re fun to wander around, as though I were on a vacation and exploring a new city.
5. Try new events with friends new and old: Another reason I love to travel is the opportunity to meet people I otherwise would not encounter. But I’m beginning to realize that you can do that even if you don’t go to a new city. For the past ten months, I’ve been trying to follow my cousin Cindy’s mantra: “If someone invites me to something, I try to go if I can.” It’s simple advice, and it seems obvious, but it works wonders. I know it can be tempting to say, “that doesn’t sound like my alley,” or “I’m tired,” or “I have a lot of work to do.” And yes, occasionally, those are valid excuses. Yet more often than not, when I coerced myself to go to an event that was maybe a little out of the box for me, I ended up meeting some really cool people. A prime example was Dragoncon 2005. I went to that event with a date who was really into Star Wars, and I was at first a little worried that I would’t find “my people” there. I ended up being wrong. I went to some of the Young Adult Literature panels and Creative Writing panels (in addition to the Star Wars panels), and I met people who are still my friends today. Along the way, I’ve also met several authors and learned about more conferences where I could meet more inspirational scholars and writers. Also, I’ve coerced my cousins Cindy and Kris and my lifelong friend Angela to come with my every year, and it has now become a tradition for us. I know you wouldn’t believe it, but Dragoncon is actually a great way to meet potential dates. So, it turned out to be a great and continuing adventure for me, even though I initially thought I would be out of my element.
6. Read and write: Yes, I know I’m preaching to the choir with some of you here. 🙂 But reading can make you feel like you’re in a different world, and writing can help you to get in touch with your emotions, and also be a good emotional “cleanse” for things you’ve kept bottled up for a while. If reading is not your thing, go see a movie. There are a lot of good ones out there by now.
Whether or not you travel this summer, I hope you embark on a lot of new adventures. Tis the season. 🙂