Later today, I will be going on a much needed vacation. I’ve been busy with life stuff lately and I think I have earned some time to get away. I just recently moved and spent time and money on that. Plus, work has been busy. Now, it is time to relax, enjoy my time away, and disconnect.
I haven’t been out of the country in almost 14 years. The last time I ventured off American soil was to visit Montreal. My dad had recently remarried and we were up there visiting my stepmom’s family in Plattsburgh, New York. Since Quebec was close, that made sense. I had a good time. We went to the biodome in Montreal and ate at a Canadian restaurant named Moe’s (I just learned today it closed last year). I was 14 or so and enjoyed the trip and the novelty of things like putting a caramel sauce on French fries. It blew my mind.
Growing up in a military family, I moved around a lot. I remember quite a bit about the places and they all offered something unique in my childhood development. Since I was born into that world of relocating to different bases and such, it sort of became the norm. Then, when I started high school and my dad retired from the Navy, things became a little more consistent.
I spent all four years of high school and college in Kentucky. After college, I went to work in Alaska for 8 months. The was fun, but I had lived there before and the magic of it being new had long faded. In 2011, I had moved to Chicago. That was incredibly fun, new, and exciting. It was quite an adventure to get settled, meet people, find a job, and make my own way. I was excited about my future and what I could do with it.
For my first three years in Chicago, things were tough. I did have fun, meet interesting people, and have a lot of great experiences, but it was also very hard. I had spent my first three years working at a non-profit that kept me working for nearly 70 hours a week. I had very little free time and due to the demands of my employer, it was even difficult to make plans for holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving. I spent a few of those holidays alone because of my intense work schedule. It would be five years before I even made my way back to Alaska because of the work schedule, let alone go anyplace new.
When I left that job two years ago, I was determined to take control of my life because I felt as though I didn’t have control for a long time. I had some other personal things happen including the ending of a long-term relationship and inconsistent temp work. The goal was keep things together and weather the storm. It was going to take a lot of hard work and time to get to a point where I felt in control and had the freedom to live my life the way I want. Before I got the job I have now, I saved as much as I could when I was going from temp job to temp job. I found ways to stay active and meet new people by volunteering at various organizations. I wanted to get out, be active, and enjoy life without having my job be the center of my life. A job is meant to be a way to make a living that takes care of your necessities. A job isn’t meant to define you or make it seem that your life on the outside is a privilege. We all have a right to happiness and I didn’t want my job to tell when I could be happy.
As I was saving money, volunteering, and making new friends, I began to analyze what exactly I needed to feel in control again. I needed an apartment with a space that made me feel comfortable; I got that. I needed to use my time to learn something new; I picked up guitar classes as a hobby. I needed to focus on what was going into my body as much as I focused on what to do with it; I started cooking more and getting creative with heathy foods. And most importantly, I needed to travel.
As I mentioned earlier, travelling by way of moving a lot became the norm to me. I wasn’t aware when I was 14 that I wouldn’t again leave the country until I was 28. I assumed that I would have a lot of opportunities to travel abroad. At times, the possibility of it would surface but then would fizzle out. And then when I moved to Chicago, I was bogged down with the jobs and had to work towards the balance between time and money that afforded me the opportunity to travel.
I am now at that point. I’m taking my first vacation abroad today. I am flying solo to London, Rome, and Amsterdam. I will be staying in hostels and making around the city on my own. I haven’t been so excited and so nervous as this in a long time. As someone who never half asses anything, I gave it my all to plan this trip. Every piece of work ethic, time management, and planning ability that I had went into designing a 12-day itinerary that suited my interest while allowing some wiggle room to adventure. I financed it myself 100% and earned the time off work to take vacation days. I feel I have earned this trip as a result of a lot of hard to reign in chaos.
I was really “travel envious” for a while. This means that whenever I saw people travelling on Facebook, I felt a little jealous. I realize that was my problem and not theirs. Social media has a weird ability to amplify already existing negative emotions until they can get a little overwhelming. We’re all guilty of that. That is how social is designed: to show off the positive and happy aspects of our lives. I know that any envy I had was a manifestation of my own unhappiness dealing with a shitty job that was affecting me a lot of different ways. And as soon as I was able to take off for a vacation in Europe, I did that. No questions, no waiting. I did not know when my next chance would be, so I had to take the chance I had now. Opportunities don’t wait around.
Now, I’m not a naïve person. I know we cannot have complete control over everything all the time. I get that. You have to be flexible and have the ability to deal with change. Sometimes, even good change can be difficult to get accustomed to. But considering that bad change is what usually throws our lives off balance, it is exceptionally important to know what to do and commit to it. When you lose a job, for example, cut unnecessary expenses and live simply. Live in the moment and make the best of the situation. It is hard for me to remember sometimes, but I try when I can.
The song I’ve been listening on repeat that has been getting me hyped is “Holiday Rap” by Euro-house duo M.C. Miker ‘G’ & Deejay Sven (see the European connection?). I was introduced to this track back in college and it stuck with me ever since. Released in 1986, the song is a Euro-house, disco track that sample Madonna’s single “Holiday” and features the fun rap stylings of Miker ‘G’ and Deejay Sven. In the song, the duo is rapping about their summer holiday, having fun, and being in control of their own lives. And being that the rappers are European, they proclaim that they gotta have their 7-week holiday (Wow. Europe sounds better by the minute).
This song typically makes it on my summer playlists because it is a fun song for sun and warm weather. I’m not going on a summer holiday like the rap duo. My holiday is a fall one. That is by design because of the timing, plus I didn’t want to go during peak tourist season. Regardless, the message is loud and clear to me.
Control equates to simplicity for me. That’s why I work towards having it. I can organize my life based on current situations and have it provide me with the best possible outcome (sometimes). I won’t always be in control because there are things that happen in life that you cannot control. However, I believe that while you cannot control what happens to you, you can control how you handle the situation. I recognized what I needed to make my life better. In some ways, I made those changes. In other ways, it is a work in progress. While I may not have traveled as much as friends or colleagues, I don’t need to feel envious anymore because I have been gifted an opportunity to make it happen for myself. This trip means so much more to me than just two weeks of fun and getting away from work. It means something much bigger. It means freedom and freedom is something I never want to take for granted.