My two-week trip across America was eye-opening in many senses of the world. (And not just because I saw a man openly peeing on the streets of Vegas.) I may have ticked off bucket list sights and scratched off yet another section of my world map but, as clichéd as it sounds, I also learnt quite a bit about my own quirks and foibles. Things like the following.
1. I am not a budget traveller.
Never going to happen, I’m sorry. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bargain as much as the next person. But give me the choice between a dirt-cheap hostel and a 4* hotel, I’ll go for the latter any day of the week.
Example in point: five months before we arrived in Los Angeles, my friend and I reserved a room at the USA Hostels Hollywood. At the time, we figured its private bunk room and city/beach shuttles would make the hostel experience bearable for just four nights. Plus, it was just two minutes from the Walk of Fame, and only £150pp for four nights!
And the room looks kind of OK here, no?
When we got there, we lasted just 12 hours. 12 hours in a hostel. Even that was way too long for me. We checked in at 10pm, and by 10am the next day we had already booked ourselves into a Doubletree Hilton hotel downtown. There was nothing particularly wrong with the hostel itself. It just wasn’t…’us’. Our private bunk room was tiny, our shower cubicle squashed up next to our beds. The beds squeaked every time we moved an inch, and the surrounding area just felt a little unsafe, with street harassment from ticket vendors every time we walked down the street. I have no doubt that the hostel would be perfect for budget, sociable travellers – but I like my travels to be sedate and easy, with a bit of luxury and isolation from humans thrown in. Maybe it’s because I’m only a part-time traveller. Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner. Or maybe I’m just getting old? Yeah. That’s probably it.
2. I am an anxious traveller.
I don’t mean in the sense of ‘Oh dear, have I left my straighteners on at home?’ I mean that, no matter how much I’ve got my anxiety disorder under control at home, I can be sure that every symptom and more will come back with a vengeance when I’m away.
The process starts before the trip: for a week or two, I’ll be organising every little detail to ensure I am in control of every possible scenario that the trip could throw at me. Then, around 24 hours before I head off, the panic attacks will kick in. I’ll be shaking uncontrollably, crying hysterically, looking into cancelling the whole trip…yeah, it’s not a pretty sight. Remind me: why am I a travel blogger again? I’m probably the worst traveller ever.
Worst traveller ever? I even made time to find Ricky Martin’s star on the Walk of Fame. Help. Me.
Finally, I’ll head to the airport after convincing myself that this will be the last trip I ever take, and the last time I will ever put myself through such an anxious ordeal. Throughout the trip I’ll remain anxious, concerned about every single possibility that could go wrong…and then, miraculously, it’ll all work out fine. And within hours of returning home, I’m busy planning my next trip away.
The moral of this point? I will probably always be an anxious traveller. But the important thing is knowing that this happens so that I can persevere and gain control of my anxiety.
3. I actually like talking to people.
Back at home, the thought of chatting to a random person out on the street brings me out in hives. In particular, people in London can be so rude, especially daily commuters. But when I’m abroad, people just seem friendlier, more open to help, and more willing to open up. Especially in places like Las Vegas, where everyone seems to want to know your life story, or wants to tell you theirs.
Up at the top of the Stratosphere, Las Vegas – where I got chatting to someone who turned out to live down the road from me in Essex!
4. But I honestly do find most people really annoying.
I’m writing this on a train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and someone is LOUDLY EATING RAW CARROTS in the middle of my carriage. Seriously. Since when was that acceptable. Hush up and suck on some mash potato. And don’t inflict your jaw grinding on me. (*goes to sit at the other end of the carriage*)
Where the raw carrot offender was sitting. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you almost three weeks on…
5. I love animals more than is humanly possible.
At home it’s easy to get wound up in the day-to-day of writing, sleeping, Netflixing etc. And I love my cats more than I love most humans (well, bar one or two). But when I’m away, finding an animal to hug becomes my absolute, 100% prime obsession. I see a homeless dog on the street and I spend the whole evening researching ways to bring it home with me. Locating a cat in the city becomes my sole focus. I’ve also been known to follow dog walkers for a few blocks, in the hope that the dog will turn round, acknowledge my existence and decide that I’m to be its new mummy.
Me and CJ the cat (found on the way to Yosemite)
Me and Birdie the dog in San Francisco
Yeah, I have a few issues.
But being away from the daily grind has a way of showing up what’s truly important to you. It also makes me evaluate my life choices, and my ideals for my life in 10 years’ time. Surely it’s better for everyone involved if I just open my own cat grooming parlour and spend my life making cats looking even more beautiful than they already are? Or maybe I should just open up a retirement home for senior animals? At least then I would be off the streets and out of dog walkers’ way…