The Travel Bug

18 Oct

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover

-Mark Twain

I have been feeling guilty as of late. I have been extremely blessed this year with the gift of travel and I feel guilty. I am not sure why. Perhaps it’s just a natural human instinct when things are going exceedingly well to wait for the other shoe to drop and to feel ashamed that so many wonderful things are happening to you. I got paid to travel to Europe three times this year, met Russell Crowe and had our blog explode, and got engaged to my Prince Charming in what I consider the most magical spot in the land (Kensington Gardens). I shouldn’t feel guilty about any of these beautiful events because that is just how my life is going. It’s all I ever wanted and yet, other forces are making me feel apologetic for being so lucky. People asking how I can afford to this (I can’t, it’s a job). My own conscience questioning how these experiences can even be real. I am writing this entry to talk about my love of travel and how I think when you’re young, healthy, and ready, you should just fuck it and do it.

My love of travel came at an early age. As a child, we vacationed at least once a summer at the beach or down in Pennsylvania or New Hampshire with my relatives. We would travel to Canada or places around Vermont as well. It was when we got older that it became travel instead of vacation. I started getting curious about less obvious spots to venture to and stopped thinking about hotel accommodations and started seeing more history and culture.

I went to Belize in high school. It was my first trip internationally besides Canada and first on my own without my family, just my classmates. I fell in love immediately. Belize was unlike any place I had ever been. We were studying there and we stayed outside a village in the rain forest called Blue Creek. We were there for a spell and then traveled to a caye in the ocean to scuba dive and study the different flora and fauna there. In the village, we had to shake our sleeping bags out every night before bed for scorpions, bath in the creek itself, and eat what the villagers made for us every morning because that was the only food available. We were dirty, hot, makeup free, and on our toes every minute because you never knew when you were about to step on a viper or have a giant beetle fly in your face. IT WAS AWESOME. I had fully fallen into a place that was entirely different from my reality. I had always wanted to travel to the rain forest and living inside it was one of the first magical travel experiences of my life. I wrote several college application essays on my time there. The caye was just as incredible. Ocean for days, the island itself was only a few miles long and we were the only inhabitants until Will Ferrell (yes, that Will Ferrell) and his new bride came by to explore the island with their guide (they were on their honeymoon and exploring the cayes). We scuba dived with sharks and all the coral life we had been researching prior to leaving the states. I snorkeled besides a female manatee who swam in sync with me as if she liked me beside her. It was that trip that made me realize the world is massive and full of wonder and life. It made me want to travel.

Blue Creek, Belize

I started making a list of places I wanted to go to. A few years after Belize, I was able to cross off Savannah, Georgia as we were looking at colleges for my brother. My mother and I had been obsessed with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil so we were incredibly stoked to go and explore the old mysterious south. That city is so full of history and southern charm and magic. It has such a different feel to it than most places I had been at that point. It was a city that was thick with ghosts and stories and pain and beauty. It is a place that has seen horrors and has seen strength. It’s beyond gorgeous and feels as though it is frozen in time. After Savannah, I realized I needed to try as hard as I could to check off the rest of my growing list.

I studied abroad in London in college. It was one of the most marvelous gifts my parents had ever given me. It wasn’t a full semester at my college, it was called a January session and was a little over a month and one class in British Contemporary Theater. It brought Europe to me and took over my heart. I immediately took to London and felt more comfortable in those streets than I had ever felt in New York. I learned the Tube in a day and we took our time exploring every nook and cranny. Some days we would just pick a specific site to see and then wander around, getting lost, discovering places we had never heard of but could be from the 13th century or just a gorgeous small park in the middle of the city block. While on my list, London was not the top. That belonged to Paris.

Years prior to my engagement happening in this very spot!

Oh, Paris. I get goosebumps just remembering my first moments there. We got off the train and were wandering in the dark Montmartre streets trying to find our hostel and I remember feeling that I was in somewhere special, somewhere unfamiliar, somewhere entirely different. It felt old and similar to Savannah in the sense of history and beauty. Even in the dark, the air and atmosphere was new and vintage all at once. You could see the Sacre Coeur from our hostel and I don’t even know how long I stared at it. It was one of those moments you want to hold on to and never forget. A moment where you breath in and out and say to yourself “I’m actually here.” The moment I saw the Eiffel Tower up close for the first time, I couldn’t stop tears. It seems foolish maybe to some but when you dream of a place for so long, it’s overwhelming when you find yourself standing in front of an image you’ve seen countless renderings of. Leaving Paris, I felt a longing to return as soon as I was able.

The look on my face says it all

I was cast in a west coast tour of a production of Babes in Toyland. Without telling every amazing thing that happened (that’s a whole other blog entry), I got to see this gorgeous country of ours. I had no idea how vast and unique each state is. I remember getting out of the van to see the Grand Canyon and my breath just leaving me. Nothing can prepare you for that moment. You can’t move or think or breathe. I had always dreamed of the redwoods and standing besides the trunk of General Sherman, the largest living tree on Earth (by volume), was surreal to say the least. They truly are as you imagine: just massive monsters of trees that you can’t believe are real. The Painted Desert in Arizona was one of the most stunning stretches of the planet I have ever seen. The sunset we witnessed was as if we painted it in our dreams. The colors that spread across the sky and changed with every movement of the sun were unbelievable. Every state we went to had such beauty and depth to it. The San Francisco skyline, the Vegas strip, the Hoover Dam, Hollywood Boulevard. Places you take for granted because you live here and maybe haven’t traveled west or east or in between. Places you always say “Eh, I’ll go someday.” It is worth it to go, I promise you that.

Redwood Forest

Painted Desert

I received a job offer to model in Belgium early this year. After researching the crap out of it, Lincoln and I were able to go expense free to Brussels, Bruges, and Paris. It was better than any honeymoon we could ever afford. Lincoln had never been to Europe and watching it through his eyes was extraordinary. It was the same reaction I had: the wide eyes, just stopping to laugh because you can’t believe where you are standing, the gasps when you read how old a place is. Paris was once again the love of my life. My heart swelled every day we were there. Lincoln had fallen ill one day and insisted I explore on my own. Our hotel was near the Louvre and several other museums so I went to the smaller ones on my own. After, I walked down Jardin des Tuileries and sat and people watched. I heard languages from all over the world and watched adorable French schoolchildren lining up to go into the museum for field trips. I saw families and couples exploring. I saw natives jogging or having a meal by the fountain. As much as I hated leaving Lincoln alone, I am grateful to have had those moment alone, submerged quietly in this city I love. This trip to Paris, we got to see a new perspective from a native who drove us around. It made me more enamored with this city than ever. And again, upon leaving, I started counting the days for when I can return.

We have traveled to Europe twice more. To Ghent and Budapest in June and most recently to Brussels and London. Ghent and Bruges are similar in the sense they are fairy tale lands trapped in time. They possess a pure magical quality of history unlike any other European destination I have been to. Budapest is a place I must implore any one to visit. I feel it deserves it’s own entry. It is an incredibly relentless country that has been through so much historically and has risen out of the ashes. It is a city mixed in time periods and architecture. It’s identity is a blend of everything that has happened to it, if that makes any sense. Paris is so clearly one sort of thing, one type of architecture, one type of feeling. Budapest is so many, it’s such a fascinating energy. Returning to London felt like coming home, only my old age showed and I forgot so many things. To my credit, the city has changed greatly, especially with the Olympics. But again, I wandered around like I lived there. It felt familiar and safe. I couldn’t help but think “Let’s just pack our bags and live here for a year.”

Budapest

Ghent

Almost identical shot years later, moments before our engagement

I shouldn’t feel guilty that I have had these opportunities. There are people on this Earth that can travel because they have the means to do so whenever they please. There are those who travel for work. There are those who throw caution to the wind and travel because of passion. I am a combination of the last two. Yes, I am a poor actress in New York City and I can not actually afford to travel to Europe hence why I do it for work. I am not alone in this industry and in this specific gig. I have made several close friends because of this particular photographer and the models I have met while working with him. In a few weeks, we are traveling again to Disney World for our “real” vacation. We had this planned prior to booking my third European job and we decided to still go. Yeah, I’m really broke from buying pints in London. However, I can make do for the travel and the joy of checking another thing off my list: The Disney Food and Wine Festival. So what if it’s a little silly and not some European journey. It’s gonna be awesome and I’ve always wanted to go.

My career is on the right path. I am learning so much about what I need to do in order to get ahead. My life is amazing. I am traveling with my best friend and fiance and loving every minute of it. I have my health, my passion, and my love all strapped in and yearning for more LIFE. So, in closing, while I do feel guilty for the luck I’ve been given, I have to stop thinking of it as luck. I have to remember I always imagined having a big life and shit, here it is. Here’s my big life. There will be downers and challenges and disappointments. But it is the life I always dreamed of and I gotta hold tight and enjoy it.

Travel. Learn. Love. It’s cheesy and very Eat, Pray, Love but if you listen to those who have experienced new worlds, cultures, foods, smells, art, beers, etc, you will hear this speech over and over. You learn about yourself when you’re thrown into an unfamiliar place. You feel a completeness when you get to that place on your check list and it’s better than you dreamed. Don’t take for granted that these places will always be accessible to you. Be brave. Be bold. Just fuck it and go.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 
J.R.R. Tolkien
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3 Responses to “The Travel Bug”

  1. GurlNxtDoor October 19, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Girl, I am so happy for you and Lincoln and this entry made me tear up a little bit. I am insanely happy for you and your good fortune and insanely jealous at the same time. (But, you know, the good kind of jealousy.) So, don’t ever EVER feel guilty about your awesome life. You inspire me to try harder. You’ve earned this, lady!

  2. Lincoln L. Hayes October 25, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Reblogged this on Lincoln bLogs and commented:
    My fiance’s blog about her love of traveling

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A London Engagement « Lincoln bLogs - October 25, 2012

    […] This was Rachel’s favorite place from when she studied in London in college. The plan was to find ourselves along by the statue and I would pop the question. Little did I know, it’s LITERALLY right on the path where every other tourist in Kensington Gardens would be walking as well. When we came upon it, Joey, in all her glory, noticed the river full of water fowl and said, “Look, ducks!” and promptly disappeared with Kyle in tow. […]

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