Kindred Sol Collective Blog

Anyone can see the world



Most people believe they can’t travel. That it’s just not a reality for them. Traveling is easier than you think.
We have grown so used to our creature comforts and routines, that uprooting and heading off into new territory can be intimidating. To me, travel is nearly synonymous with personal growth. No matter which direction I’m going, I feel like I’m moving forward.

Money is probably the main reason people give for not seeing more of the world. (See my previous post for why you can afford to travel.)
Besides money, there’s a few other reasons people give for not being able to travel.

Commitments, responsibilities, relationships

I get it, you have a family and a job. But this is a reason, not an excuse. If you really want to travel, you can make it happen. It’s often less about leaving your friends and family, and more about leaving the comforts and predictability of home.
If you are fulfilled and don’t want to travel, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to see the world, find out what is really holding you back. Talk to the people in your life, more people understand the desire to travel. Life is short. We deny ourselves so many pleasures because of burdens we impose on ourselves.
If something is important to you, you make it a priority. Even if it’s a week in the next state over, getting out there will give you perspective and realizations.

Fear of the unknown

The first time I saw a stressed out backpacker from Australia holding a map of Chicago, I realized that to an Australian, America is a foreign country. What we perceive as far off exotic lands, are comfort zones to the people who live there. When our whole world exists in only a handful of square miles, it’s harder to keep perspective. Start slowly. Take day trips. Start to venture our farther and farther each time. But I’m warning you, once you get the travel bug, it doesn’t go away.

Concern for safety

It’s becoming more clear that everywhere can be dangerous. There are many places I wouldn’t travel alone. Some of those places are in America. Foreigners I meet traveling often ask me about the safety of my own country. America is viewed as a dangerous place by the rest of the world. It feels safe to us, because it’s comfortable. There are safe places in dangerous cities, and vice versa. Take advantage of all the information out there are which places to avoid.
When I lived in New York, I saw a Chinese couple who were clearly tourists. One of them was trying to buy a souvenir from a street vendor, and he stealthily took some cash out of his money belt that he was wearing under his shirt. His wife was looking around suspiciously, trying to shield him from any potential muggers. The way they felt about Midtown, is the way I would feel about Hong Kong. Pay attention to your intuition, be aware of your surroundings and don’t travel at night. There is a plethora of information online about how to keep yourself safe while traveling. Arm yourself with knowledge and have a plan. Use common sense, and let people know where you are going.

The unfamiliar is scary at first. It will take a moment to get acquainted with your surroundings. Learn about the local culture. Meet other travelers. Hostels are filled with people backpacking from all over the world. Learn at least a few phrases, like how to ask for help and if an area if safe. Don’t be scared of people, embrace the differences and learn as much as you can. People will find you different too. I’ve been asked these things about America:
“Are there really metal detectors in schools?” and “Does everyone carry a gun?” Yes. And we sell cigarettes at our pharmacies and fresh produce costs more than junk food. We are odd and confusing too.


Traveling with someone is definitely easier than going alone. It allows you to split costs and planning. There’s safety in numbers, and it’s nice to have a companion.
Going solo will give you the opportunity to get to know yourself. You have the freedom to make your own choices and set your own schedule. You’ll meet people along the way, it’s not hard to find people to travel with for awhile. I’ve made some amazing friends that way. People are generally very helpful and supportive of solo travelers. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The more you see of the world, the more you will start to realize your place in it. We have a natural curiosity and desire to explore our planet. Setting off on an adventure, I usually feel equal parts anxious and excited. That’s the atmosphere at the border crossing of my comfort zone. The more I fill my passport, the more I fill my soul.

Photo: Traveling essentials: Guidebook and sunscreen. Floppy hat optional.

You can afford to travel

 

I think it’s safe to say that most people would like to travel more. So often, we think this is impossible, that we can’t afford to, or don’t know how.
By far the most common question I get is “How do you afford to travel?”
Money is a legitimate concern, but not as much of a barrier as you think. Here are a few ways to make travel a possibility.

Save for as long as you can, as much as you can

This seems obvious, but we don’t always understand our budget.
For one week, write down every dollar you spend. You’ll be surprised at how much money you are spending on nothing. Depending on where you go, what kind of comforts you are willing to sacrifice, and how many extras you want, you can survive on $1000 a month in a lot of places. That's about a month's rent. Next time you think about spending $20 on something you don’t need, ask yourself if it’s more important than one day of travel.

Make money while you travel

I’ve done work in hostels in exchange for room and board. Anything from bartending, to housekeeping. If you speak the local language, you can get paying jobs, like working at the reception desk. If you’re looking for something more permanent, there’s a high demand for English teachers, especially in Asia. Working online has also become popular in recent years. There’s also many volunteer programs, in almost every country. The more connections you make, the more opportunities you will find. You’d be surprised how much happens just by asking.

Travel frugally

It’s exponentially cheaper to stay in a dorm at a hostel than a private room. There are usually lockers to keep your stuff safe, and it’s a great way to meet people. I’ve made so many friends this way and gotten the best travel tips. You can also find people to travel with. Use hostelworld.com or hostelbookers.com to book your room in advance. Both sites list the hostels by price, accommodations, and reviews. You don’t have to plan out your entire trip. I usually just focus on one city at a time. Airbnb.com or couchsurfing.com are also great ways to find places to stay, or people to meet up with. You can learn great tips from locals and other backpackers to avoid getting scammed. I suggest talking to other travelers that just came from the place you are heading next.  

When I was in La Paz, Bolivia, the cab drivers always charged me different prices. I was told by another backpacker that a cab ride anywhere in the city is always the same price. After that, when a cabbie would try to overcharge, I’d say "Yo no lo creo compañero."  In Buenos Aires, vendors and cabbies would pull a scam where they’d switch your real bill for a fake one. They'd tell you the bill you just gave them was fake and force you to give them more money. This sort of thing happens everywhere, especially if you are wearing a pink fanny pack and have a thick Wisconsin accent. Whatever, I’m awesome. 


Know what to expect

I’ve stayed in a hostel with no AC, in the middle bunk of a 3 person bunk bed - and I’ve stayed in a hostel with a full size swimming pool and charming bungalows with TVs. The prices will change drastically during the high season. When I arrived in Brazil a week before Christmas, prices increased 50% by the next week, and the hostels were all full. 

When you know which places are costly,  you can decide if it’s really worth it. If you want to do excursions, check out a local travel agency. Your hostel will also have information about things to do. There are plenty of affordable adventures, and some of the best things to do don't cost a thing. 


There’s a difference between travel and vacation

Travel is a verb that means to move from one point to another. Vacation is a period of suspension from work or other activity. The two overlap, but are pretty different animals.
Although I would love to, lying by the pool of a 5 star hotel is not something that happens when I travel. Well, unless I’ve snuck into the hotel to pretend to be a jetsetter for a moment. Backpacking involves a lot of schlepping, confusion about bus schedules, always looking for a bank, calling your sister to wire you money, chicken busses with no bathrooms, border crossing hassles, and dirty clothes. That’s the part no one posts about on Facebook. Travel is often uncomfortable and lonely. If you don’t cry at least once, you’re on vacation.
That’s what makes it so rewarding. When you step off a bus into an unknown city, with no idea where to stay or even which direction to go, you are exhausted and you wonder if you can do this. But you figure it out. The next day when you are lying on a beach after taking the first shower you’ve had in days, you realize you can do anything. There’s nothing as empowering as figuring it out on your own. You really learn how strong and capable you are.

I've highlighted a few of the less glamorous realities of travel. All the frustrating and uncomfortable moments don't even compare to the good stuff. The excitement of exploring a new place, the intense bonds you will form with new friends, the amazing  experiences you will have - these things are priceless. The best money I've ever spent was on a plane ticket.

 Life is short, go out and get it. 


Ambitious

 

 

It’s been said many times, many ways - what we think, we become.

That means i could probably convince myself that I was a glass of orange juice if I tried hard enough. Maybe I’m actually a glass of orange juice that has been thinking really hard about becoming a human girl. All I know is that I feel better when I let myself be myself.

I desire to be undaunted and strong. So I tell myself I’m successful, I act like I have my shit together. I pretend to be confident and I do start to actually become confident. I try to believe that I’m just as capable as anyone. I believe in putting positive vibes in the universe, and they often come back. So I keep thinking good thoughts about myself.
Sometimes this backfires. Because sometimes I am not all the things I keep pretending to be. It makes me feel like a fraud. That’s when I start to compare and question. Am I cut out for this? My ambitions tend to discourage me. It makes me want to hide in the corner and leave the ambition to the CEOs.

Ambition. That’s a good thing right? We are told early on that we need to reach for the stars and dream big. The more you do, the more you are, the better you are. That's a lot of pressure.

I never wanted to be an astronaut or a movie star. In high school, while my peers were stressing about their transcripts and deciding on colleges, I set my sights a bit lower. I was a motivated teen, sometimes rolling out of bed before noon and wandering to the park or the bookstore. I dropped out of high school to focus my energies on going to concerts and taking road trips to small towns in the middle of the night. I was clearly an overachiever. I had one real dream, to see the world. And go to as many beaches as possible. That was basically it. I just didn’t care about all the things I was supposed to care about.

The world kept telling me that I must be a burnout, I was doing it wrong. I started to think maybe I was. I allowed my own thoughts to confuse my identity for the sake of social acceptance. That’s some powerful thinking. Especially for a glass of orange juice.
I definitely went an alternative route, but it was my path to choose. When I tried to take the conventional course, I wasn’t doing it for me. I was doing it so I could say I did something. I finished high school through the mail, just so I could tell the world I did it. I went to college for 2 minutes, just so I could check the ’some college’ section on a job application. For the ambitious folks who are unfamiliar, a job application is like a low grade résumé. You check boxes of categories you best fit into, to determine your merit. I have accomplished many things, but nothing that fits in a box. Nothing that a job application enquires about. 

I’ve made a lot of dumb choices and there’s plenty I’m not proud of. But I don’t want to impose anyone else’s standards on myself. I think we should decide what road we want to take. I don’t think putting an insane amount of pressure on kids (or anyone for that matter) to be overly ambitious will make them happy in the long run. Its kind of saying that you shouldn’t settle for what you are, that you aren’t good enough yet.

By definition, part of being ambitious means never really being satisfied. So you are essentially aiming to never feel content. Thank goodness there are ambitious people in the world, but that isn’t the only way to be in the world. It doesn’t appear that boundless ambition isn’t without it’s own detriments.
I live somewhere in between being too hard on myself and not living up to all the things I keep telling myself I am. At this point, I’m not as focused on self improvement so much as self acceptance.

I’m not saying that we should all just give up and go take a nap. Well, sometimes I’m saying that. My point is that some of us just want to feel gratified where we’re at, and not push so hard. I’m still content to baby step my way to the beach, taking plenty of hammock naps along the way. So long as you aren’t complacent, I don’t see anything wrong with setting your own goals. Despite what the world tells you will make you happy. 

I still question myself, and I still have doubts. I just won’t listen to that voice. There are plenty of other voices chattering up there. If I listen, I can hear that little whisper that says, you got this. You are capable.
I believe that my opinion carries as much weight as any self help guru or professional brain expert (is that a profession? sounds ambitious). Me, who hasn’t had a real job in years. Me, a recovering alcoholic, a bipolar high school dropout, covered in tattoos and wearing two different socks. I’m making this up as I go along, but so are you. Most of this shit is totally out of our control.

If your dream is to own a Fortune 500 company, or become a brain surgeon, go for it! That's awesome. But if you want to sell coconuts on the beach in Mexico, totally acceptable.
Don’t be afraid to let others see you for what you are. Learning to accept your mind and your personal desires isn't as easy as it sounds. Only you decide what makes you happy, and what you are capable of.  Ambition isn’t the same thing as motivation. Cut yourself some slack. There's no race, and there's certainly no finish line. Just be whatever the hell you want to be. 


Happiness 101

 

I want to celebrate my life.
I want to celebrate the successes, the happy days, the hardships, the awkward moments. I want to celebrate the regrets, the good choices, the wisdom and the failures. I want to celebrate the fact that I can reach a place so high that it will hurt if I fall.

I want to be grateful for my life.
I want to be grateful for the blessings, good fortune, the struggles and the pain. I want to be grateful for my strengths and my insecurities. I want to be grateful that i have a heart so full it’s capable of breaking.

I want to live my life.
I want to live through the insanity, the adventures, the sorrow and the change.
I want to feel the joy and the anger, the gravity and the lightness.
I want to live blushing at my sincerity and laughing at the absurdity of the human journey.

                                            Because life is whatever you are doing right now. 

 

Lightly

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard.

Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. 

Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig.
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me.
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic.
No rhetoric, no tremolos,
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell.
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics.
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.
So throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.
That’s why you must walk so lightly.
Lightly my darling,
on tiptoes and no luggage,
not even a sponge bag,
completely unencumbered.”


― Aldous Huxley, Island

El Faro Ocean print available at kindredsolcollective.com

Save The Whales

“If we can teach global responsibility at an early age, carrying that responsibility in the future will be second nature to children. “ - Rebecca Peragine, Artist and owner of Children Inspire Design and Kindred Sol Collective

I recently joined the team here at Kindred Sol Collective and it has been an incredibly positive experience. It’s always exciting to meet people who have the same momentum and excitement for life.
When I met Rebecca, the creative force behind KSC, I knew immediately we were part of the same tribe. It felt like I went out for a jog and met up with an already jogging Rebecca, and we started jogging together. Metaphorically of course, because I haven’t jogged since before iPods were invented.

Rebecca is a lot of things. She’s a born artist. A teacher, a world traveler, a philanthropist, a business woman, a mother. And what struck me the most, she’s a doer. It's easy to talk about all the things you want to do, but to actually do them is another thing entirely. You can shout your passions loudly; plead and cry the need for action. But to live it yourself is the best way to inspire change. Nothing motivates me more than seeing people going for it. Make a plan, set a goal and everyday take a step in that direction.

With Children Inspire Design, Rebecca’s other artistic venture, her mission to plant the seed early will ensure that children will keep that awareness in their pocket as they grow. She incorporates recycled materials into every design and 10% of proceeds go to charities that focus on helping woman and children in the developing world.

It’s no secret the giving to others makes you feel good, and it’s contagious. I mean, I just adopted a whale. I haven’t done that since I was a kid. I loved marine mammals so much as a little girl, I would memorize their scientific names and draw pictures of them everywhere, even my bedroom wall. (My mom was all about expressing your creativity.) I was so moved by the plight of the Megaptera novaeangliae that all I asked for for Christmas was money to donate to the Pacific Whale Foundation. When you donate, you pick a humpback whale to symbolically adopt. I pored over my options to make sure the whale I picked was the right fit for me. I ended up choosing Midnight, who had a black fluke with white outlining the edges. I framed her picture and displayed it on my wall for years.

The pride I felt by fulfilling my global responsibility had opened a door in my heart that would never close. I carried that love of the ocean and marine life into adulthood, but that desire to make an impact that I’d had as a child slowly dulled to a guilty nagging and a promise to myself to give when I had more money. Migaloo the albino whale is the new face of my reignited passion to help.

But it’s easy to want to help a beautiful majestic creature that has a visible presence in the world. It’s easier to talk about a cause like this than something involving unpleasant and scary topics.

I heard about obstetric fistulas a few years ago and it broke my heart. A fistula is essentially a hole between the vagina and the bladder or rectum that is caused during childbirth from the fetus putting pressure on an ill equipped body. Girls are forced into marriage and their tiny frames aren’t able to handle the trauma of childbirth. The ordeal leaves them with chronic damage that causes an uncontrollable leak of urine and feces. They are usually abandoned by their husbands and shunned by their communities, forced to live in isolation. To have to endure the physical pain and emotional trauma of birthing a child so young and with no prenatal care is bad enough, then to be ostracized and looked down upon is just gut wrenching.

I learned of a woman who has made it her life’s work to help these girls. Dr. Catherine Hamlin, now in her 90s, has devoted her life to this mission. She started a foundation that builds hospitals in Ethiopia to provide desperately needed care.


The hamlinfistulausa.org website stayed open in my browser for weeks. When I imagine a young woman, alone and uncomfortable, shunned to the outskirts of her village, then I Iook at myself in my warm loving home, my heart breaks. I have a duty to this woman. She could be me. I was lucky to have landed in this part of the world; It wasn't a choice to be born in a third world country. We have an obligation to help. I give as much as I can. It isn’t enough but it’s more than nothing.

It’s intense just explaining what a fistula is. Even the name is unpleasant. But I think it’s really important to pay attention to the causes that grab you, and get the word out. You started reading this thinking about playful whales and feel good benefaction. And then I started using words like uncontrollable leak and rectum. But that’s exactly my point. No one wants to talk about these things because they characteristically repel people.

I’m not writing this to let you know that I'm a charitable person. I’m trying to point out that you can afford it, and we can’t afford not to. I’m hoping to motivate people the way Rebecca has motivated me. Even though I can only imagine what kind of life these women lead, we can all relate to suffering. As humans, we have a responsibility to protect each other. And we have a responsibility to help all the creatures of the earth. There's a million causes and foundations, a million ways to help.

The first step is informing yourself. Then we can inform the littles. We use our art to celebrate the earth and inspire people. Changing the world is not one giant act, it’s a bunch of tiny movements. It’s a chain of dominos that ends in the lap of someone who needs it. You can knock the first domino over with your index finger by clicking on the links below.


to adopt your own Migaloo: www.pacificwhale.org

to change a young mother’s life: hamlinfistulausa.org

to buy art and inspire the littles: www.childreninspiredesign.com

to order a pizza: order.pizzahut.com

 

Ticla Fish print available at www.kindredsolcollective.com