Thursday, October 27, 2011

Travel Thursdays: (2) Pre-production

So before I get into the juicy details of the trip, I have to take you back to where it all began.

Let's RECAP...

May 2009: I get hired to work for Executive Producer on Oliver Stone movie, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

August: Seeing as I was making more cash working 4 shifts a week as a waitress than I was working 6 days a week (and 14 hrs a day) as an assistant, I decided to sublet my Upper West Side 1bdrm and move in with a college friend in her Upper West Side 2bdrm just sixteen itty bitty blocks away.

Dec: My roomie announces she needs to move out asap. My first thought before panic sets in...IT'S TIME TO TRAVEL!

5 minutes later: Panic sets in. I decide to move home, cry profusely to a friend about the state of my life and grasp tightly to the one thing holding me together...the thought of traveling.

5 or so min after that: I cry again thinking about how much it will cost to take the trip I really want and realize there's no way I can manage it. I take a deep breath and reconsider...there HAS to be some way to make it work!

30 seconds later:  I remember a conversation with a friend a while back...
ME: Travel should be a birth right for every human being, not just something exchange students and ridiculously wealthy people get to enjoy. 
HIM: You should try WWOOF-ing
ME: WTF is WWOOF-fing?

It's an extreme travel experience where people work on farms all over the world in exchange for room and board. A little extreme but right up my alley. After all, I do LOVE nature. 

I look it up, think it's amazing but ultimately decide waking up at 430AM to milk cows and shovel shit is not quite the experience I was looking for. Wouldn't put it past me for the future though. (And in all seriousness, not all experiences are the same.)  

Instead I discover links to similar sites and stumble onto Help-X, a work-your-way-through-your-stay site that connects travelers with hosts around the world. Unlike WWOOF, the work ranges depending on the need of the host...anything from nannying to construction to web development. Locations are all over and most are amazing. It's like Craigslist for travelers. 

PERFECT! This is it! I found a way to do it without having to sell a kidney...or anything else for that matter.

Endless joy and excitement ensues. 

Jan 2010: I finish up my stint working on Wall Street II at the end of January 2010. Like a circus leaving town, we close up shop after 8 grueling months and move every last thing out of the office. The very next day...rinse and repeat, except with my life. I pack up my existence and prepare to leave town. I'm also eyeball deep in a 10-day commercial shoot I'm producing and directing down in Florida. 

Feb: MOVE 2nd move in 6 months...home to Staten Island after 6 years in the city. I fly to Florida for the shoot, get bronchitis, fly back. By then I'm exhausted beyond all belief and know it's time to get the hell out of dodge.

March: Fly to LA to spend my 31st birthday with my sister. I sit by the pool editing 3 versions of the commercial, teach myself garage band (apple's music software) and compose the music from scratch. Somewhere between sunblock applications and editing applications, I research flights to Europe. Fly back to NYC. 

April: I wrap the commercial and with less than six weeks to plan, I bite the bullet and decide to go for it. I'm tempted to put it off but know if I don't do it in that moment, I probably never will. 

I don't want to travel during the high tourist season in June, so I have to make decisions fast and book them even faster. The only problem...I don't typically make decisions quickly, especially ones that involve traveling alone for 6 weeks on the other side of the planet. The pressure is on.

The research consumes my life and is seriously anxiety ridden at times. This isn't like booking a resort where I'd take one flight to one place, lay on one beach and make big decisions like which flavor margarita to drink pool-side, or whether to eat at the Asian fusion restaurant off the lobby or the Italian one near the casino for dinner.

This is 3 countries, countless cities, various flights, trains, buses, hostels, budget hotels and everything in between. It took me weeks just to pull the trigger on the initial flight. Hours are spent staring at the screen, going back and forth between different travel and airline sites, contemplating endless variations of arrival and departure patterns. 

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There are so many things to consider and every consideration influences the next. Where will I go? How will I get there? Where will I stay? How much will it cost? What if I want to stay more or less time once there? Each city within each country is it's own destination, with it's own language that I don't speak.

It's overwhelming. And there's a moment or two I consider shutting down the entire operation, crawling into bed and taking a reeeeeaaalllly long siesta instead.

Despite all the fear and uncertainty, I know deep down it'll all come together. And it does.

I use all the miles I accrued from "city living" on my AMEX card, along with a generous wrap gift (aka a wad of cash) from my producer-fairy-godmother-former boss, and finally book my flight! 

May: Endless preparation and a little thing called "packing" for my flight to Barcelona, departing Newark Airport on Tuesday the 10th at 7:20PM. 


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Travel Thursdays: (1) Now Or Never!

Last year I took an incredible trip to Europe. Spain, Italy & Greece to be exact.

It was the trip I had dreamed of taking for years but something always held me, timing with work, and the idea that I needed to go with friends, family or a boyfriend.

After turning 30 I realized the "perfect time" to do it under traditional guidelines might never happen. I looked back at my 20's and couldn't believe that ten years had passed since I officially caught the travel bug after studying abroad in Australia. Ten years.

There were a few vacations in there...some destination weddings and weekend getaways, but no real travel. It scared me to death and was the one regret I wasn't willing to live with. Suddenly I thought...hmm, being single and unsettled sure does have it's upsides!

So, I adopted the "now or never" philosophy and got to work.

Ironically, as soon as I booked the trip people came out of the woodwork to join.

It wound up being the perfect balance of traveling alone and with company.

The cost of the trip has kept me home longer than I originally planned, but when I compare the experience versus the cost of 2 months rent in the city, it's no contest.

I guess I prefer to spend money on experiences as opposed to things. Ok, I like things too. But experiences are more memorable.

I come from the school of "when you're on your deathbed, you'll likely remember amazing moments, not expensive things."

Regardless, the trip was absolutely priceless.

I learned how to travel on a miniscule budget, and with lots of research and determination, I made it work.

It was the post-college backpacking trip I never took, and it was beyond amazing.

I didn't stay in fancy pants hotels, and I roughed it in ways some people might not be able to stomach. But that's what made it fun, adventurous and authentic.

Roughing it allowed me to turn what little money I had into six weeks of unforgettable travel.

A friend suggested I blog while traveling. It was such a great idea, but a massive undertaking I just wasn't ready for. I already had one in planning the trip itself.

I entertained the idea the first few days, but service was sketchy on my netbook and I wanted to spend my time exploring, not in an internet cafe.

Since then, I've been wanting to recreate my trip in some way so I could share the amazing places I visited and encourage you to embrace your inner travel bug...even if it's local travel.

I did take some notes and about 8,000 joke. So, I'm sure with a little visual stimulation I can recall the highlights.

There's SOOO much out there to explore and it's absolutely possible if you really want to make it happen.

I'm psyched to go through it all again. I think you'll love reading about it as much as I love reliving it. AND, the pictures are amazing!...if I do say so myself.

So stay plan is to provide you with some travel-related inspiration every Thursday. The world is truly your oyster and I'm living proof that it's do-able.

(On a side note, while writing this post at Starbucks (of course), I met an interesting man who's traveled extensively throughout the world. We got into talking about our experiences and he offered to keep me posted on his "friends & family discount" with a certain upscale cruise line. Score! More importantly though, he rekindled the inspiration I found in my travels and in other travelers, and reminded me why I was writing this post. We shared a lot of common ground. We talked about the experience of traveling alone and how surprisingly special that was. People constantly asked if he got lonely traveling by himself. His reply..."being alone doesn't mean being lonely." It's as true in travel as it is in life.) 


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Steve Jobs changed so many lives. He changed my life.

Kinda weird to say but the truth is I was never a computer person before I bought my first Mac. No one would ever accuse me of being tech savvy.

I literally hated computers. Now I can't live without one.

I have an appreciation for technology now that would not have been possible before.

I'm a huge advocate for Apple products because they make it relatable and even fun for someone like me - meaning ANYONE - to dive into.

My family's joked that I should work for them. Yup, I'm a dork. But Apple made it cool to be a dork...and to integrate your entire life with technology...or vice versa.

As a creative person, nothing comes close. Over the last few years I've spent time taking countless workshops at Apple stores.

For $100 you get a 1 year subscription to personal tutorial sessions that cover anything Apple. It's been like continuing education for me. They also offer free seminars on different topics depending on the location.

At a time when I was struggling to pay off my SUNY education, that accessibility was absolutely priceless. 

Despite my love affair with Apple, I didn't really know much about Steve Jobs the man. And then I watched his commencement speech at Standford University back in 2005. 

It's one of the most beautifully poignant speeches I've ever heard. Whether you're a Mac or PC person, as long as you're human, it's worth watching.

So here's to you Steve Jobs...thank you for following your dreams and for inspiring and encouraging us to follow ours.