Forget all the excuses, fear, money, and hassles that surround travel for a second, and take a walk with me. Do you ever think about how easy it is to actually travel around the world these days?
When I was younger, we used to have pancake breakfast every Sunday morning, and if we were ever out of milk, I could just run next door to my neighbor’s house to ask for some. To do so, I used to climb out of my bedroom window that was only 2 feet off the ground to pretend like I was escaping on some big adventure (a sign of things to come, eh?). In a matter of minutes, I would have the milk needed for Sunday breakfast, and later that day, I probably snuck out to go to Dairy Queen on the main road near my house. As a kid, I went everywhere on foot. It was the only mode of transportation I knew, and back then, the world that existed in that small neighborhood seemed huge to me.
From where my parents live now, when it’s nice outside, I can still walk down to the grocery store and even over to my aunt’s house to visit my cousins. When I walk somewhere, I remember how big the world really is, and my childlike senses kick in again. The only difference is that now I have to drive to the closest Dairy Queen.
From my old apartment on E. 19th St. in Manhattan, I could walk down to the bodega on the corner to get a snack or walk one block to the laundromat. I walked to work, the gym, to visit friends who lived 5 blocks away, or the subway to take me uptown. Everything was in reach. Looking back, the accessibility of being able to walk anywhere on the island or even across the bridge to Brooklyn demonstrated how easy it is to come and go anywhere, not just in the city but in the world.
When I travel, I still use my own two feet to get me to where I need to go because it’s the only source of transportation I can rely on. It’s the best way to discover the subtle nuances and details of a place.
Just like the line out the door at a Justin Bieber concert, the list of things I love about NYC goes on forever. One of those things being the Bolt Bus or Megabus that travel to Philadelphia, Boston, D.C., and beyond for under $10. If I wanted to take a day or weekend trip to visit my friends in Boston, I could book tickets online the night before or at the station kiosk on the day of, and in 4 hours time, I’d be there.
The transportation systems in place around the world can accommodate the most last minute changes in travel plans. My trip to Malaysia was a spur of the moment decision to avoid having to get a visa for Thailand, and an even more spontaneous decision than that was to spend the last half of the week in Penang, a small coastal town about 3 hours north of Kuala Lumpur. I showed up to the bus station one morning and after a polite “Penang, please,” I was promptly put on a bus 15 minutes later. Piece of cake.
Admittedly, buses are my least favorite and least used mode of transportation simply because I don’t have the patience for a long ride on an automobile that has the highest risk of breaking down.
When teenagers in the Metro-Detroit area turn 19, they’re quick to drive across the border to Canada where they can officially, legally drink. At the right time of day, as if it were nothing more than a toll road, Michiganders have easy access to America’s northern neighbor. Back in high school, I took more than my fair share of road trips, not to Canada, but out to Cleveland, Chicago, and even NYC. Driving to those cities was nothing to me. It was as if I were driving to the next town over.
Driving isn’t the most effective or efficient way to get around, but there’s no better way to be completely alone with your thoughts and an accompanying soundtrack. Much like solo travel itself, with your own set of wheels, you can travel at your own pace, stopping where you want to stop, taking detours, and backtracking if necessary. Second to on-foot exploration, cars are the best way to customize your journey.
Do you have a map of Europe? If so, tack it up on a nearby wall or ceiling, somewhere you can easily see it. Now, lay down on the floor and just transport yourself to Europe. Imagine standing in front of a departure board at a train station in Lisbon, Portugal. What will your next destination be? Maybe somewhere in Spain? Wine tasting in France? Oktoberfest in Germany? Wherever you want to go, you can actually scale across the entire continent and into China and the rest of Asia BY TRAIN. How incredible is that?
Aside from overnight sleeper trains, I’ve never felt comfortable falling asleep on trains in fear of missing my stop. That is, until recently, when I took a cat nap on the shinkansen in Japan from Osaka to Kanazawa. Train travel is my favorite purely because I get to see more than is easily accessed by foot or bus, and I can usually expect a smooth ride.
For those who aren’t the most comfortable traveling by plane, perhaps you’d feel more at ease letting the ocean take you to your next destination? Have you heard about how Torre DeRoche sailed across the Pacific? What about the woman who swam from Cuba to the Florida Keys? Even Google Maps encourages you to kayak from California to Hawaii. Please don’t do that though.
We already know it’s possible to make it across 2 continents solely by train, but what if you wanted to keep going? Perhaps take the ferry from Busan, South Korea over to Japan, or if you want to go in the other direction, take the ferry from Spain to Morocco. Take a cruise up towards the arctic circle or from the tip of Argentina to Antarctica. What you can’t get to by car can be accomplished by boat!
When I worked in the music industry, I had friends who took frequent day trips from NYC to L.A. DAY TRIPS! It called for a red eye flight in the morning and a late night flight back. Andrew Mcmahon of Jack’s Mannequin even played shows in NYC, Chicago, and Los Angeles IN ONE DAY. If you have business to take care of or miss someone bad enough, you have the ability to hop on a plane to go visit them at any time, usually in under 24 hours. That option alone is what keeps me sane. I may not always have an “adequate” amount of money or time to travel, but at least I know I can get out.
Long story long, the world is our wide open oyster. Anywhere you want to go, there’s an easy way to get there, and I hope you do. Thank you for walking with me.