I just got back from a two-week vacation abroad. I’m that person on your Facebook feed that fills you with loathing and makes you want to throw your laptop at your office wall. I’m the internet millennial who advocates for experiences over material goods. I’m the book nerd who quotes Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey at you that, “If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad.”
I am that awful person who goes abroad for two weeks every summer. And I’m not even sorry about it, even if a whole lot of people want me to justify this apparently atrocious behavior.
It began when a friend was getting married in France, and as a bridesmaid, my attendance was required. I spent a year and a half saving up for what at 25 (and even now) was going to be an astronomically expensive endeavor for me. As the wedding got closer, the costs kept multiplying, and I couldn’t pull it off. I just didn’t make enough money to spend two weeks in Paris and the Loire Valley, especially with skyrocketing airfares. But here was this $2500 I’d killed myself saving, the vacation time I hadn’t used all year was accrued, and I thought, “Where else could I go?”
The answer was obvious: Back to the place that I had fallen in love with as an undergrad studying abroad, where I had merely scratched the surface of exploring and where I had never in my life felt more like myself. I decided to go back to Great Britain. Somehow, despite the currency being even more expensive than the Euro, I made it work. I spent two weeks there, rented a car and drove between Oxford, Bath, Northern Cornwall and Southern Wales and ended with a few days in London. I stayed on budget and fell back in love with a country I one day hope to call my own.
After that, I was hooked. I’d spend all year saying no to that new purse or the Starbucks run. I wasn’t going out and running up a large bar tab. I brought my own lunches to work, and I kept the clothes shopping to a minimum. Most of this was necessary anyway as I was simultaneously putting myself through graduate school, and yet I still had people demanding I justify this expense.
I spent a lot of years listing off the ways I don’t spend money to try and explain how it was possible that, as a twenty-something-year-old, I could afford it. I spent even longer explaining how I used credit card points and travel deals to pay for hotels or cars. How going abroad doesn’t have to be insanely, outrageously expensive if you’re smart about it. That I would rent economy cars, go before tourism season started, and spend most of my time in the middle of nowhere that your average tourist never stepped foot in. My parents were even having to go so far as to tell their friends and relatives that of course they weren’t funding these trips and that I was paying for them by myself.
And the people who didn’t care about the cost of these trips all had something to say about the extravagance of taking the time away from work to go on them. Co-workers would make snide comments about how it must be nice I had so little to do at work that I could go on vacation. I’d get berated for being upfront that I’d have no cell service and predominantly no internet, so sorry, I would be fully off the grid. Maybe their phones got cliff-side service, but mine sure didn’t. Snide comments would follow me out the door despite normally having done a month’s worth of work in advance in order to make my time away as easy as possible for those left behind.
For years, I had a laundry list of reasons why I was filling your Facebook feed with photos of Cornwall’s craggy cliffs, Scotland’s glens and Wales’ highest summits, as well as Bath’s best tea rooms, Oxford’s neatest bookshops, Dorset’s rocky shores and Cumbria’s sheep. I back-tracked, I apologized, I justified and I downplayed something that filled me with inordinate joy — all to avoid the shame of loving something not everyone has the chance to experience. I felt bad that I had the privilege to save for a trip, even though I sacrificed in other areas to do so. I allowed myself to be lectured for embracing the millennial wanderlust from within the confines of my steady, full-time employment and bill paying, which did not advocate quitting my job to float around the world. I started limiting the photos I would share, despite photography being one of my deepest passions and these photos being the culmination of the joy I experienced on that trip.
But as I’ve grown older, traveled farther afield by myself and become more comfortable in my own choices, I’ve stopped apologizing for doing something I love. In a world that prioritizes self-care and “me time,” I say this annual trip is a year’s worth of rejuvenation, inspiration and happiness packed in 12 short days. If I am not despairing of you for not traveling nor being callous that it is not a feasible life decision for you, then why should you disdain me? It is our jobs to carve out a niche of joy wherever we can in this world. For some, that may be your morning cup of Starbucks you’re Instagramming. For others, the smile of their child when she first opens her eyes or the calm of an hour of perfect solitude to meditate. For me, it’s two weeks exploring, photographing and, hell, even just sitting and enjoying a cup of tea in a country that I adore.
So to all those who have big opinions on whether or not I have the right to travel if I want, you might want to block me on Facebook because a new batch of photos is coming your way.