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March 17, 2010

Maybe in this age of hyper social mediation, I am a Luddite and/or fuddy-duddy, but I’m not sure I can keep up with my Tumblr .

I don’t think I’m suited to the medium (even though I DO think their platform is fun and easy and aesthetically pleasing). So I’m back.

I am planning a 2 month trip to Europe (followed by a week in the American west; followed by a weekend in Richmond, VA). I will start in Budapest and work my way down the Dalmatian coast before joining friends for a week in Corfu, Greece (and then returning with one of them to Berlin, maybe making excursions to Rome, Vienna, Poland, or…?).

One of the first things people ask is, “Really? Who are you going with?” When I tell them I’m going by myself, they are surprised and, I think, a bit skeptical. Skeptical that I’ll have a good time, or that I’ll survive, or, almost, skeptical that this is even ALLOWED–I’ll just be roaming around with no plan and no “adult” supervision–who let this happen?

I’m sure part of this is a gender thing–women out in the world on their own? PREPOSTEROUS–but I think an even bigger part of it is that I don’t think we have carved out much space in our culture for solitary being and doing. You always hear people say they fear they’ll get funny looks if they go to a sit-down meal or movie on their own (and I admit, I’ve looked at solo diners pityingly before).

The purpose of this trip is twofold…threefold…the reasons for this trip are manifold. It’s primarily about staking out a sense of excitement and purposefulness, a refuge from the sucking sameness of work with no end in sight; it is also an exercise in learning new patterns of thought: being decisive, throwing myself into unfamiliar situations, etc.

When I was waiting to hear whether I’d be admitted to grad school, I was alternately so excited I could hurl, or so terrified (about the prospect of getting in) I could hurl. So it goes with the anticipation of this trip. Sometimes I think things like, “holy shit. I am incredibly bad at reading maps. I can’t really remember how we managed to get around western Europe last time (when there were three of us!)–how did we get on the right train and how did we get off at the right metro stop and how did we….etc” and I worry about how I am bad at making decisions and how I might get lonely and might overdraw my bank account and might get a blister and might annoy people on buses, trains, and easyjet flights with my backpack (it’s the maximum allowable size for carry-on luggage) because it’s unwieldy and has lots of dangling straps.ย  But other times I think things like, “I’m pretty smart and likable! I will rule at this and wear the same outfit the whole time because I am not going to be one of Those Girls who packs like she’s going to a photo shoot and not a backpacking trip, and I will secure all those damn dangling straps on my backpack and diffuse any hostility with a winning smile!” And I start telling myself to stop being ridiculous: Europe is not the backcountry. When I let myself get worried about all the Bad Things that could happen, I am guilty of slipping into that melodramatic line of thinking where Europe is some scary untamed wilderness with no phones, no tourist desks, no ATMs, no computers; a place where tourists who make minor mistakes are doomed to, like, live in some sort of Purgatory, destined to wander the bowels of a Paris metro station for eternity (or something). So what if I get lost? I will be somewhere, wherever I am. So what if I can’t get a room at a hostel? I can always find a hotel, or spend a shitty night in a train station. You know?

My flight to Budapest departs RDU on June 17. NINETY DAYS!

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