On Using Your Intuition When Traveling

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Spot overlooking the Cascades in Seattle 


One of my favorite ways to explore a city is to wander. When I come to a street corner, I let my intuition guide me. Right, left, straight? I have stumbled upon wonderful adventures using this method.

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Lincoln Park in Chicago 


Some people, like my dad, memorize maps of the city to which they are traveling before they ever get on the plane. These people tend to research restaurants and sights to see. In short, they plan most of the trip before they get there. I tried this method early on in my travels; however, it left me feeling disappointed. Yes, I knew where I wanted to go at a certain time of day, but there was no spontaneity, no excitement.

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Cheeky statues outside of Lakefront Brewery, INC. in Milwuakee


I like to ask locals where they like to go in the area. They can always point out interesting places to go where the prices are not inflated for the tourists. With the help of a shop owner in Vancouver, I found a swanky little pub filled with warm and welcoming people that I would not have otherwise noticed from the street.

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On top of Tiger Mountain in Seattle 


A large portion of the adventure is discovering the unknown. If you haven’t used your intuition when you travel, I suggest you try it at least once. (Disclaimer: if you’re going to do this, don’t be stupid. If you get the slightest negative feeling or if you begin to feel uncomfortable, do not proceed. Our instincts are primitive and programmed into us. They are an early warning system. If they say no, trust them.) This method has not only honed my intuition, it has solidified the trust I have in myself and in my decision making capabilities. If you can travel using your instincts as your guide, you can accomplish anything.

The Windy City

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On my first solo trip, I packed a carry on filled with a thin coat, a sweater, and jeans and headed off to Chicago. When I got there, I soon realized why the tickets were so cheap. First of all, it was mid-November. And they weren’t kidding when they named it the Windy City. It was constantly windy. The cold bit at my skin through my thin Oklahoma winter coat. You can see everyone’s hair whipping about in the picture above. I basically ran everywhere to keep warm.

Chicago style in Grant Park

One of the things that struck me almost immediately about solo traveling is that I could go anywhere I wanted, do anything I wanted whenever I choose; however, that also meant that I had to constantly make decisions with little to no information about the city. That left me with the GPS on my phone and my intuition. This would later become my preferred method of exploring a new place.

My intuition led me to eating a Chicago style hot dog in Grant Park while I walked along Lake Michigan. By the way, have you guys had a Chicago style hot dog? Um, hi, they give you a whole pickle ON the dog. I don’t know why it took me 23 years to try this. Don’t make the same mistake I did, my friends. I think they have them at Sonic for those of you who can’t try the real thing.

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I also walked around ritzy neighborhoods in Lincoln park for several hours. By walking I mean running. The streets were littered with freshly fallen gold and amber leaves. I found a small Thai place that served delicious curry. I spent hours in that restaurant reading and coming up with ideas for my next venture.

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One morning, I took refuge from the wind at the Chicago Museum of History. Who doesn’t love a good museum? I remember being in awe of the city’s rich history. There were several times in history when the people of Chicago united to fight oppression and to help their fellow neighbors. I’m sure it was the pretty side of history, but it was very inspiring. This photograph was taken by a photographer in the 1960’s. She took snapshots of the people she encountered on the streets of Chicago. I find this photo particularly captivating. I would love to have spoken with this man to hear the story behind the expression on his face.

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Rookie mistake #5235 on this trip: I didn’t plan on the sun setting at 4:30 PM. I was wandering around the side streets of Chicago when it suddenly began growing dark. And cold. I did not want to find myself in a bad part of town after dark, so I grabbed a cab to take me back to my hotel. I did end up in a bad part of town after dark on another night, but that’s a story for another post.

On Reviving Dreams

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When I sat down to write this, I had planned to pick up where I left off in March with my stories and experiences of travel. I had planned a quirky picture of me on a mountain with a few sentences on living in the mountains. But that felt disingenuous when what I really want to write about is reviving a dream.

Since I moved to Colorado in March, I have been exploring my new small town. I have been trying to make friends and adjust to the cold. I have also been putting a great amount of time and energy into a new relationship. In short, I have not made much time for solo travel. I have traveled to Denver and to Pueblo alone, and I even went on an end of summer solo road trip through the mountains; however, these trips have not excited or inspired me like my previous solo trips. A few months ago, I asked myself why I had not been exploring like I planned when I first moved. It wasn’t until recently that I allowed myself to become consciously aware of my lack interest in my passion.

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Why was I not challenging myself with solo travel? I first thought it was the new relationship and the new relationships with friends, but that did not feel right. What kept emerging from my subconscious was that I felt like a failure. A big, fat, boring, insincere failure for not accomplishing my dream of moving to Thailand to teach English.

I planned to go to Thailand in October 2013 to teach English in a rural town in the Kalasin Province. I quit my wonderful job at CASA and procured a new job, a place to live, and a plane ticket. Three weeks before I was set to leave the country, my beloved grandfather told me he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He went into the hospital about a week after we found out. Deciding whether to go and achieve my dreams or to stay to care for one of my best friends was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. In the end, I decided to stay. I cared for him for two months before he died.

Poppie on our last trip together
Poppie on our last trip together

Since then, I have stopped reading travel blogs, stopped traveling, and stopped dreaming. I haven’t kept in touch with old friends who are currently traveling because I was ashamed. I felt like I was one of those people who talks big but does not actually follow through. I knew it was a problem when I realized my new coworkers in Colorado don’t know that my life’s dream is to make money as a freelance travel writer and blogger. I stopped talking about my dream, my inspiration, my passion for months. I even stopped thinking about it.

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I have decided to push through this feeling of failure instead of handling the negative feelings my tried and true way: avoidance. I’m scared that I will fail again. I’m scared that I have already become so attached to my surroundings and the people in those surroundings that I will not be as much of a free spirit as I was before my Poppie passed away. But I have decided that I will be damned if my fear gets in the way of realizing my dream.

Here’s to disregarding my fears and reviving my dreams. Keep me accountable, bloggerverse.