Wander Alone

Long time, no see. I haven’t written in QUITE awhile and that is due to the fact that in the last couple months, I graduated university, got a pretty insane first job, and just spent the last seven weeks backpacking by myself through Southern Europe. On said trip I hit Athens, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Rome, Lake Garda, Genoa, Nice, Barcelona, Ibiza, Santorini, Naxos, Mykonos, and Agistri. I booked everything by myself and I traveled completely alone from place to place.

When I first told some of my friends I planned on going alone, they looked at me with incredulity. “You’re going ALONE?” They would ask almost in hushed tones, “Aren’t you scared?” And even now when I tell people what I just did, they are impressed that I would embark on such a trip all by myself. Honestly what I’ve found, is that people have two major hang ups about going on trips alone. 1.) Security and 2.) Companionship.

Security is an understandable concern. I was a lone female traveler and there are of course crime and shady characters to watch out for. But honestly, you’re probably not that much safer from pickpockets and such with friends than without. And as long as you’ve got a reasonable degree of street smarts, you’ll probably be fine, especially in Europe. Which brings us to our next concern, the much bigger concern: Companionship.

At our core, humans aren’t really meant to be alone. We like being around other people because we want someone to share our experiences with so we can be sure someone understands us. This was the hardest fear for me to overcome as well. Right before I left, I had an anxiety-ridden conversation with my mom in which I relayed my reservations to her. I had started freaking out that I had just signed myself up for seven weeks of pure loneliness. However, as soon as I got started, all those fears quickly dissipated.

The thing about traveling alone is that you get to be COMPLETELY selfish. I quickly learned that I could get up when I wanted, see what I wanted, eat what I wanted and meet/not meet the people I wanted. I didn’t have to drag my travel companion out of bed, or worry about their food proclivities or even worry about a girlfriend at the club. I didn’t have to worry about compromising with family,  and I most certainly did not have to worry about staying on track with a tour group. I got to do WHATEVER I wanted, WHENEVER I wanted, and HOW I wanted. That may sound horrifically indulgent to some, but that’s because not many of us get periods of time in our lives where we get to be this selfish. That’s the price we pay for companionship. There’s always someone else to worry about, therefore we can usually never focus solely on our own desires.

Now, just because I was selfish almost to the point of hedonism doesn’t mean I was alone. Oh no no no, in every city I met new people–Finnish, Canadian, Australian,French, English, Italian, ALL SORTS! Aside from my first day, there wasn’t a twenty-four hour period in which I didn’t meet at least one person and hang out with them in some capacity. In Dubrovnik, I partied with a tour group filled with Aussies and then kayaked all of the next day with a girl from Finland. I met a friend in Italy and met up with friends of said Italian friend when I got to Barcelona. I encountered a string of Canadians from Genoa to Nice and actually had the most romantic night of my entire life in Santorini.

Because you are constantly seeing new things and meeting new people, the companionship problem solves itself. You meet people who are in the city for the exact same reason as you and you can make plans together or plans to meet up later. Either way, the option to have people to share your travels with creates itself. The onus is on you to create the opportunity for people to meet you and to facilitate compelling conversation.

In short, I got an average of four hours of sleep per night, saw sights in the morning, lived at beaches in the afternoons, drank a lot of wine and beer…and liquor, gorged myself on carbs and ice cream, and had more than my fair share of flirtatious encounters in every city. I saw some of the most beautiful places and got to meet different and interesting people every night, and I loved EVERY SECOND OF IT.

The thing with traveling alone is that it basically is the ultimate test in putting yourself out there. You have to check your insecurities at the door and you have to overcome obstacles all by yourself. But because you’re all alone, there’s also no one to judge you if you do screw it up. Sure there’s tons of people you’ll interact with everyday, but the beauty is that YOU NEVER HAVE TO SEE THOSE PEOPLE AGAIN. Most of the time, you just gotta swallow your pride and go for it. I didn’t have data/wifi so you bet I was lost all the time. I bought the wrong kind of ticket at least three times, and sometimes my transport was simply on strike. To make friends is even more humbling. Twice, I faked not knowing where I was going so I could ask fellow tourists for directions and ultimately infiltrate their group. I met two people in France while savagely devouring a kebab and later accidentally dining and dashing. I desperately begged one of my roommates in Ibiza to save me from another roommate and when all else failed, I simply would spend a little time wandering alone.

I honestly learned a lot on this trip and thought I would break down any tips I picked up into more posts, so if you are curious as to how I fit seven weeks of stuff in a backpack, or how I didn’t get sick, or even tips on travel boredom, be on lookout for those articles in the coming weeks.

Bitch Sessions: My Boyfriend is not an Excuse

The other day I was out and about at a RALPH’s no less, when some guy decides to try and chat me up while I power through my grocery shopping. I did NOT have the time, NOR was I in the mood to be hit on at the moment, so when the guy opens with the oh-so-smooth line of, “Hi what’s your name?”, I responded with a polite smile and said “Not today.” The guy wasn’t deterred in the LEAST. He proceeded to follow me all around the store as I shopped, asking unrelenting small talk questions, and trying to bullshit me into giving him my number. The “Oh don’t be like that” and “You’re so beautiful, I’m just trying to compliment you” types of phrases were RAMPANT in his attempted interaction. I continued to tell him I wasn’t interested, I didn’t have time for this, and then just IGNORED him and he STILL wouldn’t go away. When he followed me to the self checkout, I relented and finally practically shouted at him, “I HAVE A BOYFRIEND”. The guy steps back, pauses, and then shrugs and says “Oh, well why didn’t you just say that?” and subsequently walks away.

I was left thinking to myself, YOU’RE KIDDING ME. What? So apparently, the only POSSIBLE reason I wouldn’t be interested in him is because some other guy had already laid claim to me? WELL THEN. It should have been more than enough for me to just NOT BE INTERESTED. I felt horrible and more than a little helpless, that I had to use the defense tactic of another man to get this guy to go away. That shouldn’t be the reality. Girls can be single and STILL not want the guy that won’t leave them alone at their grocery store.

Everyone knows this excuse. Sometimes people use it automatically because they know what’s coming and it’s easier just to use it, whether or not it’s true. For me, however, it makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t care if I’m in a relationship, I only use this phrase as a last resort because it SHOULDN’T MATTER. Having a boyfriend has NO BEARING whatsoever on whether I’d be interested in someone else and I shouldn’t have to prove that I already havethe boyfriend slot filled in my life in order for a guy to take the FREAKING hint and go away.

How to Look Good Naked

Ok so this isn’t one of those posts where I’m gonna tell you how to work out or go on a diet, get a six pack, blah blah blah. We all know that working out and eating clean has it’s own set of benefits and results. This article’s purpose is to show everyone how to take advantage of what you look like RIGHT NOW,  to look (and more importantly, FEEL)  amazing with no clothes. While you should probably only be naked around people who don’t really care about that scar, or that fat roll, who are we kidding? EVERYONE wants to feel awesome naked regardless of the company.

Find the Light

Alright, first, take off all your clothes and go stand in front of the mirror. What? Melina, that’s weird. IS IT? How often have you really looked at and considered your own naked body? I’m betting it’s not often. I’m no expert on being naked but I was a swimmer for a long time so I spent a lot of time nearly naked or just naked (all throughout puberty too, which is the worst) and because of that, I know what parts of my body look best from what angles and in what lighting. For example, I know my jaw-line is slightly asymmetrical so my profile looks MUCH better from the right than the left, or I know that my legs look lumpy if I lock my knees. AND I know that locker room lighting looks terrible on pretty much everybody.

Not to sound too much like Tyra from AMTM, but if you’re aware of the lighting scheme and the best angles of your body, it can make a huge difference. YOU know which side of your face you like best, and where every single positive/negative attribute is, so stand in the mirror and figure it out.  I KNOW it sounds weird, but it’s in the privacy of your own bathroom/bedroom so have fun with it. Worst case scenario, you’re more comfortable being naked (or you find a bruise you don’t remember getting…so strange..)

Posture

For crying out loud, STAND UP STRAIGHT. You don’t have to look like you’ve got a stick up your ass, but holding your head high with your shoulders back automatically makes you look thinner, tighter, and more confident, all of which are key. If you have insecurities about your body, you might be tempted to try and hide or make yourself smaller. Trust me, this only draws attention to the areas you’re trying to cover, AND makes you look uncomfortable in your own skin which can make you, and whoever your with, unsure of how to act. Plus, this is a super easy action to implement. Just remind yourself to stand up straight and BOOM, INSTA- confidence. (Try it in the mirror first!)

Maintenance

So I promised this wouldn’t be a workout article and it’s not, HOWEVER, simple bodily maintenance for girls AND guys can go a long way:

-Keep fingernails and toenails trimmed and clean, no one wants dirty hands all up in their business. Seriously, just cut your nails and wash your hands.

-Exfoliate and moisturize. I don’t know what to tell you, dry skin is not all that appealing and it’s easily remedied. (This goes for face and lips too!). You can use something as simple as a heavy duty washcloth–my favorite– or a body scrub this one is pretty good all around (for guys and girls). Also, if you’re interested in a more comprehensive exfoliating option, try dry brushing. Dry brushing is a technique that exfoliates, decongests skin, and has been linked to lymphatic stimulation and cellulite reduction. After you exfoliate, slather on the lotion/body oil. It’s best to do it right after you shower to lock in as much moisture as possible.

-Hair Grooming: I’m not about to tell anyone how to keep their body hair situation, but make sure everything is CLEAN, trimmed, and generally under control. You’re allowed to have as much hair as you feel comfortable with, but keeping it trimmed/shaved/waxed, means the area is also easier to keep clean. This goes for girls AND GUYS. I know they’re socially allowed to be hairier but they sure as HELL better be keeping themselves hygienic.

Basically, feeling good naked can be achieved through practicing (and CLEANLINESS PLEASE). It’s mostly a matter of being comfortable with your body and you can only achieve that (like anything else) through some repetition, so SLEEP NAKED, DO YOUR MAKEUP NAKED, SHOWER NAKED (wait…), or even just wait a few minutes after your shower and apply lotion by the mirror. If you’re not comfortable when you’re naked, you can’t expect anyone else to be.