Pocket Gypsy Digest [Volume 1]

Donostia, Euskadi / San Sebastián, País Vasco

Donostia, Euskadi / San Sebastián, País Vasco

Hello friends!

I’ve been pretty lax with posting recently, partially due to my new job and partially due to the fact that until recently, the central heating in my house was broken and I think only now has my brain begun to thaw.

(Ah, I shouldn’t be so hard on California. It’s about 50˚ right now, but I’m breaking a sweat inside an adorable downtown Campbell cafe, where I’ve posted up in a window seat to soak up some much-needed sunlight. Apparently there’s a freeze warning in effect for the next few days, but at least we don’t have to shovel our way out of our houses.)

Because my sleep schedule has been so bizarre, I’ve been writing some insane / insanely long blog posts in the middle of the night. Like most crazy people, I am capable of generating some pretty good nuggets of wisdom, but these posts are ensconced in so much tangential information that I’ll have to pare them down now that I’ve resumed (relative) normalcy.

But of course, with me, that process might take a while. So in the meantime, I’ve decided to start something new: The Pocket Gypsy Digest. 

I find a lot of things interesting and beautiful and funny – that’s why I travel. Unfortunately, aside from Twitter, there aren’t a lot of places to share this information without coming across as spammy. I have been using my Twitter much more now that I have an actual use for it (so… follow me!), but there are a few articles and videos I feel deserve special recognition. Cue: Pocket Gypsy Digest, Volume 1!

White People Praying Angkor Wat

1. Study Abroad Gringa Takes Five Days to Realize She’s in California (El Pejibaye)

What a worthy inaugural post for the Digest! Hilarious, well-written, and about my hometown! Obviously (though apparently not so obvious to some of the commenters), this is an Onion-like post. But, like all satire, it hits on some pretty important issues.

Why do people travel? This should be the #1 question asked of anyone planning to travel.. anywhere. Here are a few reasons I find acceptable:

  • “I’m interested in learning more about their culture.”
  • “I’m really impressed by [their public transport / religion / treatment of women / etc] and I want to learn more about this particular issue.”
  • “I’ve seen pictures, and it looks beautiful.”
  • “I want to do something that you can only do in this region.”
  • “I’m bored / need inspiration.”

Here are a few reason I find unacceptable:

  • “It’s cheap.” (as an end, not a mean)
  • “No one I know has ever been there.”
  • “I’m running away from something.”
  • “It’d be a great place to party / get drunk / get high.”
  • “The girls are cheap / easy / available for sale.”

What is the end goal of study abroad? I studied abroad in Cambridge, because 1) it’s an internationally-renowned university, and 2) I was contemplating moving to England after graduation. As a double major, I didn’t want to waste time at a school that wouldn’t satisfy requirements, and for the cost of the program, I wanted a comparable education to that I would receive at Berkeley. Plus, I travel pretty frequently (obviously), so “seeing a new culture” wasn’t my key motivation. But after a summer abroad (which is a misnomer in England), I found that 1) the modified program didn’t represent Cambridge’s best features, and 2) England is way too cold, expensive, and flavorless for me to consider living there for more than two years. (I still love England, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a California girl through and through.) In that way, my study abroad goals were met – or at least addressed.

For others, study abroad is a way to learn a new language, soak up a new culture, and transition into a new lifestyle with the support of an institution. For minors under the age of 21, study abroad (in most places) also presented an opportunity to drink liberally, which unfortunately is why Americans get a bad rep in many foreign university towns. Study abroad can be a very enlightening, critical-thought-inducing, life-changing experience, but I’d advise anyone considering studying abroad (who should be everyone, if you can afford it) to do so for academic – not partying – reasons. You can party anywhere; why waste critical years of school and tuition while you do it?

London, England

London, England

How has Lonely Planet changed travel? Some people swear by Lonely Planet guides, and some would never touch one. The main issue is that Lonely Planet has created a well-tread tourist trail, and for hipster travelers, going off the beaten path is one of the primary reasons they started backpacking. However, Lonely Planet deserves its credit and fame, considering it made independent travel an easy and viable option. I didn’t carry a Lonely Planet guide, but I won’t deny that it can be extremely useful. Aside from detailed maps and common translations, they include necessary pre-travel checklists and rudimentary information, all concentrated in one handy book. I don’t pay as much attention to the restaurant and hostel recommendations, choosing to instead rely on HostelWorld, HostelBookers, etc, and random meandering. But as we learned in Da Lat, Vietnam, sometimes verification of whether something really is Lonely Planet-recommended can save your time, money, and stomach from a bad meal. That being said, by no means should you plan your trip by a static guide – combine your Lonely Planet knowledge with some word-of-mouth and online research, and give a lot of leeway for spontaneous adventures!

What is the effect of social media on modern-day adventuring? 

As a blogger, I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I really enjoy looking through my photos afterwards (especially when I’m stationary, as I am now). I also genuinely relish both the act of photographing and writing, and since these things naturally lend themselves to social media purposes, it’s a natural transition for me to make. But on the other hand, I do tend to stress myself out trying to stay current, and I care about statistics if and when I write anything. That commodification of experience is something I need to work on, and also seems to be the problem with everyone posting endless photos of themselves on vacation. Though I try to highlight things that inspire people to travel and provide information that might be useful, I feel I might overlap with the people who post purely to boost their social capital. This is a very complicated subject, and if enough people are interested, I can expand on it in a later post.

Point Lobos, California

Point Lobos, California

2. The Craziest OKCupid Date Ever (Salon)

This article has invited a lot of criticism, much of which you can expect: white iPhone-using hipsters of course can travel the world on a whim, but this isn’t a reality for most Americans, let alone people in general.

My response to that: leisure travel is inherently a luxury. If you’re reading about self-funded adventures by people seeking a fun, unique way to experience the world, you have to accept that there’s a degree of privilege separating them from the average person. Who are they hurting by doing this? Everyone prioritizes and values different things, and has a threshold for how they spend their time and money. For them, not bringing a suitcase or two might be a sacrifice – understand that personal circumstances influence the mode, means, and manner of travel, and it’s a waste of time and energy to criticize them for having done what literature and cinema often romanticizes. On top of that, everyone has their story, and everyone shares that story in a different way – I thought the story could use a lot more fleshing out (like, are these two still together now? What happened with them?) but it doesn’t need to be torn apart the way it has been.

Maybe it’s because I travel like this, and – for most intents and purposes – have a similar story of crossing oceans and national borders to be with someone. So maybe I’m more empathetic. And maybe the criticism about their financial status isn’t even true. I don’t spend my money on expensive meals or drinks or clothes or cigarettes or nightclubs or make-up or spa treatments, because I save it for travel or camera equipment or other things I deem valuable to me. But everyone has an opinion about everyone else’s lives, so there’s nothing much I can say aside from: leave these people alone and focus on those who are actually doing harm to the world. 

3. Some helpful advice (PostSecret)

Until next time,

Pocket Gypsy