If you Google ‘bad-ass traveller’ you find pages of articles and blogs stating where, how and why you should be the biggest, baddest most awesome traveller in the world; all in the name of ‘living life to the fullest.’ Travel is huge right now, especially for women, but it seems that if it’s not Insta-worthy, big bucket list-y or full-on flashy, then it’s not real travel.
Everywhere I turn I am bombarded by the idea that I need to see all the hippest spots, while wearing the most gorgeous floral dress, throwing my hair into the wind just as my camera goes off. What you don’t see are the throngs of people being held back while they wait for their turn to get their gorgeous photo too. Somehow this doesn’t feel awesome, it feels a bit like The Sneetches.
There is a growing conversation about this in terms of sustainable travel and over-tourism. The horrible impact it has on not just the earth, but countries, and their economies. Possibly not as frequently cited is the psychological impact it has on a person as they scroll through yet another perfect Instagram feed of glorious travel photos all of the people living a life that is way too amazing to ever be achieved by the regular gal. Yet somehow this encourages us to keep striving! Work hard to earn the money to take the glorious trip that will have your friends envying you until they get to go themselves, only to repeat the same cycle. It can be exhausting.
I too have found myself envying the latest ‘adventure boy/babe’ who is running with the bulls, wrestling with the sharks, hitchhiking cross country or jumping out of airplanes.
I have found myself asking, who am I when I travel? Am I really living my #bestlife? Do I have what it takes to be a traveling bad-ass?
The simple answer is No. No, I do not.
I turned 42 this year and still have kids at home who need me more than I like to admit. And while I might not be, as my kids like to say, “that old,” I have things sagging in places that just two years ago were still pert and ready for action. My body aches in places that surprise me, and I just bought my first pair of reading glasses.
I have an unrelenting fear of extreme heights, the dark ocean abyss, dangerous creatures with large teeth and I flinch at the thought of uncontrollable hordes of people. Sometimes, traveling feels like something I should leave to the ‘bad-ass’ people while I stay at home knitting doilies.
As I watch girls flit and flirt on the beaches in Bali, in their g-string bikinis and see the surfer boys zip around on their scooters, with muscles flexed, I want to roll my eyes at first. After that I do get a bit envious of their youth (although g-strings have never appealed to my backside); and then, only after the emotional rollercoaster that is middle-age stops – then I take a breath and remind myself of what I am really doing.
I am a real woman who wants to live an adventurous, challenging and rewarding life. But does it mean I have to jump out of the next helicopter? No, it doesn’t. So then for me, what does it mean to be a bad-ass traveller?
The bad-ass traveller who learns
It means I can explore the world however I darn well please. I can take my time sitting on the porch of a quiet beach hideaway because I have nowhere else I need to be, and no amazing Instagram pictures I need to take.
I can experience a city known for its nightlife and fancy buildings, by choosing to walk through its beautiful gardens instead, knowing that it brings me calm and enjoyment even if I miss out on the country’s most famous alcoholic drink.
Perhaps I talk for an hour with the owner of a shop in Istanbul as he tells me about his family legacy of hand stitching textiles. Perhaps I support his business and buy the cutest pair of baby shoes that one of my grandchildren will (hopefully) wear one day. And then I’ll do the same at the next shop because getting to know people is the best way to enjoy a culture.
I can walk under the canopy of trees at The Mall in Central Park in NYC and ignore all the tourism around me as I take in the sweet breeze of a perfect September day. No agenda, no photos, no haggling or queuing in line for the next ‘big thing’.
The bad-ass traveller who savours
As I get older I see the joy that can be had, just by being ‘still’ and seeing a place for all that it is. I don’t have to beat the world to the next perfect destination. Or feel sad that I didn’t dip my body into the most freezing water just to prove that I did it.
I can be a bad-ass traveller on my own terms, and in my own way. And I can take a picture or two to remember that at one point, I had an enjoyable moment either by myself or with loved ones. To me, enjoying each moment given to me is the true way to travel; the world is always pushing us much too fast that we have forgotten what it means to savour.
If I want to be a real bad-ass traveller I can take stock in where I am and why I am here. I can figure out my true desire to take that photo or book that next trip; and I can choose for myself not because anyone told me to, but because I just want to. And if that means flitting and flirting on the beaches of Bali in a g-string then fine, that’s what it means. But it could also mean walking some unknown hill in an unknown place and revelling in the moment, even if no one else knows about it.
The bad-ass traveller who shares
Here at Globalwot we aren’t amazing models lounging on beaches from your Insta-feeds. We are real women, with real lives. Having fun exploring and being together matters to us, and most importantly we believe in doing good. We want to elevate people. Whether that’s in friendships, communities or different countries.
Do you have an itinerary of something beautiful you have experienced? Please share it. You don’t have to have perfect photos or the perfect itinerary. All sharing helps generate money for Days for Girls International.
Do you have a desire to help out our current NGO partner, Days For Girls, but don’t have an itinerary? Please donate! You won’t regret it. (And dare I say in the long run, you won’t miss the money either.)
Do you want to write about your own travel experiences and share them with other women here at Globalwot? Please make a submission!
Explore and savour. Be the bad-ass traveller you want to be. Life should be that simple.