sacrificing my social life (part one) & a brief history on my inability to be embarrassed

So, I follow a few travel blogs. And by a few I mean a lot. I may not follow every travel blog that I see, but when it comes to the twenty-something-vegan-female-feminist-solo-traveler blogs, I’ve got it covered.

#knowyourdemographic

I started obsessively scanning travel guides/blogs/forums about two months ago, when I first decided to make this trip across Europe. I  liked reading all the stories and mishaps of experienced travelers. I usually only skimmed through the advice articles, but occasionally I would find some really specific and useful tips. One thing that I found to be almost immediately evident in these particular resources was how similar a lot of the travel advice was. One of the main ideas that every travel blogger seems to passionately agree with is how much simpler world travel is compared to what you think it will be. “You don’t have to be rich to travel!” Is a well worn phrase gracing even the most modest of travel blogs.

For a lot of people simply making the decision to put off school, a career, or starting a family in order to travel is the hard part. But, for me, putting off school is nothing new. (I’ve been putting it off for a few years now anyhow but not because I don’t think there’s value in education. On the contrary I love taking classes. Though I can’t seem to decide what to study… because I want to learn about everything to do with anything!) Honestly, if college was free, (or even just a tiny bit less expensive) I’d probably be a career student. Seriously. But alas, college is not free.. at least that’s what my debt collectors keep informing me.  (Honestly, the people paid to collect money from me keep in better contact with me than most of my own family members, and coincidentally most of them are more likable.)

What I do know, is that when attempting to reach any life goal one should know one’s weaknesses and confront them head on. I, for example, am not a ‘finisher‘. I am really good at making plans. I am also good at researching how to make sed plans a reality. I take on the task with a sort of mad-scientist-intensity, planning every last (completely extreme and unrealistic) detail to a t.

Until…

 it comes to the follow through. That’s when I almost always get distracted or burnt out. The times when I have actually followed through with any of my “big ideas” in life were when I acted on them immediately. In spirit of this, my cousin and I (whom I will be traveling with this Fall) bought our tickets to Iceland the second after the thought occurred to us. We also made sure they were non-refundable in an effort to force ourselves to follow through with this particular big idea.

And it was a good idea… in theory.

After we bought our tickets, we planned to save all the money we could all summer long.  And in an effort to further save money, we found work exchange jobs to cut down on hostel and food costs. But no matter how well you plan it, Western Europe is expensive. (At least it is according to the internet.) And we may have jumped a little too fast in buying those plane tickets. I mean… we have just a few short months to save up thousands of dollars meaning the sad excuse I already have for a social life has come to a complete and utter halt.

In other news, I wrecked my car over a year ago (RIP) and since then I have worked within walking distance (equating to about one sidewalk-free-mile) from where I lived. That is until recently as I have moved in with my dear sweet cousin Caroline (and her dear sweet parents). Luckily, her brother just got a new car and offered to let me drive his old car until we leave.

This is very generous, and I am very appreciative.

So supremely appreciative.

That being said….

This is a 90’s Buick that drives like an old luxury boat. When I start the car all of the interior (and exterior) lights rapidly flash in a way that vaguely reminds me of a particular dance floor at a gay club I used to frequent in Birmingham, Al.

The alarm is liable to go off at any moment with no provocation.

It doesn’t always start the first time… or the second time…or the third.

The trunk will not close anymore, therefore the back hood is held down, but not completely shut, with an actual jump rope (I think).

The speakers crackle like a fire pit.

The gas gauge doesn’t work at all, so every few days I just put a little bit of gas in. (Sometimes taking a moment to reflect on the Carrie Underwood classic: “Jesus take the wheel”)

Also, there is no air conditioning or review mirror.

B a s i c a l l y, it has a lot of character which is a quality I like and generally seek out in inanimate objects. And bedsides having to rip my skin free of the dark gray leather interior, and showing up to places looking like a freshly boiled lobster, I didn’t really give the car too much thought. Until, one of my coworkers walked me to my car late one night only to be horrified by the sight of it.

“Dude, I would walk before I’d drive that death trap,”  were her exact words I believe.

The typical reaction to my temporary car is usually that of pity, and it seems to be the general consensus that most people would be too embarrassed to drive it. I am not. Truthfully, I am not very easily embarrassed in general, but I haven’t always been this way.

My parents are and always have been the epitome of embarrassing. A fact which can be contributed to their constant PDA, their inability to be politically correct in social situations, the way they dress, and finally their general loudness. Most of my childhood family memories either begin or end with me being absolutely mortified, and one even involved an old beat up car.

It goes like this.

My stepdad is what you think of when you think of a hippie in the seventies. He wears tie-dye t shirts and Birkenstock sandals (even in the winter just with sometimes-mismatched-socks), he only cuts his hair and trims his beard (or his nose and ear hairs) when my mother makes him, and he has a small obsession with old Volkswagen beetles. He even used to drive one when I was younger. Nowadays, I would find that to be sort of cool. But back when I was twelve years old trying to navigate life through obstacles like puberty and popularity (or should I say unpopularity), I did not find it to be cool at all. It was just an outdated loud rusty car that my step-father drove solely to torture me. Which was actually kind of true… Much like the rusted white beauty I drive now, it did not always start and would sometimes die at stop lights or in line to drop me off at school. My stepdad knew nothing about cars and could not maintain it very well causing multiple problems that eventually led to him selling it when I was in high school. We affectionately referred to it as “The Bug”. A name blandly appropriated from the fact that it was a Voltswagon Beatle, but fitting for me because it was a parasite on my meager social life.

I hated that car.

It was just another thing that separated me from my peers at a time when all I wanted in life was to fit in. Whenever my stepdad drove me to middle school in the car, I would slump as low as I could in my seat practically melting into the floorboard to avoid being seen. My stepfather thought my embarrassment was hilarious, and would respond by rolling down the windows and yelling, “Rachel Lastname is in this car!” until I sat up right. I guess I have a lot of embarrassing memories attached to that old crusty forest green bug. But none can top that of January 6th 2003.

It was the first day back after Christmas break in eighth grade, and I was feeling abnormally confident. I had just had a particularly fruitful Christmas and was rocking a whole new look inspired, I’m sure, by the Disney TV show, Lizzie McGuire. I had my butterfly clips in, my Bon-Bon eye-glitter at maximum application, and a fuzzy white glittery Limited Too sweater (a brand I couldn’t usually afford), and I couldn’t wait to show off. Unfortunately, it was one of the days my stepfather had to drive me to school which meant The Bug was doomed to be my chariot, but I decided not to let that cramp my style.

Now, in the winter The Bug was especially testy making my already grouchy-in-the-morning-stepfather’s fuses especially short. And after taking a few extra times to start… and restarting at almost every stop sign and red light on the way to school, we were both running late. When we finally sputtered up to my school’s doors, we gave our usual salutations; meaning my stepfather probably grunted goodbye and I probably ignored him in typical blended family fashion. And when I went to open the door to get out the handle and lining of the door came clean off causing both me and that large chunk of door shaped plastic to comically crash to the ground. I, having always been a sensitive flower, immediately began to tear up. My books were scattered in the inch of Alabama snow, my jeans were muddy, and worst of all my brand new white sparkly sweater was quickly becoming stained with an increasing amount blood from my scratched elbows. I begged and pleaded with my stepfather to take me home to change, refusing to close what was left of the car door. But the door falling off had already set off him off. He responded by yelling indistinguishable curse words, (probably yelling at me to grow up and stop being ridiculous) as he leaned over the passenger seat, snatched the plastic door frame from my hands, and slammed the door before puttering off in his cursed chariot. I spent the rest of the school day in muddy jeans, rolled up fuzzy glittery sweater sleeves, bandaids,  and tear streaked eye glitter wondering if my life would always be this way…and apparently it would.

Looking back on that day now, I laugh.

Because it’s funny!

I am still not, nor have I ever been, considered cool. What I am is unique. I am relatable (I think, or at least I hope) and best of all, I am generally unaffected by your opinion of me and glad for it.

So I’d like to take this moment to give a shout out to the two main people in my life who have made me the un-embarrass-able human that I am today:

To my mother, for never letting me get braces under the guise that having bad teeth gives one character, leading to one of my favorite nicknames: Rachel-Fucked-Up-Teeth-Lastname. And for having no fashion sense whatsoever leading me to experiment through some horrible phases from my glittered-soaked early teens, to my blue-haired neo-goth days, to my slutty-vintage early adulthood, and beyond.

To my stepfather, for everything written above and so, so, (So) much more.

The rest I am forced to take responsibility for.

 Until next time…

Keep it weird, Internet.

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