August 27, 2002

Well, my trip is fast approaching--one week from tomorrow I'll be on a plane to Spain (sing along in My Fair Lady style if you like...). I'm surprisingly calm. I keep expecting the panic. I suppose it may still come.

There's lots to do of course. I have to finish reading my guide books so I can make sure I don't miss anything. I have to do a couple of trial packings of my backpack to make sure everything fits and see how heavy the pack feels.

I need to call someplace in Barcelona to reserve a room for the first two nights. There's Spanish I still haven't learned. I'm having a party before I leave and there's still plenty of cleaning to do.

There's language software to be downloaded onto my Palm, there's music to be downloaded onto my MP3 player, there's a tripod to buy for my digital camera. I haven't decided if all my devices are making the trip easier or more complicated. If nothing else, they're taking up less space than guidebooks, walkmen, and my big old film camera.

And yet, I'm not panicking. I feel remarkably calm. I told my dad I'm a little worried about not being worried--like I'm not really prepared unless I'm feeling apprehensive. I know it's silly.

I just grin all the time. And I stay up late and get up on time, not feeling tired all day. I whistle and sing--at work, on the street, at home. Sometimes I dance around a litte. I seem to be pretty happy.

I'm actually amazed at what the anticipation alone for this trip has done. I must have been in more of a rut than I thought. The energy I have is impressive in comparison to what it was just a few months ago, even a few weeks ago. I feel shockingly alert a lot of the time. It's really cool.

I'll try to post again before I leave but I can't guarantee it. I will be posting to my site from Spain/Portugal/wherever I end up. I won't be able to post pictures probably, as I'll be using cyber cafes, but you'll see plenty when I get back, I promise.

Wish me a buen viaje!

Posted by Alyssa at 11:14 PM
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August 15, 2002

I'm leaving for Europe in a few weeks and I find myself bouncing between my personalities. One is the free-spirited traveller, who I rarely get a chance to listen to due to infrequent vacations. And the other is my newly acquired, since my last big trip, stylish self. They're getting a little cranky with each other.

The first big trip I went on was 7 years ago, when I travelled through Europe for two months. I'd been going to a hippie college for a couple of years prior and my wardrobe consisted of long skirts, oversized t-shirts, Birkenstocks, and a pair of particularly nicely worn Doc Martens. I wore my hair in ponytails and braids and my makeup consisted of sunscreen. The cutest thing I wore the whole trip was my 40's style blue and white polkadotted bathing suit.

Times have changed. I don't think I own a single long flowered skirt. I wouldn't dream of wearing oversized t-shirts and looking like I have no shape. The Docs fell apart years ago. I wear stylish clothes, I wear different jewelry every day, I have an extensive shoe collection. I wear my hair down most of the time and I always, everyday, wear lipstick. How will this translate to travelling?

I'm travelling on this trip the same way I did on the last, by train and foot with a backpack carrying all my belongings. I have the same restrictions of space and weight. I know I need to bring the fewest clothes I think I can get away with as well as no more that two pairs of shoes (!) and minimal jewelry--I don't want it to get stolen. I know I need to think about the places I'm going and not the way I look. It's surprisingly difficult.

I went to Ross the other day, looking for travelling clothes. I was picking out capris and skirts that I thought would be comfortable and easy to wash in sinks. Then I started to look at shirts, thinking what would be cute, putting together outfits in my head. I had to stop myself. I'm not going to a fashion show. I have plenty of t-shirts (correctly sized) that I can wear in Spain. I don't need to waste money on new clothing to impress a nation of people I don't know, who won't realize that I have a new outfit on. I need to concentrate on impressing them with my bold attempts to speak their language and my free-spirited travelling alone.

I bought my backpack the a week or so ago, and though I really tried to buy a bright yellow backpack, I ended up with a signature red and black one. It really wasn't about the color...I swear...

I know ultimately I will do the sensible thing. I will take a skirt, a couple of pairs of capris, a few shirts. I will take a pair of sandals and a pair of sneakers probably. I will wear my hair in braids, most likely, and I will leave my favorite jewelry at home.

I've said in the past that style isn't what clothes you wear, it's how you wear your clothes. I will be travelling by train and bus, dirty and sweaty, wearing clothes washed in sinks over the weeks. But I will feel strong and beautiful as I explore strange countries on my own. I will feel stylish in my personal style as I choose to wear it. I will feel well-adorned with my sunkissed face and my eager, awed eyes.

There's a good chance I will still wear lipstick.

Posted by Alyssa at 11:10 PM
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August 02, 2002

I'm just a big kid. It's a fact that's been slowly growing on me, but I really just realized it. I'm just a big goofy kid.

For about 20 years I was certain I was an adult. From about the age of 8 I felt certain I was as mature as any adult I met, be they my parents, teachers, or grandparents. Kids my own age seemed so juvenile. A reasonable thing to seem to be since they were, in fact, kids who accepted the fact that they were kids.

People always thought I was older than I was, since I grew really early. By the age of 12 I was my mom's height. Within a few years of that I was close to my dad's. I remember a neighborhood girl my own age thinking I was 12, when I was only 7.

The years passed and I continued thinking I was more mature than most. My friends were older. My roommates were older. People used to think I was the older sister, when I was 4 years younger.

Sometime in the last few years I've started feeling less certain in my adult shoes (stylish though they may be). I've lost my absolute certainty that I know what my life will and should be. The things I always thought I'd have when I was 30 I don't have. The way I thought I would be at 30 is not how I am. Which is not to say that the things I have and am are not better than my early dreams.

I was extremely serious when I was a kid. I rarely cracked a smile through my teen-age years. I rarely took my head out of a book. I wore black almost exclusively all through high school. I cared deeply about political issues and cried over the plight of political prisoners. I belonged to Amnesty International. I listened to the Boomtown Rats and had a huge crush on Bob Geldof due to his high ideals.

Now I laugh regularly, find myself grinning stupidly for no reason, I play--goofing and joking with my co-workers and friends. I watch teen movies that I would have put my eyes out with a poker before watching when I was actually a teen. I play games all the time, admittedly on my Palm Pilot rather than on a Gameboy.

I care about politics, but I'm not mooning around the house crying about the horrible plight of political prisoners or women in Afghanistan. I do something about it, like participate in the Blogathon or the AIDS Walk, but I don't belong to Amnesty International anymore and Bob Geldof is no longer my type. For better or worse, I'm far more concentrated on myself and my life, like teenagers supposedly are. I don't think much beyond the next few months. I don't contribute to a retirement fund.

I found myself grinning from ear to ear the other day. I had just bought my tickets to Spain and it all became real. I was doing a little happy dance at my desk, something goofy that I would have been embarrassed to have witnessed. A few days before that I had pulled up Spiderman for the umpteenth time to watch him dance, for the pure entertainment of it. (Shoot, that link is where he's supposed to be, but it doesn't seem to be working... Anyway, it's a very small animation of Spiderman doing a groovy little dance. Surprisingly, his modern dance goes nicely with My Baby Just Cares For Me by Nina Simone.) I get ridiculously large amounts of joy from my digital cameras (Canon S110 and my new Aiptek PenCam (this one's nicer than mine, but you get the idea)), my Palm, even the games on my cell phone when I'm really bored. I love my toys.

There are dozens of infantile things I long to do, but usually don't during the day. I want to grab a co-worker's butt (I know, sexual harassment, but not if I was really 8 years old), I want to hop in my car and go to the beach and abandon work, I want to go buy a milkshake, I want to make bubbles in my soda with my straw, I want to turn cartwheels down the hallway, I want to skip down the street (I've actually done this on occasion), I want to send faxes of my butt to other offices.

I know there's still some adult in me because I stem these impulses. Besides sexual harassment; there's docking pay/getting fired; watching fat intake; loss of carbonation; bad wrists, back, and ankles; and cellulite keeping me from doing these things. Impulse control is, I suppose, a sign of maturity. Though frankly, I'm a lot more likely to do these things now than I ever was as a kid.

I suppose maybe I should be dismayed at this apparent degeneration, chronological backtracking, becoming a kid. I can't do anything but laugh. I'm happy not to have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I'm happy to be free to do what I want. I'm happy that I get to be a kid when I have none of the restrictions of school, parental supervision, or teasing bullies. I'm just plain happy. Excuse me while I skip my way out on the town.

Posted by Alyssa at 09:08 PM
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