If you close your eyes and imagine your dream vacation, you almost don’t even see yourself in it. What you see is what you’ve seen in the palm of your hand on your phone while mindless scrolling. Photos from celebrities posing in infinity pools, old friends who aren’t even friends anymore and their latest vacation with their perfect family to Disney World, and even that image of the happy couple, heads bowed and hands held right underneath the Eiffel Tower.
Go ahead, close your eyes and think of a trip abroad and tell me what you see. I’ll do it too. Here is what I always see:
I think everyone has seen a picture like this. You can literally just google, ‘Girl Greek island’ and there are millions of photos just like this. I’ve never been to Greece, but it took me five seconds to find this location online and type in ‘crowd’ and here is what this actually looks like:
I went to Europe in February for the first time since I was 16. When I went in 2006 we didn’t have Instagram, and no way would you bring your cell phone. The fees were astronomical and phones didn’t take good pictures. I had a disposable and a shitty digital camera. I remember not taking a lot of photos. Just enjoying being there. I don’t remember feeling like I had to take pictures and post them right away otherwise people wouldn’t know I was there. In Katherine Ormerod’s book, Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life, she talks about how people nowadays think there is no point in owning nice things or going to nice exotic places if other people don’t know about it. Can you imagine going to Amsterdam and not telling anyone? Not posting any photos online? Do you still want to go? I think most of us would, but some of why we wanted to go might be lost. The crowds in Greece don’t stop us from wanting to go AND THEY SHOULDN’T. We just should be more aware of what we are actually getting into and stop curating our vacations to make others envious. Reality is needed sometimes. Otherwise we end up with Paris Syndrome.
I went to Europe again for the second time in February 2018. I went with my now husband and we had a damn good time. I took a million photos, posted mostly all of them and I’m sure many people who follow my social media saw them. So here’s a recap of that trip in photos…but honestly this time.
When we got off the plane in Paris, neither of us had slept at all in about 20 hours. The train we were supposed to take to our Airbnb to drop off our bags was closed. We had a phone with internet, but it wasn’t being helpful. We went up to an information desk and saw a man with a union jack and a few other foreign flags on his name tag. We spoke to him in English. He got mad. I was mortified. The one thing as an American you’re not supposed to do, we did. We were tired and confused and lost already and the first foreign person we asked for help scolded us. Not a good way to start. You’re always supposed to start in French and then ask if they speak English. Even if the guy’s job is to help people who speak other languages I imagine this entitlement gets old for him. Can you imagine if someone just came up to you and started asking you where something was in German? Imagine if this happened every day.
Eventually we made it to Paris and dropped our bags off at our Airbnb that was being cleaned by a housekeeper. We could come back in two hours. The flat was SMALL. We knew it would be small, but the photos on the site were slightly misleading. It was TINY. I posted this picture on the left of our view, but I didn’t post the picture on to the right of it of our bathroom or the pics below it of our elevator.
Since we couldn’t sleep yet, as we so desperately wanted to, we wandered around in the cold trying to find that spot in one of my favorite movies “Midnight in Paris”. I wanted to sit on the steps like Gil and wait for my ride to the 1920s. I screamed a bit when we found it and posted a picture with those exact words as the caption.
The steps were freezing, the entire thing was in the shade and I think I got frostbite on my butt, there was something that (not surprisingly I was soon to learn) looked a lot like urine on the step below me, but I was DETERMINED TO GET THIS PICTURE. INSTAGRAM NEEDED ME TO POST THIS.
What do you think of when you think of Paris? The Eiffel Tower, the Metro, old castles, outdoor eateries, museums? Paris had all those things, but they weren’t as idealistic as you’d think. Here’s the things I hated about Paris: the smell, the trash and the crowds. Everywhere smelt like piss. I stepped in piss, dragged my luggage through piss (we tossed our luggage when we got home – it was not salvageable) and NO ONE PICKS UP AFTER THEIR DOGS. Also the cigarette smoking is not just a stereotype. It’s everywhere. The Metro has wafts of the most ungodly smells everywhere you go. Sadly, like any major city there are also homeless people everywhere. Paris is a huge tourist city, even in February when we went, and there SO MANY PEOPLE. Here are some people at Versailles:
I took this picture of a croissant and latte I had at a cafe next to Notre-Dame. I put a caption on it that played upon Hunger Games because why not. I had a hard time ordering food in Paris. I didn’t go into many a bakery I wanted to go in because I was afraid of sounding stupid trying to order or that they’d make fun of my efforts. I regret it now and I know when I go back to a place where English isn’t a first language I will not worry so much about this.
We ate at the same hamburger place three times while we were there. It had a good veggie burger and fries. We consistently ate there because the food was good and the woman who worked there spoke perfect English. I regret not branching out more though just because I was worried about what people I was never going to see again would think of me.
After a few days in Paris we took the train up to London. Our train was delayed and we had to stand in a big giant line in Paris for three hours and ask a million people what was going on. I thought we missed our train and were going to have to pay again, but turns out it was just a massive unlucky delay.
We had the best time in London. I met up with an online friend and his boyfriend that I hadn’t met before. They took me to a great ramen place and we hung out in a pub after. We did all the museums, walked around Harrods and had the most AMAZING experience at the Globe. We also had AMAZING Indian food. But here are some pictures of crowds you didn’t see and also some of me being freezing the entire time.
Harry Potter Levenston Studios was ON MY LIST. I was not going to be late to it because they had very strict time limits and you had to be there at a certain time, and buy tickets way in advance and all sorts of crazy stuff. I shared all my photos and really did have a genuinely wonderful time there. What I didn’t share of this experience is that because you had to be there ON TIME, I naturally made us leave VERY EARLY and in my stress to get there took MANY wrong turns, had a panic attack and almost made us MISS THE ENTIRE THING. Honestly this was such a wonderful part of the trip, but everything leading up to it was the worst.
I did not share this stressful experience with anyone online and instead only shared my great photos and made it seem like the entire experience was breeze. Oh look at me! BEST time today! Just kidding I cried five times, hyperventilated the entire way there and nearly lost my mind.
After London we took a cheap intercontinental flight to Rome. We nearly missed that flight too. We had to go all the way down to Gatwick and underestimated bag check times, train times and airport lines. STRESS.
Luckily we made it to Rome and everything went really well! I loved almost everything there. Our flat was nice, the people were great, and the sites were amazing. One thing we couldn’t escape though: CROWDS AND THE COLD. I swear I almost lost many a toe and finger on this trip. We waited in the shade in 20 degree weather outside the Vatican before it opened and we legit checked ourselves for frostbite once we made it inside. I posted some lovely photos without people so let me show you those first and then we’ll get down to reality.
Here are some photos of CROWDS in Rome
So that’s the truth about Rome. It’s great, but people are everywhere even in the off season. I can’t imagine what it’s like in the summer.
After Rome we had round trip tickets out of Paris so we flew back there. I wasn’t really looking forward to it as our first few days weren’t that great. We had dinner at the hamburger place….again. Oh man…it’s so sad looking back. When we do go back I’ll be much better. To be fair that hamburger place WAS good, but it would have been nice to branch out more. We went to the Louvre the next day which was SO crowded. I had the most fun just having Jesse take pictures of me making fun of pictures of old dead people.
Finally, we had to do the Eiffel Tower. I did it in 2006 and I hated it. It was dark and scary and I hate heights. The entire thing was MOVING at the top and I was pretty sure I was going to die. But Jesse had never been. Also, ICONIC EIFFEL TOWER PHOTOS AM I RIGHT? Instagram made me. So we trudged through Paris in the freezing ass cold at night. The wind was insane and my face felt like it was going to fall off. Jesse turned to me at one point and said, “It’s freezing” and I knew we were in trouble because when a guy says he’s cold….it’s cold. We took some photos in front of the tower and I gave my most honest caption of the trip and said simply, “It’s freezing”. You can see it in my face. We’d been gone for 12 days and I wanted to go home. I was cold, sick of eating hamburgers and super done taking a shower in a bathroom the size of a coffin.
Our flight home was the next day and I think we smiled the most we did that entire trip on the way to the airport. We had the BEST time. We really did, but it was NOT all sunshine and rainbows and the best part of a vacation sometimes is coming home. I cannot wait to go back to Europe. I’m itching to go back to London and see friends, and take the train up to Edinburgh, and maybe a ferry to Dublin. I think that’s next.
What are some honest truths about your travel and vacations? What did you share on social media that wasn’t the whole truth? Did you ever make something seem better than it was? Let me know!
So that was week one of honest photos, and it was A LOT. So if you’ve made it this far, thank you! And thanks to everyone who messaged me supporting the site since I promoted it. You’ve all said such kind things and have really given me some great advice (particularly about the push ups, which I will get to in a moment.
Next week I’m going to continue the honest photos cycle and talk about selfies and body image. I’ll show you some of my favorite pictures I took of myself and the story behind them (Hint: When I post a selfie it’s the best one I’ve taken out of about 100 I took total).
PUSH UP UPDATE TIME
I now realize that this challenge might go for a few months. I downloaded an app and did five minutes of stretching, and five sets of five knee push ups, then stretched again for five minutes. Not bad. Until the next day. My arms felt like shit. I did 15 knee push ups and I felt like I was dying. I was pretty hard on myself on twitter, but you guys gave me some great advice. Take my time and TAKE BREAKS. I did three days of push ups in a row on the app until I realized on day four it went into week two. Those three days were supposed to be over the course of a week to give your body time to rest. OOPS! So next week I’ll do week 2 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Overall it’s going well though. I’m not sore anymore and I’m looking forward to maybe being able to do five total without being on my knees by the end of the month. Slow goals are the best goals, particularly when it comes to fitness.
I’ll be back next weekend. What are some of your fitness goals that don’t have to do with weight loss? Do you want to hike better? Climb the stairs to work without getting tired? Let me know and thanks for reading!