31 Days of Travel Planning (Or, Flying Solo)

This summer, I'll be traveling to the United Kingdom and Ireland to research young arts leaders and how they can be better supported by governments, corporations/foundations, and non-profit organizations. This research will form the backbone of my presentation at EdTA's National Conference in September. I'm also being considered for a much larger research grant focusing on how schools can create artistic communities that intentionally cross racial/ethnic, cultural, linguistic, geographic, and socioeconomic borders. If I'm selected (HOPING WISHING PRAYING), I can start establishing some connections for that project as well.

I've never been a traveler, but I've always dreamed of exploring the world. I even chose my university because of its strong study abroad program. However, every time I thought to myself "YES! THIS will be the year that I travel abroad!", something that demanded my attention in New York City would come up. So I've focused diligently on my work (joining Teach for America, starting the National Theatre for Student Artists, finishing my first graduate degree, quitting my second graduate degree half-way through, etc.) and have always put off traveling "for another day." Needless to say, there was no studying abroad for this Columbia University alumna.

However, when I turned thirty and started thinking seriously about "settling down," I decided that putting off travel was no longer an option. If I ever wanted to backpack through Europe or volunteer in South Africa, I couldn't afford to wait "for another day." So I finally applied for all of those professional development grants that had been bookmarked on my laptop since my Teach For America acceptance letter arrived in the mail. However, when I started actually booking tickets and making reservations, I realized that something else might have been holding me back as well. While I have traveled solo before, it's always been to visit a friend or attend a conference. Traveling solo to a brand-new country for an entire month where I have no connections sounds absolutely TERRIFYING. When I hovered my cursor over the PAY NOW button on Skypicker, it was with a sense of nauseating dread. But, as I've mentioned before, this year is all about rushing into fears head-on for me. So I clicked. And I bought. And I'm leaving. (On a jet plane.)

(Not like this is the definition of paradise or anything.)

Not being a traveler, I don't know a whole lot about traveling. In fact, when my friend and I hiked the Rocky Mountains last summer, I didn't do any research in advance. Boarding the flight to Colorado, I knew as much about the Rocky Mountains as one of my middle school students knows about Michel Foucault. (Read: nothin' muffin.) We rolled into town without any campsites booked and without any hiking trails mapped. While I definitely appreciate this loose and flexible approach to trip planning (which seems tailor-made for lazy afternoons spent writing in off-the-beaten-path cafes), I also recognize that when you're traveling solo, it can create more anxiety than it's worth. So it's my resolution to plan every single day of my summer trip -- especially since this will be my first time in the United Kingdom.

So today (Day One!), I took the necessary first step towards planning a successful trip. I booked my plane tickets and my hostel reservations. I completely missed out on the "struggling college student hosteling across the world" experience so, even though I'm way too old to be slugging down shots of whiskey on a Tuesday night (at thirty, I'm basically a relic of the ancient world), I still want to live my youthful bohemian fantasies. Complete with snoring strangers and uncomfortable twin-sized beds. Plus, you can't argue with the price. For £22 a night, I was able to stretch my trip out for my entire summer vacation. I plan on spending at least three of those days just lounging around the Irish countryside reading books. SO. MUCH. BOOKS.

(Isaacs Hostel in Dublin -- Staying here for two weeks!)

First of all, let's talk budget. My goal is to spend only as much traveling across the United Kingdom as I'd spend during a month in New York City. My rent costs $1,900 a month because Williamsburg. I spend about $100 a week on food at the organic grocery stores in my neighborhood. (I almost never go out for lunch/dinner anymore.) Also, it's about $80 to refill my MTA Metrocard every month for bus and subway access. That brings my monthly budget to $2,380. I want to vacation abroad for less than that amount of money. So let the trip planning begin!

I'll be leaving New York City on Wednesday, June 22. I'll be flying Norwegian Airlines to Copenhagen and then transferring to Ryanair to Dublin. Both of these airlines have stringent carry-on policies, which only allow me to take 10 kg (about 22 lbs). This will work out well though because I also purchased an Osprey Porter 46 yesterday, which is slightly over the carry-on dimensions permitted. Limiting the amount of weight will make sure that I don't overpack and can squeeze my luggage into the carry-on parameters. (I browsed through multiple message boards to make sure that other travelers have successfully brought the Porter 46 onto European carry-on only flights. Seems like we should be good to go!) I'll be staying at Isaacs Hostel in Central Dublin where I will assiduously avoid late nights at the bar. After two weeks, I'll be flying Ryanair to London and staying at The Dictionary Hostel in Shoreditch. I'll be returning to New York City on Wednesday, July 20 (Ryanair to Copenhagen, Norwegian Airlines to New York City). This brings all of my travel and lodging costs to $1,495, leaving $885 for local transportation, food, and attractions. I probably know nothing, but I think that I can make this work.

(The Dictionary Hostel. The Definition of the Day is Hipster. I'm from Williamsburg. Clearly, this was meant to be.)

For the next 31 days, I'm looking forward to including a snippet in each day's blog entry about what I've done to plan my first research trip. Hopefully, this trip will get me more comfortable with being abroad and will prepare me for many more international adventures to come!

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