I have a love-hate relationship with traveling.
Almost every other person on my social media feeds seems to love it. They share photos, sometimes almost every day; update their Facebook statuses; and post #flashback or #throwback photos for weeks, or even months, following their return home. Given that a lot of my friends are also skilled photographers — or own the new iPhone 7 with the fancy camera — these photos are quite eye-catching.
As their friend and/or Instagram follower, I do my part in liking the photo and sitting there feeling somewhat envious that I’m not also at that fantastic location having that same incredible experience. It’s easy to fall in love with travel this way, through the lenses of other people’s lives.
It’s really only when I get to traveling myself that I’m hit with a healthy dose of reality: traveling is not always that glamorous. I had the opportunity this week to travel to Marina del Ray for a training workshop, and while I was thrilled to be going, it did not start off on a great foot.
I went to bed at 10 p.m., hoping to get a good night’s sleep before crawling up at 5 a.m. to hop on Bart to get to SFO, but I only fell asleep at 12 a.m. At the airport, I learned that my flight got delayed, and at the hotel, technical details and regulations for the hotel meant that my room reservation was put on the waiting list.
Quite thankfully, everything worked out. I arrived well on time, and I was given a room with an amazing view on basically the top floor of the hotel. My trip went from hiccupy to glamorous real quick.
Given that the main purpose of my travel was business, I didn’t have a huge amount of time to ramble through Marina del Ray. But, I tried to make the most of the time I had by exploring the local area.
I spent one lunch break wandering down to Venice Beach and standing up on the pier to enjoy the ocean breeze. I discovered a lagoon dedicated to preserving the local wildlife and natural environment of the area, tucked away between small, single-family homes. (There was a “For Rent” sign nailed onto one of the fences nearby.)
There were a number of clothing stores, one of which announced itself by placing a six-foot tall figure of a blue, overly-muscled bro-shark wearing surfer shades and board shorts while leaning on his surfboard just outside its door. (I didn’t take a photo because I felt like I’d be falling into their tourist gimmick by doing so.)
The vast majority of the food establishments in the area served Mexican food, “fair food” (i.e. burgers and pizzas), and beer. Within a 10-minute walk, there were also two storefronts where you could rent a bike to get around town.
I’ve known for quite some time that I’m definitely a NorCal — specifically Berkeley — human, so I tried particularly hard on this (very first solo!) trip to be positive and leave my anti-SoCal sun sentiments at home. Also, given the weather disparity between the Bay and SoCal this past week, Karl the Fog already beat me to it.
This was a little hard to do at times, and it didn’t help that I felt incredibly out of place at the beach and on the streets in my long sleeves, long pants, business casual wear. But I tried, and simply forcing myself to stand on the sand, in my nice flats, made me aware of the stark differences between the Bay Area-Berkeley and SoCal-Marina del Ray.
It wasn’t just that the storefronts in SoCal were all shorter and lacked the several stories of apartments overhead. It was also just the simple fact that Marina del Ray — and all the people I interacted with, whether they worked at local restaurants or were attending the same workshop as me — is very much outside of the Bay Area-Berkeley bubble.
We all try, I believe, to not place ourselves at the center of our own universes. We’ve been told that it’s selfish to do so, that we’re not being kind and respectful and considerate to others if we do this. And I think, for most people, the heart and the intent, to avoid doing this, is there. The vast majority of the people I know have made noted and concerted efforts to become more aware of others’ struggles and to stay informed.
This trip though, made me realize that we won’t always know whether our efforts are enough, until we put ourselves outside of our usual spaces of comfort.
Over the past five years, I’ve let myself become comfortable and comforted by the inclusive, diverse, liberal space of Berkeley. It is by no means perfect, but I believe it strives to constantly improve itself in this way. Being transported out of Berkeley was somewhat jarring because suddenly, that Berkeley foundation and mentality that I’d come to take for granted was missing.
This is not to say that people from Berkeley, such as myself, are inherently better than others. I do not believe this, but I had in some ways, let myself place Berkeley at the center of my mind and began holding everyone to that standard.
Whether or not this standard is appropriate or up to par is beside my current point, because I hope to no longer expect this of others. It is, in its own way, prejudiced to bring my comfort bubble wherever I go, and am I grateful that traveling made me aware of this.
I just hate that the price tag of traveling is so exclusive.