Gaining a New Perspective on Body Image While Traveling

by Alex Schnee
( October 21st, 2014 )

Body Image Traveling

When you are a woman traveler, it’s almost impossible not to be a bit aware about body image. In the States, our culture is obsessed with it—it’s impossible to escape the constant bombardment of advertisements and diet trends. We have a very specific way we should look in America, and unless you are 5’9” and ninety pounds (neither of which many women are), you are going to fall short of expectations.

One of my favorite things about travel is that it opens up your mind and allows you to think in a new way. I love visiting new places and noticing different trends, and how alternative cultures see body image is definitely something that I have noticed on various journeys. I’ve enjoyed being in Reykjavik the past few days and seeing the variety of shapes and sizes women are here. There seems to be more of an acceptance of all types—whether you’re 5’9” or 5’2” and no matter what your number on the scale is.

I remember arriving in Greece and being amazed to see that the general definition of beauty was extremely different from the one we have in the States. I would categorize the majority of the women I saw there as “healthy”—and you could tell that they loved to eat. (According to the friend I made in Greece, Helen, the national pastime of the country is eating. Rightly so—everything I had there was incredibly delicious.) We’ve created almost an impossible ideal in America; even the women they use for modeling have been photo-shopped and caked in makeup so they are unrecognizable, and most are starving themselves or dieting.

As someone who has struggled with body image since teenager-hood, traveling has done more for me than offer comparisons between cultures. It’s also allowed me to realize that my 5’2” and slightly over ninety pounds (okay, definitely more than slightly) body is perfectly healthy and normal. I’ve started to love the fact that I am strong enough to climb mountains and that I don’t have to beat myself up for having another slice of perfect pizza in Venice.

No body is perfect, and every place and every person has a definition about what they think is the best. Iceland made me more aware of what my body allows me to do rather than what it looks like.

How about you? Has travel opened your eyes to body image? Made you more self-conscious?

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Enjoying the Moment: Living in the Present as a Twenty-Something Traveler

by Alex Schnee
( October 16th, 2014 )

Enjoying the Present while Traveling

If you’re like most Generation-Y travelers, you probably have a travel bucket list a mile long. I know I certainly do, and deciding which places to go and which to skip for now can be a lot harder than one might think. I find myself overwhelmed by all the locations I have yet to go—and knowing that I won’t get to all of them in my lifetime is something I have to recognize.

I also can’t help but instantly plan my next trip while I’m already on one. There’s something about being on a journey that perpetuates the desire for another when you are addicted to travel. My mind begins to wander to Japan and Peru and Australia all in a matter of a few seconds. But as with any healthy addiction (if there is one, travel is it), knowing when to stop and enjoy the moment can take some self-reflection and acknowledgment of the opportunity you have been given.

This has been on my mind of late now that I am in Reykjavik, Iceland. I have been planning this trip for months, and I’m trying to enjoy the experience as much as possible—realistically, I doubt I’ll ever make it back unless I have a layover. It’s required me to slow down a bit and to think not of how many likes I can get on my Facebook pictures, but what I want to remember the most about a journey like this.

I want to remember stretching out of my comfort zone to a new location on this planet I would have never imagined seeing. I want to remember that as a pescatarian, I tried minke whale and was surprised how morally okay I was with it. Also, I never want to forget how divine the coffee is here, both in scent and taste. Travel is, in an essence, enjoying the present moment to the fullest extent possible. It’s about inserting yourself into the uncomfortable, or the new, or the unexpected on purpose—because those are the moments you will remember the most when you have forgotten almost everything else.

I think we try and accomplish that as Generation-Y travelers, but we can always put the phone down a little bit more and think about the rest of the world a little bit less.

What do you think? Do you think we as travelers appreciate our experiences enough? Is it possible to as connected as we are with social media and technology?

Image courtesy of Brandon Satterwhite.

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Navigating the New York City Subway: It’s Not Hard!

by Alex Schnee
( October 14th, 2014 )

New York Subway

I’m leaving New York today and I’m headed to Washington, D.C. to take advantage of an 11-hour layover. I’ve never been to D.C. before, so I’m going to check out the Smithsonian with my father before we board that plan to Reykjavik. Today I thought I would write about getting around on the New York subway system, though, since I had a lovely Canadian couple ask me for directions the other day. Here are some basic tips I found after living in New York for two years:

Know the difference between Uptown and Downtown.

Once you know the basic geography of Manhattan, it’s pretty easy to get around. You will kind of need to have an idea of which way is up and which is down, however. Don’t be afraid to study a map for a few minutes and circle some of the places you want to visit. That way you have a general overview about which trains would be the best to take. Don’t be afraid of looking like a tourist—you are one! It’s okay.

Put plenty of money on your MetroCard.

If you don’t plan on walking a lot, your MetroCard will be your key to cheap travel in the city. That being said, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough funds on it to get you to where you need to go. Nothing is more annoying than being stuck mid-turnstile with not enough funds to get through. Think about adding an extra ten dollars so you can get from one place to another really easily. Each ride costs $2.50, so if you’re running Uptown and Downtown several times a day, it can add up.

Know where the lines branch off.

When you look at a map, it’s easy to get the idea that several different trains are headed to where you need to go—which can be true to an extent. But eventually all roads must diverge, or all subway lines branch into various areas of the city. When looking at your trusty map, take some time to see where you might need to get off and transfer if necessary. The good thing about transferring is that it doesn’t cost anything, and all you have to do is walk to the next platform.

Don’t be afraid to ask someone.

Yes, New Yorkers are notoriously marked as rude and unwilling to help tourists, but that’s not always true. If you have questions, feel free to ask someone else standing on the platform if the train is heading in the direction that you want to go. Most will be happy to help you out or direct you to the right train and station if you are lost.

Have you ever had trouble with the New York City subway? Have any tips or tricks that could help?

Image courtesy of Dan Dilworth.

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