Guest post by @kirsten_al
I owe some of my best travel experiences to men I’ve loved, lost and placed on pedestals of all shapes and sizes. I’ve traveled to England, Colorado, Jamaica, Mexico and to a cornfield in rural Illinois in pursuit of men, to prove something to men or even to get over men.
In 2003, I took a road trip with my friend C to a music festival called Cornerstone. It was held truly in the middle of nowhere Illinois. We went not just because of our love for music and camping. We went because the men we were dating had taken road trips to music festivals every summer, purposely leaving us behind because it “wasn’t a girl’s thing”. C and I attended Cornerstone in defiance to the “no girls allowed” rule we’d painfully endured for years. That year’s music festival was filled with dirt, bugs, muddy water, sweat, unnamed roads and crappy food. I also heard the most amazing music and made some of the best memories of my life. I owe that experience to the men who told us we weren’t allowed to ever have it.
In the same year, I fell in love with Colorado; and with an architect named B. Summer romance turned into a long distance relationship and in the fall, I flew out twice to see him in Denver and Boulder. We hiked a 14er – Mt. Bierstadt, indulged in a concert at Red Rocks, drank too many mojitos under the sparking lights of a city night and made out in the aisles of Tattered Cover. B and I didn’t last through Christmas but my love of Colorado lives on to this day. I owe that love to the architect who quoted my poetry handwritten on monogrammed stationary.
When I was in high school, I went on a number of humanitarian aid trips during my summer breaks. Though I told every one I knew or loved I was going to Mexico and Jamaica purely to help people, the hard truth is that I was motivated by boys I had a crush on who were also signed up to go. The trip to Mexico didn’t pan out romantically, but it did open my eyes to the poverty outside my four walls. In Jamaica, I got really “lucky” and met E from Virginia. E and I carried on a passionate affair via the postal system for years after that trip. It’s because of E that when I think of Jamaica I still get warm fuzzies.
Mexico is also where I returned after my divorce last year, to drown my sorrows in sunsets, tequila sunrises and indulge in a passionate affair with a fellow traveler who showed me parts of Mexico I’d not even come close to experiencing as an innocent teenager! I owe my current love of Mexico to a man who made me reexamine a place I’d previously written off, after a bad experience the first time around.
Perhaps my pattern of male-centric travel is hereditary! If it wasn’t for my mother wanting to “stick it to” her husband, I might never have stood in front of Stonehenge. It was in junior high that my mother pulled me out of school for two weeks gallivanting around England. That first passport changed me forever and very firmly planted my feet in the shoes of a life-long traveler and adventurer. I owe my trip across the pond to a man whose abuse pushed my mother to take drastic measures of escape.
I also may owe my love of travel to my mother. She is an artist who sees the whole world as inspiration for her colorful canvases. I cannot paint, but I do know my way around a camera. It’s with the eye of a photographer that I continue to travel and have finally learned to do so not because of, or in spite of men; but because for me, to not travel is to not live. Traveling is now my way of life and love is no longer defined only romantically.
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Kirsten Alana is a photographer and travel writer currently in the Midwest who is planning a late 2010 move to the East or West coast. She always has a quote ready and waiting to share. She’s an avid Jane Austen fan, adventure & experience junkie, Francophile, passionate fan of Mexico, Apple and Canon geek, New Englander by birth and the daughter of an artist. Kirsten also loves to support charities and her current favorite is “Charity:Water”.