Like almost every other American under the age of 30, I have literally no money because I spend half of it on avocado toast and the other half paying my student loan interest. I never thought that travel was an option for me until I decided to look down the barrel of my credit card limit and laugh.
Having recently completed my master’s degree, I was in a unique situation. I had six months of deferment and I had to quit my job in order to move back to my beloved New Jersey. It was the perfect and only opportunity I’d get to travel.
Now I’m calling it “traveling” for a reason and not “vacation”. Because “vacation” is a bit of a misnomer, isn’t it? When you think of vacation, you think of a bunch of tourists laying out in the sun like bacon in a frying pan, drinking offensively sweet drinks on some resort somewhere, being catered to by racially ambiguous supermodels. Yes, you’re physically vacating your life when you do this, but you’re not vacating in any mental capacity.
So I chose Europe because they have a great PR team and all of their marketing efforts worked on me like a charm. I thought that maybe I’d go and find a European boyfriend named Fabio (which I actually did, but that’s a story for a different time) and see some old buildings and maybe eat a baguette or two in front of the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t think anything would make me happier than that freedom, that waywardness, that culture immersion.
But it didn’t take long for me to realize that I had been brainwashed, bamboozled, tricked even. I got to see Paris, Barcelona and Berlin to name a few. But I was a miserable dotard at home and now I was just a miserable dotard in Paris, Barcelona and Berlin.
I grew very depressed in Europe. I cursed the American propaganda machine that told me eating homemade pasta in Italy would cure my woes. I went to London and saw a bunch of diamonds that had been stolen from India. I saw the oldest standing structures built by man in Malta. I got high as a kite in Amsterdam. I walked around Beyonce’s favorite part of South France. I did everything and still I felt empty.
My friend’s dad said something that resonated with me:
“Everywhere is inherently the same.”
And he was right. The buildings in Poland looked like the buildings in Brussels and Madrid and Verona. All of the exotic languages didn’t make a difference to me either because I couldn’t understand most of them anyway. They could have been speaking Klingon. It really didn’t matter.
Don’t get me wrong. Everything I did was a priceless memory and everywhere I saw was so gorgeous. But it just didn’t do for me what I thought it would. I thought I’d shake a few feelings loose and maybe “find myself” as others are always saying they do while traveling. That didn’t happen for me.
Until I went to Lanzarote, Spain.
I’ve never been to the moon, but I assume it looks something like Lanzarote.
It was magical. I felt like I’d gotten into a tin can and floated off into space to land upon this marvelous beastie in the sky. It’s eerily quiet and remote and barren on Lanzarote in the most jarringly perfect way. When you drive around it, you almost feel like you’ve been stranded on the surface of the moon. You’re disconnected from not only technology but also humanity in a weird way. You’re in your solitary capsule, roving around an uncharted piece of space. And you’re so insignificant compared to the giant, rolling dunes made of solid volcanic rock. There’s not a creature or piece of greenery anywhere around you. There’s only you.
For those not familiar, Lanzarote is one of the Canary Islands. It belongs to Spain but it’s geographically located in Africa. And perhaps one of the reasons I liked it so much was because it’s relatively untouched by Americans, and by other people as well for that matter.
Fire literally springs up from the earth there. High in the hills are these holes that go all the way to what seems like Hell. Watching brush seemingly spontaneously combust was one of the strangest sites I’d ever witnessed. And this wasn’t a beach vacation, so don’t bring your floaties and umbrellas. Most of the beaches have black sand, formed from volcanic ash and much of the coast drops off into rocky, perilous cliffs.
Lanzarote was otherworldly, indescribable and so different than anywhere else I’d ever been including some of the other Canary Islands. And I thought that it was the place but upon further introspection, I realized it was because I had been surprised for the first time in my life. I didn’t allow my pessimism and my jadedness to color my experience. It was on Lanzarote that I discovered what people meant when they said they were “going on vacation”. I felt as though I’d properly vacated my life for the first time and all it took was a little trip to the moon.
I write at Hoesetta Stone. It’s a lifestyle blog and magazine dedicated to hearing the voices of millennial travelers.