My obsession with travel started at a very young age, eight to be exact. I vividly remember watching Rick Steve’s Europe for hours during PBS telethons and ordering international travel catalogs. Yes, at eight I was ordering catalogs. I would sit “Indian style” (we weren’t politically correct then) at our make-shift coffee table and NEATLY tear (I’ve also suffered from OCD longer than I can remember) pages from my black and white composition book. I would then fold the pages in quarters. In the left column I would write the country name, the second contained the capital, the third the official language(s) and forth a tourist attraction or specialty food.
I was enthralled with how large the world was. There were so many components of life in other countries that absolutely fascinated me. In fourth grade science class I often stared at the clock, trying to grasp the reality that as I sat learning, there was a kid somewhere in the world going to bed. I would think that if I moved to Australia at the end of an American summer, I would have two summer breaks. Oh, the innocence of being a child–concerned with duel summer breaks versus paid time off and healthcare.
Prior to ever visiting or even leaving the East Coast, at the age of 17 I packed my houndstooth Anne Klein luggage (no one could tell me a THING) purchased from Marshall’s and moved to Seattle (love you Frasier!) to pursue my passion for the arts. And thus, began my infatuation with travel. While in Seattle, I often crossed the border to Vancouver but not for the typical reasons American kids traveled to Canada*. I went to explore small art galleries in Gastown, cashed in on the bomb exchange rate while shopping for used designer goods and soaked in the many differences of life in Canada.
That small glimpse into international travel created what some (side-eyes husband) would describe as a travel monster. I do not country-count and I don’t knock those that do (it’s not my style, like polyester) I am beyond blessed to take at least six international (nonwork related) trips a year. That may seem like a lot of travel to some (side-eyes husband, again), but I truly yearn for more. I get irritable, restless and plain ole unpleasant at times when I haven’t appeased my inner child’s desire to see the world.
To “cope” with being grounded for durations longer than I’d like, there are small things I do on a daily basis to create international experiences in my home, at my job and in my city.
Un. Create an International Playlist:
Anyone who has ever stepped foot in my office can attest that there will always be 1920’s jazz in rotation and an espresso machine with proper demi-tasse glasses.
Deux. See/Visualize Where You Want to Be:
Watch a foreign film or read a fictional book set in the city of your dreams. Nonfiction is typically my go-to, but there is no denying fictions appeal to wanderlust. Prior to traveling to any new country I find a native Author and enjoy the instant literary escape.
Trois. Get an International Cookbook:
I am an EXTREME Francophile so it should be no surprise that my favorite cookbook is Julie Childs “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. Spend the morning shopping international style. Visit the butcher for your poulet or agneau. Find a farmer’s market to procure fresh veggies and herbs. Locate an actual vin shop and speak with the sales associate about the meal you plan to prepare and find un vin that most complements your meal. Bonus points if le vin is imported from your wanderlust country!
Quatre. Sit Back and Smell Le Café:
Allocate at least one day a month to actually sit at a coffee shop (outside weather permitting) and enjoy your caffeinated drink of choice while people watching or reading the newly purchased/borrowed internationally-set book.
Cinq. Visit Your Nearest “Old Town”:
Most East Coast cities have at least a small neighborhood that is adorned with cobblestone streets, houses built in the 1800s, and quaint specialty shops. Spend a few hours walking around the town, Googling the historic street names and capturing astounding ass photos for the ‘gram!
Six. Check Out a Museum:
I am BEYOND spoiled living in DC and having access to FREE museums. I nearly lost my life from the violent gasp when asked to pay to enter a museum after moving to Italy. Spend the afternoon gazing upon Impressionist paintings or Fabergé eggs and feel yourself instantly being transported to Southern France or Russia.
Sept. Take a quick train ride:
I am obsessed with trains and nothing evokes old world travel like a train! And If you haven’t tried any of the “faux voyage” tips, try them all in one setting. Grab a book and board a train to a city near you. Have an espresso in the cities Old Town after spending the day at the museum. End the day with dinner at an international restaurant. If a four- to six- course meal is not in your budget, don’t let that stop you! Enjoy a glass of wine and dessert at the international restaurant of your choice.
Huit. Dress Zee Part:
I’m THAT girl. You know, the one waiting for mass transit while wearing a beret with a baguette exposed from her Neverfull. Adorn yourself in items from the country you’d love to visit. Wear an evil-eye bracelet, belt a cute kimono, throw a white button-up under that Icelandic wool sweater (they’re really itchy.)
Neuf. Randomly Great a Coworker in a Foreign Language:
I’m also THAT girl. I’m certain my random bouts of Francais in work emails irritate my coworkers but no one has asked me to stop. You’d be surprised how a simple “Bonjour” or “Ciao” in the office can lead to conversations about foreign languages taken in high school or recent Ancestry discoveries. Be that officemate, speak that language!
Dix. Link International Ties to Your City:
Did you know that Washington DC was designed by a French-American? If you’ve ever taken the Metro in DC, you’re already familiar with the city planner. Does L’Enfant ring a bell? This time of year DC and the ‘gram is flooded with photos of Cherry Blossoms. Did you know that they were a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo? The Statue of Liberty? Yeap, gifted from France.
Bonus Tip: Never Stop Dreaming: While an international trip may not be in your budget/plans for this year or the next five, never stop working towards that goal. Until last year I was a single mom of a special needs child. As tough as that was (and still is) I vowed to never let those realities stop me from dreaming, planning and meeting my own personal needs.
How do you “faux voyage”? Please comment below!
Ciao for now 💋
*Canada’s Legal Drinking Age is 19
This was a great post!! I’m def going to look for an old neighborhood in my city to explore and take some much needed pics!
Please do! And tag me! There’s so much beauty in our own backyards…we just need to look through different lenses “le vie en rose.”
Wow! I’m really out of touch with what I’m missing abroad. I love food and I never thought about actually traveling to China for ACTUAL Chinese food. This article has really inspired me to take my taste buds on a culinary adventure. If I could only convince my wife to to take a trip?!!?! (Husband side eye wife)
I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! What I will say is be warned. I’m uncertain if there’s a “General Tso” option on Chinese menus in China. #noshade just a head ups. I remember I was a bit shocked when I first had pizza in Italy…just slices of tomatoes and basil on a crust. None of the overly sauced entrees we’re served in the States. What wife wouldn’t take a trip?! I’m sure it wouldn’t take much convincing to get her on board *rolls eyes on behalf of your wife.* Test it out! And be certain to tag me on your photos in China.
I don’t get on a plane as often as I used to, so I absolutely do everything on your list! I would add another: seek out little international grocery stores! Not only do they have the ingredients for putting together the recipes in that cookbook (which perhaps you borrowed from the library, non?), just being in the store can be a cultural experience! And they always have fun & funky snacks that you can load up on for under $10.
You’ve made my day in more ways than one! And it’s only 3:30am! I completely forgot about international grocery stores. Perhaps I can interview you soon for one of your decadent recipes, oui?