You have wanderlust, a little money, and unexpectedly, a free month or two. What do you do?
posted by andromache to travel & transportation (26 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
For the past few years, I've keenly felt the lack of adventure in my life. I have a great gal, dog, and apartment (rental). I live in Brooklyn, where there's lots to do and plenty of opportunity in new media, which is what I do to make money. But at the end of the day, I'm always missing the freedom and excitement of having longish, uncommitted blocks of time. I get up to the Catskills and the Delaware Water Gap often -- more or less every weekend this Summer -- but it never feels like enough. The process of renting a car, dealing with traffic and the drive, hiking in to a campsite, and then turning around 36 hours later is always such a compromise. I appreciate it and the various good things in my life, but I am itching for something more substantial.
I just gave my notice at work, without having anything else lined up. I know, I know. Rule #1 in job-hunting: it's easier to find a job if you currently have one. But I've saved 6 grand in the past year, and I have a standing offer to do some freelance work, as well as a decent number of contacts that will help in finding employment a month or two from now. It's a risk, but I wasn't happy at work and hadn't been for a while, so I took the plunge. And besides, whenever I've changed jobs I've always felt rushed -- maybe I take a week off between the old gig and the new one, but not enough time to really TCB (whether that's simple stuff like chores at home that I put off because work is so much WORK, or something exciting like a multi-day hike).
So I'm flying to SF to visit family for the holidays from 12/22 through New Year's and after that... nothing! My wonderful girlfriend has said if I want to do some kind of travel that would take more than a week, we could sublet my bedroom for a month or two (we've got two between the two of us), so that would take care of my biggest financial commitment. Oh, and she recently got a new job and isn't in the position to take a bunch of time off right now, so whatever I do it's going to be solo.
My question is this: if you were me, how would you spend this unspecified amount of time to maximize fun and adventure? I have no intention on spending all of my savings on a luxury hotel in Europe -- I know I need to set some money aside for when the trip ends and I need to find work. But I am OK spending some money, maybe 2 or 3k, on memorable travel experiences. It's a weird time of year to be doing this, given my interest in the outdoors, because there is snow in lots of places I'd like to go hiking.
Thoughts that come to mind:
-Stay at Mom's place in the Bay Area for a while, rather than coming straight back to New York after New Year's. There's a car I can use and she'll be away for most of January so I can either just hang out in the area, or use her place as a base from which to take a trip or two (Marin County is a piece of cake; the Sierras are appealing but I'm not sure about a 5-day solo trip if in the snow. Not totally against camping in the cold but I'm not experienced enough to make this a smart idea). Any other places within a day's drive of the East Bay? I've heard good things about the John Muir Trail -- anyone have experience with that? What's a good amount of time or miles to budget for a stretch of it? Oregon? Washington? Joshua Tree?
- In an AskMe about 6 months ago, someone asked for suggestions of physically demanding and selfless work they could do. One answer, which I thought was great, was trail maintenance. I don't have experience with a chainsaw or anything more heavy duty than my hatchet, but I really do like this idea: it'd be outdoors (key!) and new (yes!) and also would be a contribution to a thing I love (love it!). Ideas for either Bay Area organizations that do this kind of thing? I'm aware of NYNJTC, but I don't know that they're too active this time of year.
- Change my return flight to New York and plan an extended layover at some unnamed place in between the coasts. Again, I fear weather may be against me for things like, say, Yellowstone. But I'm sure there are good places to hike, sleep outside, make a camp fire, etc., even in January. Right?
-Come back to NYC after New Year's as planned and find adventure on the East Coast. I'd have to rent a car or use public transit to get places though... and part of my restlessness stems from NYC itself. So I'd probably want to be outside the city.
-Wild Card! When I told my mom about my (non-)plans, she mentioned that one of her friends needed someone to cat-sit in her Paris apartment for a couple weeks in January. I'm not sure this one is actually an option -- I might be too late to take advantage of it -- but something like this could be perfect. Free lodging, a new city to explore, a rare chance to make use of the old Art History degree, etc. Things outside of a city are generally more appealing to me, but if there was some opportunity like a free place to crash in Paris, you better believe I'd jump at the chance.
-Central/South America. I speak Spanish, love Ecuador, and recently read another AskMe with interesting specific recommendations for places to go in Nicaragua. If I could get a $700 flight and stay in a hotel/hostel for under $50/day, I could get a few solid weeks on my arbitrary budget. Good idea? More fun with friends? How about the weather this time of year? Eco-lodges are probably outside of my price range and I didn't have the foresight to say, book one of the rare tickets to Maachu Pichu. In general I'm not nuts about lying around on the beach -- I mean I like it and all but those trips that are supposed to be relaxing are kind of boring to me. More forest, less beach, is I guess what I'm saying.
-Cancel my return ticket and take Amtrak back to the East Coast after New Year's.
-Find someone who needs their car driven across the country and take my time traveling back East, and maybe make a little money besides (is this even a real thing? I believe it exists, but I know nothing about it in practice).
-Learn a skill/take a class etc. Doesn't really scratch the travel itch, but I do like learning and I think if I found the right class, it would be different enough from office drudgery that I'd get fulfillment out of it. Things I want to learn: intro to computer science. Banjo (or "better banjo"). Woodworking. Baking. Some kind of skill where I use my hands or brains, and something that produces a tangible result. Doesn't have to be marketable (though that'd be nice), just "useful". Playing the banjo well would be useful to me. Knowing more about computer programming would be useful to me, even if a month or two isn't nearly enough time to learn the nuances, maybe I could take a crash course where I'd learn fundamental skills necessary to pursue it further on my own.
-Something else I'm not even considering.
I know this was a long one and not especially focused. But heck, I am excited at all the possibilities and I genuinely value the input of this community. Happy to give any clarification if necessary but I think you get what I'm saying here: Please hope me have an adventure. All suggestions welcome.