Travel Tips With Train Slut

When I reveal that I’m traveling alone, whomever I’m speaking with usually expresses a degree of surprise and then praises my independence and bravery. “Wow,” they’ll say, “good for you.” This comes from locals and fellow travelers alike.

On this trip in particular I’ve met several women traveling alone. My first night in Brussels, my hostel room consisted of myself and two other twenty-something ladies exploring on our own. I spent an entire day with two girls (I use that word reluctantly, and only for the sake of diversity), one a recent college grad, and the other about to begin her final year. We drank a lot of beer and ate a lot of fries. Over a few bottles of cherry beer we talked about the loneliness of solo travel. Sure, sometimes it would be nice to have another human along for the ride to share the beauty with. But it’s liberating not to have to adhere to anyone else’s agenda. To not be in a rush.

Plus, moving to another country and traveling on my own has been the best education I’ve ever received. Leaving behind everything and everyone I know and love, being foreign, learning languages, and walking five-hundred miles across a nation all helped me find my way back to myself. I won’t say that I “found myself”, but I have stopped running from myself.

For me, traveling has been about letting me be my own home.

And while this lifestyle has been good for me, that’s not to say it’s been easy. Travel is fun, but anything worth doing requires a bit of work, and I’ve picked up some insider knowledge along the way.

I’m going to share some of those tips with you right now.

Welcome to Train Slut’s first-ever listicle: Travel Tips.

1) Never ever forget condoms.

Just don’t do it. You never know when a hot ginger will want to fuck you in a graveyard.

2) Get drunk every day.

In many places booze is cheaper than water. Save your money and make yourself a more pleasant person to be around.

3) Keep WiFi on your phone switched on.

For real, this is actually practical. Google Maps can still show you your location even if you’re not connected to the internet as long as you have WiFi switched on. Science, yo. Maybe you don’t want the NSA knowing where you are. Ok. Then stop being a baby and ask somebody.

4) If you turn your underwear inside out, you have two pairs of underwear.

Think about it.

5) Make sure your hostel room is empty before jerking off.

Because if you don’t, you might be a weird French dude celebrating life’s greatest gift and end up making eye contact with a nice American girl you thought was sleeping when she rolls over. Look, I’m all for self-love, but God made private shower stalls for a reason.

awkward

You’re welcome.

I Missed You, I Promise

I’ve been a very bad slut, my friends. By this I mean two things: 1) I’ve been bad at being a slut (i.e., not sluttin’ it up enough) and 2) I’ve been bad at telling you about my slutitude.

I’m back home in the U.S. now, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do on this bad boy. Most of my days being back in America have consisted of trying not to cry in supermarkets at the overwhelming selection of yogurt, and remembering to smile and ask the bank teller how he’s doing because if I don’t I’ll be a horrible gremlin. It’s been a rough transition, but my mood has stabilized a bit and I’m starting to feel like an American human again.

First off, I’m sorry. Sorry for not writing to you since Scotland. Since we last spoke, I covered around 3,000 miles (~4,800 km) of Europe, kissed one more boy, and wanted to kiss dozens of others.

When I began this blog I had the hope, but not the expectation, that I’d gain a following. Yet I’ve done exactly that. Which is damn cool, so thanks. However it’s also terrifying. You’re a small yet loyal group, and many of you are my friends. Good friends. And I feel I owe you an explanation.

I wish I could tell you the lack of updates between then and now is owed exclusively to all the fun I was having. It’s not. The truth is, after I published the last update about my graveyard tryst, I experienced a mild meltdown.

This was nothing debilitating, to be sure, but I did panic about what this whole thing meant about me. What did it say about me as a person that I was sharing all of this information? What did it say about me that I wanted to share this information? It felt exhilarating to be so open about the details of my sex life, but it also made me deeply vulnerable.

And really, that’s the curse of being a slut: in the best of times it’s liberating and just plain fucking fun. At the worst of times it’s thankless and even isolating.

But still, it’s one thing to do it, it’s another to talk about it, and it’s something else entirely to publish it on the goddamn Internet. My internal regret monkey had a shit fit the day after I told you all about that blow-job.

If you don't get this gif, go watch Inside Out, then come back so we can be friends bc right now we can't.

If you don’t get this gif, go watch Inside Out, then come back so we can be friends. Because right now We. Just. Can’t.

Except this time it wasn’t over impulse-purchasing another vibrator that I really didn’t need. This time it was because I’d revealed to everyone with an IP address that I’m some sort of deviant. (Regret monkey’s words, not mine.) Not for gettin’ down, but for talking about it.

In the search for the origin of this fear, I traversed a long cold road through a land of judgment and things I’ve learned about being a woman. I wanted to know if this fear was grounded in any sort of empirical truth. Is it inherently, objectively wrong to share the details of my slutitude with friends and perfect strangers alike? As I Magellaned my way down to the depths of that nasty, drippy cave of a place where I store all the ways I’ve been socialized, I discovered that, no, prolly not. In fact, it might even be good for me and for other people. I probably learned this bullshit from a lot of somewheres.

When I got home I had lunch with my mother. She said, “I read your blog. Even after you told me not to.”

“Oh god,” I said.

“Yeah,” she said, “I should’ve listened to you.”

Indeed she should’ve. This morning I mentioned I was going to update it today, and she released a noise of abject horror and told me to please not bring it up again. I suppose that conversation didn’t help matters and probably has something to do with the struggle I’m facing at this very moment to birth this heaping pile of confession.

This fear was born from a giant womb of shame. It was born from myths I should’ve unpacked and gotten over in Women’s Studies 101 but that still sneak up and haunt me when I’m trying to get off or, like, write about them. Stupid shit like, “women’s pleasure is secondary to men’s.” Y’know, that stuff.

But then there was stuff that’s still eerily true.

Things came up like about how women are meant to be the gatekeepers of sex. I started thinking a lot about this and how much this has damaged me. (Please bear with me while I work through this shitty heteronormative view of sex/relationships and totally ignore a spectrum of sexuality for a second, sry, brb.) The idea that women are the ones who get the last word on whether or not sex happens at all.

“You’re a girl,” even some of my most well-meaning dude friends will say, “You can fuck whenever you want.” As if boobs are some sort of all-access pass to bang town. (They’re fuckin’ not, btw.)

Then there’s that awful joke/analogy that tries to explain away the double standard by saying, “A key that opens every lock is a great key, but a lock that can be opened by any key is a damn shitty lock.”

ew

What was/is bothering me the most, I think, is that I buy into this, try as I might to fuck as freely as I damn well please. Because here’s the thing: women may still the gatekeepers to sex, but men are the gatekeepers to relationships.

What I loved most about traveling was that it took the pressure off dating and the hookup scene entirely. This was good for me in a lot of ways that I’m sure I’ll cover at some other point when I get into the nooks and crannies of the dates and non-dates I partook in on my travels. (This shall be reserved for future, happier updates.)

I allowed myself to truly not give a fuck about the outcome of any social interaction. Because I’d be on my way to another country in any given 48-hour period. There was no time for attachment. The future was off the table. When I’m settled in a place, part of me is always hunting for someone to enter a pattern of “binge-watch Parks & Rec, fuck, repeat” with. And in those times, I worry about being too “easy.” I’ve hushed my libido on first dates to preserve my chances at securing a second. The worst part? That shit works.

So, maybe I get to decide when and where the pants come off, but I’m not the one who gets to decide if I’m worthy of meeting the parents. (For the record, I haven’t made it that far with anyone. And it’s damn hard not to wonder whether that has to do with my “carefree” attitude.)

I’ve decided from now on to always bang on the first date (provided I want to, that is) until I meet someone feminist enough not to give a fuck. Because anyone who would care is not someone I’d want to date anyway.

And even though I have to contend with this double standard from the people I fuck, the reason Slut Town is such a lonely place is because most of the judgment and slut-shaming I face comes from other straight, cis women.

To be fair, no one has said anything negative to me, or to my knowledge even about me. In fact, the general response to this blog and the way I conduct my affairs has been incredibly positive. Many people say, “You’re awesome.” A few have called me their hero. Nearly everyone laughs. This probably has something to do with my impeccable delivery. But I think most people laugh because the way I conduct my affairs is a bit absurd. Laughter is* born from a betrayal of expectations. That’s why we laugh out of discomfort just as we laugh out of joy. My friends will probably argue that they do expect this sort of thing out of me. However, being a slut and open about it is disruptive in a way. Therefore, it’s funny.

But I digress; the judgment I’m talking about tends to come in the form of sharp glances. It’s the sort of understated malice girls get really good at when we learn that we’re supposed to be nice to each other and we’re supposed to compete with each other. This judgment comes in statements about other women. Things like, “She has no self-respect.” Every time one woman calls another a slut with venom on her tongue, it poisons me. It poisons everyone. Because even though they’re “not talking about me,” that’s exactly what the fuck they’re doing, whether or not it’s their intention.

And you know what? This steaming pile of shit is still wrapped up in a white bow of privilege. Because even through all of this, as a cis white woman, I’m allowed to be more than my sexuality (if I’m seen as having a sexuality at all). While I’ve had a handful experiences when I felt exoticized, I’ve never once felt like I was reinforcing any stereotypes about my race by being sexual or being open about my sexuality.

You know what else? I don’t know what the hell to do about it. Except to keep telling my story with as much brutal honesty as I can. And fuck, if nothing else, it’s entertaining. And entertainment is useful. I have to believe that.

P.S. Update on the Crypt Keeper: He texted me a couple days later at 4AM with the following: “I’m sorry. I’ve been a dick because I thought I’d never get the flat to myself to fuck you but now I’m sitting here alone realising** I could be fucking you right now…”

Isn’t that romantic? I wonder how many goats his family has.

 

*I have no idea if this is true, but I’m trying to remove “I just think” from my lexicon.

**British spelling for historical accuracy

The Azores Part II: Terceira

Welcome to the second part of a whatever-number-part series about my family  trip to the Azores. I sincerely apologize for the delay in these updates. My time so far in Lisbon can be described by the following gifs:

image

image

The day I arrived in Lisbon I met up with a friend whom I met when I was here three years ago. I  was under the impression that we were going to have coffee and hang out for a couple hours. Then we started drinking wine and then two in the morning showed up and I realized that I hadn’t eaten dinner. Result: ouch. We ended up hanging out for the better part of three days. There was some beach and a lot of wine. But he finally went to the south for a few days so now I can be my own bad influence.

ANYWAY.

Day two in the Azores went like this:

Continue reading

The Azores: Part I

I am bad at coming up with titles now, I guess. Whatever, I’m hungry.  I suppose we can say I’ve offically started traveling, as I am now homeless. About a week ago I left my apartment and shoved my things in a friends’ place and made my way to Portugal. I’m gone now until mid-late August so please be forgiving of typos for the next few weeks. I’m typing up these entries on an iPad Mini which is no easy feat for a klutzer such as myself.

Now I’m sitting in a common room in a hostel in Lisbon waiting to be checked in. And it is FULL OF BOYS. Cute ones. One is playing guitar.

image

Current mood

I would like to apologize to my six followers (especially you, random person from Brazil who looks at this site EVERY DAY) for the lack of updates this last week. It hasn’t been for lack of material, but rather lack of alone time. No, not like that. Trust me, I wouldn’t wait until 165 words into this post to tell you that my dry spell had been broken.

I’ve been with my family. For seven days. In a row. Do I have your pity?

I’m slightly kidding. I had an incredible time on this vacation and my family is amazing and I loved being with them. But at the same time I am very grateful to be in Lisbon by myself surrounded people my own age.

Aaaand I just realized I didn’t tell you where I went. If you’re smart, you probably deduced it from the title. But, you read this blog, so you probably aren’t.

I was in the Azores. Here’s a map in case you’ve never heard of it:

image

My father was born there, on the island of Santa Maria and lived there until he was seven. At the time Angola was fighting for its independence against Portugal and my uncle was close to turning sixteen and being  sent over to fight. So they left.

My dad hadn’t been back since he left. Forty-five years ago.

A lot happened during this week so I’m going to break it up by island. But generally I will say that everything I had there was the best meal I had and pretty much everywhere you turn looks like a postcard and you should go there.

Let’s start with Terceira. Let me back up. I don’t know if I explained that my family flew over from Boston and I met them there. This included my father, stepmom, and baby brother and sister (Nine and eleven, respectively), and my favorite aunt. For a  week or so leading up to this trip I was mildly depressed about leaving Madrid and the impending move and looming goodbyes. Once I got to the airport and passed security I was able to relax and get excited about finally seeing the Azores. It was a massive checkmark missing on my bucket list and I was especially looking forward to it for my dad, who had never seen any islands other than his own.

I landed in Terceira on Sunday. It  was strange. I grew up surrounded by aerial images of the Azores. My grandparents and aunts and uncles all have at least one picture like this in their homes:

image

I think you can see why I wanted to visit.

So landing felt a bit like jumping into one of those pictures. Arriving felt strangely familiar. When I got off the plane they herded us into a shuttle. I want to interrupt our regular programming to talk about how getting shuttled to and from airplanes is the worst thing in the entire world. WHY CAN’T THEY JUST PARK AT THE AIRPORT? Whenever I get off a plane I always have to pee. After spending hours in the sky the last thing I want to do is get on another form of transportation with a full bladder. Now back to our normal show…

Hearing Portuguese always gives me twinges of nostalgia. As I was on that shuttle ready to piss myself, I was taken back to my grandparents’ summer house on the Cape. To the perpetual smell of olive oil and the clocks made of frying pans. To the doilies and roosters.

image

I started thinking about how my grandmother and aunts and uncles remember the Azores as how they were when they left. In many ways, I think that’s the Portugal I inherited. That’s the one I feel when I hear anyone speak it. Even after living in Lisbon for a month. But I didn’t expect the islands to be as I imagined them. The most surprising thing, however, was that they were exactly what I expected. I was prepared to be disappointed and I wasn’t.

My father and his cousin picked me up from the airport in Terceira. I hadn’t met her before, but we are friends on Facebook. Because family. She took us across the island through green fields full of cows and the thickest fog I’d ever seen.

“All last week the weather was beautiful,” she said, almost apologizing. “And now it’s like this.”

“Sorry!” my dad and I said.

She brought us to my great aunt M  and uncle L’s (henceforth known as Titia M and Titio L) house. This was waiting for us:

image

 

And this:

image

And THIS:

image

The last one is called Alcatra. It’s a traditional beef stew specifically from that island. With meat that literally melts in your mouth. They also gave us cavaca, which is a lobster-like creature. It’s easily twice the size of a Maine lobster. It is not, however, twice as delicious. (Sorry, heritage, it just ain’t.)

Before we started, Titia M told me she had called my grandmother and asked what I like. So she made an entire batch of soup so she could give me a cup of it. Someone made a lasagne for my brother and sister as a more “American” option. Auntie M sat next to me at dinner and didn’t let my wine run out the entire night.

This isn’t just my family. The Azoreans are the most accommodating, hospitable, down-to-earth people I have ever met. This certainly isn’t true of the mainland. I’ll probably talk about that more in the coming days. Islands are different.

I put forth my best effort to speak Portuguese. I am supremely rusty. I can understand about 90% of what is said to me, but speaking is another story. I can think in Portuguese perfectly. But when it comes out it is NOT the same as it was in my head. This might sound unlikely. Surely if I can think in another language, I can speak it. Well, I can also do several pull-ups in my brain. If I tried to do it in real life the result would not be as favorable.

And that 90% understanding rate comes in handy. I’m great at eavesdropping.  The 10% usually happens when I’m spoken to directly. A lot of times I be like:

image

After dinner we went to the hotel and I died. The end.

So, it turns out there will be more than three posts. This might have to be a day-by-day kind of deal. Come back tomorrow for at least day 2 of Terceira!

A Brief History of Tree-sus Christ (Or: Cadiz and Sevilla)

 

It’s about time this travel blogger did some traveling. I returned from this trip no less than a week and a half ago. My excuse for procrastinating: my wifey came to visit immediately after and then I moved. I’m writing this now from a couple of friends’ place where I’m leaving my crap as I bang my way through Europe (we hope). I’m getting on a plane in six hours, but since I am so dedicated to the six of you that read this, I’ve carved out the morning to offer you all this inspiring nugget of useless information.

Also, please excuse the state of this. I probably won’t have time to edit and I’ve been a bad little writer this week so the quality of this is probably gonna be a bit rusty. Also I’m mildly delirious. (I should note there I initially wrote “delicious”. What a great Freudian finger slip. What a great name for a band! Or porno. SHOTGUN!)

ANYWAY:

I went way down south on a Monday with my friend Arthur and his friend Cindy* who was visiting from Amurrca. (Cindy is now my friend, too. I made her pancakes and we follow each other on Instagram. It’s real.) We initially intended to use BlaBlaCar, a car-sharing service that I’ve employed a number of times with great success. It tends to be cheaper, faster, and more comfortable than busses. However this time we had several hiccups and after making three separate reservations we gave up and took the train.

In the event you’re just joining us, this is how I feel about trains:

excellent

Continue reading