Advice You Really Shouldn’t Follow: How to Begin Traveling

February 21, 2013


Has it really only been one week since I started my advice column?

Because, seriously, guys, I’m already feeling a lot wiser.

Or, at least, a lot older.

But, hey, nothing a little Nice ‘n Easy can’t fix.

Color Blend Activator Activate!

Color Blend Activator Activate!

Let’s get to this week’s question, shall we?

After all, I don’t have a lot of time to waste. I can already feel my arthritis kicking in. And those Early Bird dinner specials don’t eat themselves, you guys!

This week’s question comes from my Internet pal, Priya, who sent me an email asking me: what are some steps a beginner traveler can take to start traveling?

Her email actually contained about eleventy billion questions. But I’ve decided to tackle this one first. Because I figure if she starts traveling already, then she’ll be too busy to bug me about all the other questions. And I can go back to complaining about my arthritis and doing a crappy job of dying my hair.

No, my mirror's not dirty. It's just one of those old-timey mirrors. And, okay, maybe it's dirty.

My hair is now “Natural Soft Black With a Lot of Multi-Colored Roots Because I Suck At Instructions” And, no, my mirror’s not dirty. It’s just one of those old-timey mirrors. And, okay, maybe it’s dirty.

So, here goes, Priya.

Some Steps a Beginner Traveler Can Take to Start Traveling

Step #1: Get a Pushy Friend
Have I ever told you about the first time I went abroad?


Okay, so maybe I totally have. But, I feel like we’re at the point in our relationship where you just have to pretend you’ve never heard this story and nod along and act like it’s all news to you.

I was eighteen years old.

But I wasn’t a cool eighteen-year-old.

I was a mom-jeans-wearing-eighteen-year-old.

And, yes, that's a plaid flannel vest. Because DEAR GOD.

And, yes, that’s a plaid flannel vest. Because DEAR GOD.

I’d never been overseas before.

I’d never even thought about going overseas before.

Heck, I’d only ever been on a plane once in my life – for a one-day trip to Boston with the eighth grade class at my Catholic school.

And even that was a little bit too much adventure for me.

You see, at some point during the day, the nuns had left us alone for twenty minutes, and my friends had started flirting with some boys – but not just any boys, mind you.

These boys were city boys.

So I was pretty sure they were going to lure us away into a dark alley and make us do city things. Like, drink or French kiss or start wearing our shirts untucked.

And then my freshman year roommate in college decided that we were going to go to London for the summer on student work visas.

And that was it.

I had no choice.

My roommate was not one of those people who listened to reason. And by “reason,” I mean “me whining about how we were totally going to die.”

I got my first passport.

Again: DEAR GOD.

My first passport. Again: DEAR GOD.

We bought plane tickets.

I packed every single item of clothing I owned and an entire set of hot pink, twin-sized sheets. Because, apparently, I didn’t think they’d have things in England.

We arrived in London.

We both got jobs.

We found a flat.

My London flat.

Our London flat. Complete with things! And sheets!

And neither of us died.

And then the next year, I became the pushy friend.

I informed another friend of mine who had never traveled before that she was going to do the same work abroad program with me in Ireland.

I didn’t give her any choice.

I didn’t listen to her when she told me that we were probably totally going to die.

She got her passport.

We bought plane tickets.

I packed considerably less things the second time around. (Although, I did steal a blanket from the airplane. Because, apparently, I have an extreme fear of lack of bedding.)

We arrived in Dublin.

We both got jobs.

We found a flat.

And neither of us died.

It was all very Lion King “Circle of Life.”

Except replace one of the lions with a dorky white girl in mom jeans.

Or don’t.

Step #2: Have you found a pushy friend, yet? Because, uh, I don’t have any more steps.
Okay, so yeah, maybe you’re going to need a passport and a plane ticket and a visa, and you might want to look into getting some kind of travel health insurance. And money helps.

But more than that – more than any of that – you’re going to need someone to push you.

Some of us are born with that pushy friend inside of us – a little inner voice that says, “You’ve got this!”

And some of us are not.

Some of us need to go find ourselves a pushy friend because the only thing our little inner voice is saying is, “OMIGOD, HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND? SERIOUSLY, DO YOU WANT TO DIE? BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU RIGHT NOW. DON’T YOU KNOW THOSE ARE CITY BOYS?”

Your pushy friend can be anyone.

Your pushy friend doesn’t even have to go on the trip with you.

All your pushy friend has to do is believe in you more than you believe in yourself.

And she has to be really pushy.

Like, super, duper, pushy.

Step #3: Okay, fine.
Still don’t have a pushy friend?

I’ll be your pushy friend, Priya.

Because, not to brag or anything, but I’ve become a pretty good pushy person myself. I mean, I’ve learned from some of the world’s best. I’ve had friends pushing me around for years, forcing to do a whole bunch of things I never thought I’d ever be capable of doing just because they were all like, “We believe in you, Sally.”

I know, right?

What a bunch of jerks.

My friends made me do this.

My friends made me do this.

I just need you to promise me one thing for after, okay? You know for after you do it. After you travel and don’t die and you come back and you’re all like, “Whoa, I did that. Seriously, ME.”

You need to become someone’s pushy friend.

Because I can’t be everybody’s pushy friend.

I mean, I am getting on in the years.

And all this pushing is making my arthritis act up.

Has someone ever pushed you to travel? Have you ever pushed someone else to travel? Have any other tips on how to get started with traveling?
Do you need some advice? Do you promise not to sue me afterwards when it all goes horribly wrong because you followed my advice?  Leave a comment below, fill out the contact form or email me at unbravegirl at

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On February 21, 2013 at 8:57 am Marta said:

    I can be someone’s pushy friend! Actually I had one too! I can be that bitch that messages you every morning around 5.20 am asking “What are you ging to do today to go to travel”. I can also emotionally blackmail you If you’re slacking.
    Marta recently posted..Nine: done! (part two)

  2. On February 21, 2013 at 10:19 am Leah said:

    I’m so proud to be your best pushy friend! I didn’t know you had pictures of our London flat. Ah, the memories! Do you have more pics? 🙂

    • On February 22, 2013 at 6:20 am Sally said:

      You are TOTALLY my best pushy friend. Oh, and the pic was one my mom took. I have a few more. I can send them to you if you’d like. (Warning: I don’t have a scanner, so I just photograph the photos. Because I’m old school like that.)

  3. On February 21, 2013 at 10:20 am Penguinlady said:

    I pushed my sister. She had never been out of the country (at like 43! It’s never too late to start!). We did London and Paris and had a great time. My husband pushed me; he took me to Argentina and Antarctica. So, you can go big or small, anything is right. Buy a bunch of books, read up on where you are going (especially transportation and currency), and buy a ticket. There are tons of forums on Lonely Planet for research, too. I find that knowing is half the battle; Turkey wasn’t scary when I read others’ accounts of how awesome it was.

    Buy a ticket and just go!

    • On February 22, 2013 at 6:19 am Sally said:

      Definitely agree about the going big or small — whatever you feel comfortable with. I think a lot of people think they need to book some big exotic trip — but that can be scary for a first time trip.

  4. On February 21, 2013 at 10:36 am Val Hamer said:

    My friend pushed her bf to travel. I don’t think he’d been on a plane for years (ever?), so she went for Egypt, LOL. He loved it

  5. On February 21, 2013 at 10:37 am Going to Go Nuts said:

    Sally, Here’s a question for you. Next month I’m traveling to France with my daughter for her eighth-grade class trip. She’s been in a French immersion program for 8 years and the trip is the culmination of a lot of hard work. The problem is that I’m going to be stuck on a giant tour bus with about 40 13-year olds and 10 of their parents for 10 days. I’ve known most of the adults for a while and many are very nice. But I’m concerned about the ones who don’t understand that they actually need to use Euros, not dollars, and say “excusez-moi, parlez vous anglais?” before blathering on in English. How do I keep myself from punching them in the face? Signed, Going to Go Nuts

    • On February 22, 2013 at 6:17 am Sally said:

      Ooo, this is a good one. I have definitely traveled with some annoying people & wanted to punch them in the face. I’m not talking about you, Leah. Of course.

  6. On February 21, 2013 at 11:59 am Going to Go Nuts said:

    For clarification, I don’t think I’ll want to punch the students, just their parents.

  7. On February 21, 2013 at 1:22 pm kathy said:

    Enough with the blog, it is time for you to have your own reality show!
    Consider yourself pushed.

  8. On February 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm chinamatt said:

    I pushed myself to travel. My sophomore year of college, I decided I was going to study abroad and no one was going to stop me.

    It also helps to have crazy friends who have traveled and tell exciting stories about traveling.
    chinamatt recently posted..Thanks for All the Fish

    • On February 22, 2013 at 6:15 am Sally said:

      Yes, it definitely helps to be friends with people who’ve done the travel thing and have lived to tell the tale. Makes it feel less likely that you’re going to die.

  9. On February 21, 2013 at 1:49 pm Sine said:

    It’s the god honest truth, Sally! If I didn’t have a pushy mom thinking I needed to study abroad, and now a pushy husband wanting me to plan the next vacation, I probably would have never gone anywhere. And it turns out I’m good at it! I can go anywhere and live anywhere and haven’t died yet either. And going places makes great material for my blog. Although, I admit, if it weren’t for all the pushing by other people, I still might not leave my desk very often…
    Sine recently posted..South African House versus American House

    • On February 22, 2013 at 6:14 am Sally said:

      That’s awesome that your mom pushed you to study abroad. My mom is not a big traveler and is usually the first person to tell me I’m going to die (well, after myself) whenever I cook up some crazy scheme to go somewhere.

  10. On February 21, 2013 at 2:04 pm Priya said:

    Oooo, I feel so special. I feel like I just received a pushy love letter from Unbrave Girl (One, that the whole wide world can read). You are officially hired to be my pushy friend. I actually had an idea to buy a plane ticket to go to Australia in November or something. And figure out the other things later like, money and working visas and stuff. Just an idea. Not sure if I’ll actually go through with it. And, don’t worry I have eleventy billion more questions up my sleeve somewhere. (Hey, someone has to keep this advice column running.)
    Priya recently posted..Five Things I Kind Of, Sort Of Like About My Current Really Long Commute

    • On February 22, 2013 at 6:08 am Sally said:

      BUY THE PLANE TICKET. You have officially been pushed! But, please, promise me to sort out the working visa & money BEFORE you get to Australia. Because you maybe really will die if you show up in Australia with no money and no visa. The Australian immigration is no joke. They wouldn’t even let me bring my nuts into the country. I’m talking about the food kind of nuts, by the way.

  11. On February 21, 2013 at 2:30 pm Alouise said:

    Love this. I started laughing reading this because half-way through I realized I’ve become that pushy friend. I convinced a friend of mine to go to Europe. She hadn’t traveled much, just family vacations and was totally scared, but I kept telling her to go, and she did and loved it. She’s already planning a trip on her own for this summer, which I think is awesome. I didn’t have a pusher in my life, although there were many “yeah travel would be kinda cool” people, but no serious pushers (now I’m thinking of Mean Girls and getting off track, but anyways…).
    Alouise recently posted..Visiting The Backstreet Cultural Museum in New Orleans

    • On February 22, 2013 at 6:07 am Sally said:

      Well, it sounds like you’re pushy enough for both your friend & you combined (I mean that as a compliment!), so maybe you don’t need any pushy friends. Which is probably for the best as pushy friends can be quite annoying especially when they decided to push you to do things that require waking up really early and/or breaking a sweat.

  12. On February 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm Melody said:

    I am SO that pushy friend! lol loved this

  13. On February 21, 2013 at 4:54 pm Neens said:

    Laughed so hard I started coughing, I recognise myself in a lot of this! I am afraid I am not pushy friend material yet, I am still very much in the ‘BUT I’M GOING TO DIE’ phase. Luckily, in lieu of pushy friends (seriously, my friends need a bucketful of man-up so they can start being pushy!), the universe has conspired to make travelling the only viable alternative in my life at the moment. So watch this space.
    Neens recently posted..Sometimes decluttering means buying more stuff

  14. On February 21, 2013 at 9:03 pm Krisabele said:

    This is the kind of post that should be read alone and not while in a public vehicle since it is really not very good to have your seatmate laughing like crazy while on your commute. I am sorry for my seatmate, really, she looked puzzled/scared/ready to slap me. Your post made me remember the days where I am the one being pushed and the one pushing. I remember the dialogues in my head, where one side tells that boarding this plane is the last decision of my life, and the other side yelling “SCAREDY CAT”! They came into terms anyway, SCAREDY CAT took the plane ride as the last decision of her life and laughs at herself a year later.
    Krisabele recently posted..Snapshot: Seoul Singer

    • On February 22, 2013 at 6:03 am Sally said:

      Oh, yes, I have had a few of those schizophrenic pusher/pushee moments where I am simultaneously forcing myself to do something that I’m totally refusing to do. Good times!

  15. On February 21, 2013 at 9:13 pm Lisa (@MsBoice) said:

    That pushy friend is my husband. YES! That guy I married who is supposed to buy me stuff at Tiffany. NOT convince me that going to Panama to chase a swarm of army ants in order to see birds that “specialize” in, well, army ants. (Looooonng story).

    I actually had been a traveler before I met said husband. (In fact, that’s how I met him–all the way over in Scotland.) But because he’s a birder I’m now a birder and we do what’s called Global Birding. That is, we travel to remote places where there are army ants (see or into places where we need armed guards (like on the border of Belize and Guatemala; see:

    Kinda glad, though. It’s led me into photography (only as a hobby because I’m still not so great at it) and I have to admit I’m a little addicted to almost dying.

    My day job (when not blogging) is working long hours in Corporate America. I told someone one time that I go on trips/vacations where I go to dangerous places. That way, I don’t think about work. You don’t think about work when you’re thinking mostly about how to survive.
    Lisa (@MsBoice) recently posted..That time when you want to kill your traveling companion

  16. On February 22, 2013 at 11:54 am Ali said:

    I am totally that pushy friend. I wish I had a pushy friend when I was younger because I went far too long in between trips back then. Now I’m all about telling people “GO TRAVEL! IT’S AWESOME! YOU’LL LOVE IT!”
    Ali recently posted..Simple Australia Itinerary

  17. On February 23, 2013 at 11:52 am Maria said:

    Hey Simba, loving the tale. Going solo is a great experience but it can be just as rewarding to go with friends. No friend? Go with a group, civic group, church group, volunteer (Peace Corps wants a 2 year commitment but not many others do)but get off the porch!

    Oh! And Sally – what did you do to that mirror? *laugh* – You crack me up.

  18. On February 23, 2013 at 11:16 pm cosmoHalllitan said:

    I grew up with a very pushy mother who has this very long list of places she wants to see before she dies and only one kid to drag along with her. But the thing is, I love traveling with my mom! We’ve been to about 25 countries together and have a blast. One year in college I went on Spring Break with her to the Bahamas and we swam with dolphins. (Okay that is kind of embarrassing.) Now that she is getting on in years and her knees aren’t so hot, we’ve sadly had to slow down. But she’s coming back to Shanghai for a second visit next month and I can’t wait to dig up more things for us to do!
    cosmoHalllitan recently posted..Enter the Year of the Snake

  19. On February 27, 2013 at 1:37 pm cynthia said:

    I wish I had had a pushy friend when I was younger. My mom tried but I was all caught up in relationships and jobs and now home owning and baby making. Ugh… Maybe in a few years!
    This is all good (and really funny) advice, keep it up! 🙂

    • On February 27, 2013 at 5:43 pm Sally said:

      Well, maybe now you can be the pushy mom and make your kid go travel with you even if he/she doesn’t want to. Isn’t that the whole point of being a parent? (Mind you, I am not a parent. So it’s possible I have this whole parenting thing down all wrong.)
      And glad you enjoyed the advice!

  20. On February 28, 2013 at 10:15 pm Aleks said:

    Hahaha, my Mom was totally the one to push me.. and she dragged me with her everywhere. I hated it! It became a running joke in the family when a tour operator we went with ONCE sent me a membership card (that I didn’t apply for.. why on earth would I? I hated traveling!) and then went bankrupt two weeks later..
    I’ve been traveling the world for 8 years non stop now. So thanks Mom!

  21. On March 5, 2013 at 10:47 pm Ceri said:

    Love this because I’m definitely the pushy friend. Actually the weird thing is that I’ve always been the pushy friend who’s had the confidence to go places and do some crazy travel things. But now that I’m doing it, I get so much doubt that I’ve started having to find a pushy friend to reassure me that I’m doing the right thing. Confusion. 😛
    Ceri recently posted..Scenes from the Museo de Arte Moderno


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