Here you are. You’ve somehow, by some (un)fortunate stroke of luck, stumbled your way across the vast potholes of the internet, across your friends’ engagement photos on Facebook and the darker corners of Reddit and occasionally the good-for-us publications like the New Yorker and the Economist, and found yourself here. On my travel blog.
On my blog! Cue shrieks.
So, dear Reader, what exactly is it that you’re reading now? You’re reading the travel blog and passion-child of an unfailingly and hopelessly millennial Millennial – a minimalist décor-loving, avocado toast – eating, can’t-do-any-errands-without-panicking-at-the-sheer-number-of-errands-i-have-to-do-ing, craft-beer loving basic bitch.
Still reading? Thanks for sticking around!
Because in this age of TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, of travel agencies promising the bespoke trip of your dreams and hostels promising off-the-beaten-path tours (is there even such thing anymore?), travel is changing. I’m aware of my passport and travel privilege that allows me to write about it. But the discourse around travel, long relegated to the expertise of Rick Steves and Lonely Planet, need to change. The “5 Not Tourist Trap Restaurants You Should Eat At in Naples” one of which turns out, to your chagrin, to house a big group of Koreans and a small German family and an American couple. But maybe it’s not such a bad thing that this happened. Maybe, just maybe, it means travel stereotypes about small towns and villages frozen in time, need to change.
Travel is becoming more and more accessible, and if you’re been dealt the luck of having either been born into the middle class or worked your way there, you’ve done it. You may also have noticed the effects of it – busloads of tourists stopping for 5 minutes at previously unknown lookout points in New Zealand or the quaint charismatic streets you visited in the 80s being turned into stretches of commercialized chain stores and cookie-cutter souvenir shops, garish sun-withered photos taped crookedly to restaurant windows.
It means that it’s no longer good enough to list the top five things to do in Paris as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Sacre-Coeur, and call it a day It’s also no longer good enough to go to a restaurant in a hole-in-the-wall corner of Northeast region of China and wonder and challenge the authenticity of this poor grandma’s delicious dumplings, because they use a sauce that you’ve seen in Chinese American restaurants at home – and that can’t be authentic!
Do you guys remember Xanga?
For those of you who don’t (oh, you sweet summer child), Xanga was – I think it might actually still exist – so let’s remember Xanga how it was in the 2000s: Xanga was an angst-filled rudimentary type of online journal – like a tweeny Myspace for you to post about Linkin Park and My Chemical Romance and Draco Malfoy’s blonde hair, and about stupid boys in your math class. The good thing about Xanga was that it didn’t allow you to order your friends from basically Most Important to Least Important, like Myspace, therefore saving you from having that confrontation with Karen over your friendship status and I can’t believe you put Tina as Number One I thought I was your Number One!
Xanga let me and my friends be as self-indulgent as we wanted to be a thirteen years old, and all I had to do was a pick a theme and a color, and start writing.
If I recall Xanga fondly but fuzzily, it’s because Xanga was my first foray into writing something for strangers on the Internet, even if it didn’t count as a blog.
This is my third travel blog. Hopefully none of you reading this right now are the same people who have read my first blog, launched in 2012, titled “The Beijing Backpacker” (I still haven’t actually backpacked anywhere, let alone in the vicinity of Beijing), where I wrote about living in Beijing for a summer for a type of immersive program – a time that involved regular Mandarin tutoring sessions at my local McDonald’s down the road and multiple losses of my Nikon brick phone during boozy nights. I also thought it was really cool that I was drinking alcohol (hey, I didn’t drink in high school), and humblebragged about it as cringily as I could. Don’t go looking for this one because I’ve scrubbed the internet long and hard to save your poor eyes. You can thank me later.
My second travel blog, “Lily’s Letters from London”, which I launched in 2013 on my year abroad in London, was about a 20-year-old’s first travels around Europe – a time when I looked at everything with fresh eyes and took myself way too seriously. Those posts were of the “and then I did this – and then I ate this – and then we went to this place and it was pretty” variety – and inevitably came off more like A Girl Who Studied Abroad rather than Don George.
They say third time’s the charm, though, and the itch to write more, although having lain dormant for a number of years as I entered the financial services industry, hasn’t really been quelled. The differences, though, are the following:
- I now have significantly more disposable income and can now afford to pay for the much-coveted luxurious private room in a hostel, and, sometimes, even a private room in a hotel where the sink consistently works. I have even upped my AirBnB budget from $10 USD a night and sometimes even pay for rides from the airport, marveling at my great good luck as I inch through urban traffic with stoplights that spend 80% of their time on red and20% on green, because at least I’m not on the significantly faster subway.
- I’m finally on Instagram (go and check out my mediocrely-posed shots at @lilywunders!).
- I’ve lived in another country for the better part of the last 3 years – meaning I’ve lost any ability to superhumanly deal with a Boston winter, but am still sullen and irritable about Hong Kong summers.
- My eyebrows are way better now, and I even occasionally get my eyelashes done. “What – like you get injections for your eyelashes?” a bewildered friend once asked me. Yeah, something like that, but not nearly as cool – sounding. My room is still just as much of a mess, though. Like my mugs never seem to be clean. I’m still learning, okay?
This is a non-exhaustive list of ways that I think I have changed for the better, and hopefully enough to induce you to keep on reading.
Because I intend to keep on traveling and writing, and would love for you to stick around and come along for the stories to come on this travel blog, both past and present.