DOMINIQUE PELLEGRI: Soothing Your Wanderlust During Covid

2020 has been a year of struggles, growth, and many realizations. Juggling feelings of gratefulness and guilt that I had a job at the beginning of the pandemic, with feelings of despair and depression after I lost that job a few months later, has transformed my life in ways I cannot explain. Whenever life offered me these typical ups and downs, my go to relief and sense of home has always been travel. Travel (not to be confused with a vacation) has changed who I am as a person and has instilled many core values I carry with me today. Seeing the world from a global perspective comes from a place of kindness and empathy. There have been many times that I have navigated countries where I did not speak the language or have had experiences that could have turned negative or dangerous, but instead, someone felt the need to help me or alleviate the stress of my situation. I have been in many of those uncomfortable and uneasy situations, which is why I always try to pay it forward and do it for people I meet on my path in life. Travel has also fed my curiosity; of people, cultures, and places. Danger is typically something I don’t feel while I travel – my friends call me brave, my parents call me reckless, but I call myself a citizen of the world. 

The wanderlust that is inside of me, a trait that is acquired by positive emotional experiences associated to travel, is extremely important to me. I live for the experiences I gain while I travel, whether I’m celebrating Diwali in India with a strangers family, drinking coffee next to a protest against Americans in Buenos Aires, or feeling the electricity of a World Cup match in Moscow. I prioritize what is important to me, and that is travel. In the current Covid world where most countries have their borders shut, and international travel is scarce, I have felt like a part of me was not fulfilled. That seems extremely insensitive of me to say during a global pandemic where so many people have lost their jobs or loved ones, but I believe that one thing we can do during this time is to take care of ourselves, mentally and physically. As I’ve navigated the year losing my job and then getting two new ones, dealing with my dad getting Covid, and uncomfortably spending too much time alone with myself, I’ve done many things that have helped fill the large void of wanderlust that I have felt this year. Here are my 5 tips for how I am filling the wanderlust void that is inside of me during the Covid:

Watch Shows Filmed in Foreign Places & In Foreign Languages – Shows such as ‘Emily in Paris’ (um hello Europe!), ‘International House Hunters’ (filling that void of me needing to move abroad like now), ’90 Day Fiance’ (love some good trash reality TV), and ‘La Reina del Flow’ (makes my heart happy to see Colombia again), really do help. Having been to only 34 countries, some shows are filmed in some of my favorite places (Colombia, Italy, Brazil, and India), and some get me excited about places I’d love to visit (Jordan, Thailand, and Egypt). I also really enjoy watching movies and series that are in other languages because it is so interesting to see how they live their lives, how they greet people, what they eat, and what their culture is like. 

Join A Facebook Travel Group – When I’m feeling disconnected with foreign places I love, or places I’m dying to visit, I know I am one click away from a virtual group that supports my hearts wanderlust desires. There are literally groups for everyone out there. Whether you want to connect with people of your favorite country, connect with likeminded travelers, or even get advice on traveling solo, that group exists. There is one called, “World Travel Addiction,” with over 100,000 members from all over the world, who post daily of places they live or would like to go. One of my favorites, “Women Who Travel Solo: Group Travel Meetups,” enabled me to connect with two women (one American and one Brazilian), when I was traveling solo in Peru. I got to try a new Peruvian restaurant with one, and take a catacomb tour in Spanish (we somehow missed the English version) with the other. I crave connection to other cultures when I travel, and it is amazing to connect with likeminded women, as well as likeminded travelers. 

Read A Book That Takes Place In Another Country Or City – Lockdown can take its toll on mental health, and I definitely was not excluded. While I am more of ambivert (mainly introverted, with a sprinkle of extrovert), I still felt the loneliness and boredom of not being able to go anywhere or see anyone. It gave me the perfect excuse to dust off books I have collected but have never read. (Yes, I sound like a hoarder, but I assure you I am not). The first one that I read was, “Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World,” by Rita Golden Gelman. I first heard about Rita on a podcast called Globetrotter Lounge and was completely enamored by her story. In 1986, forty-eight-year-old Rita was on the verge of a divorce, when she decided to leave her lavish life in LA to follow her dream of travelling the world. With a desire to connect with people from cultures all over the globe, she sold everything she had and became a nomad, living in a Zapotec village in Mexico, sleeping with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, and residing everywhere from thatched huts to regal palaces. Rita’s example encourages us to listen to ourselves, and that you can even accomplish a dream and pivot. This can help us rediscover the joy, the exuberance, and the hidden spirit that so many of us bury when we become adults.

 Other favorites that I have read and would highly recommend to soothe a wanderlusts soul are: “What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding”, “Love With A Chance Of Drowning”, “Shantaram”, “The Alchemist”, and an OG favorite “Eat Pray Love”. I encourage you to pick up one of these books, because you will not be able to put them down. I mean what else are you doing?

Video Chat & Learn A New Language – I have never fully learned a language. I took Spanish in High School, French in College, and Italian in Grad School, when I was living in Italy. I have always thought that if I could ever have a superpower, I would not want to be invisible or fly (although that would be SO cool). I would want to be able to understand and converse in every language in the world. It is one thing to visit a foreign place, but to actually speak to someone from that place is what makes traveling so spectacular. This is especially important for languages that are extremely difficult, not intuitive, and have characters you cannot even decipher. I will never forget meeting an older Russian woman in St. Petersburg who was ecstatic that we could converse through google translate. Her smile and giddiness gave me all the feels when she grabbed my phone from me so she could speak. Her warm hug (it was pre-Covid guys) proved that we could come from different walks of life, but still communicate and connect.

My goal in life is to make it to all countries (or at least most), so learning a language is more of a priority for life versus getting a grade in school, and I have decided to fully learn Spanish for 2 reasons. First, I read somewhere that if you can speak Spanish & English you can communicate with 80% of the people on the planet. And second, I love love love Latin culture. So for me Spanish was a no brainer. With Covid surging, language classes in person are not really an option. However, I came across a website called Preply, where you can actually learn 12 languages (and also tons of other subjects!) from people all over the world. There is also a filter you can use to select where your tutor is originally from. For example, I have chosen a Spanish speaker from Colombia, because that is the Spanish I want to start with. There are so many to choose from and you can try out multiple tutors and continue to practice. In that mind that is a win win, and it helps and gets you excited to have some human interaction, while conversing with someone from another country!

Follow Travel Hashtags On Social Media – Social Media is one of my favorite ways to discover new places that I’d love to see, and to even to reminisce about places you have been before. One of the best ways you can do that is on Instagram, or any social platform that utilizes hashtags. If you go on Instagram and search for #traveltheworld or #cubatravel (you can use this with any country or city you are curious about), you can actually follow those hashtags and then pictures with that hashtag will organically show up on your feed. I use this to do research on cities I’ve planned or are possibly planning to go to, and it’s a great way to get an idea of what people are wearing there (for packing purposes), or sites off the beaten path that you’d love to put on your itinerary to see when you get there. 

 Those are my 5 tips, but I know there are many others. For museum lovers, I know there are apps and websites that will give you tours (sometimes free or discounted!)  to museums worldwide! If you love to dance (I am learning to salsa), you can find a virtual dance class. At the moment we have to try and remember that life won’t be the same for a while. We must be kind to ourselves and remember to take everything day by day. Just because we are not able to do something we are really passionate about, does not mean there isn’t a temporary solution. Find like minded people, lean on family and friends, and know that we are all in this together.  Oh, and also remember to be kind.

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PS - You may have seen her face pop up on  our social channels: She works at A Labor of Love!

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