Something Good #10

solo travel, soap, a poem called Field Guide

Hi, I'm Nina Iordanova and this is the 10th edition of Something Good, a newsletter filtered through my 🧠, 🖐, and ❤️. Coming your way every two weeks, I hope you find something good here.


Hi!

By the time you read this, I’ll probably be on my way to the airport, or possibly in New York.

I’ve never been a good solo traveler. I tried it twice in my 20’s. The first time, it was because I didn’t think I was the kind of person who liked traveling alone, but I wanted to double check that. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t living my life according to a memory or an assumption of who I was. Maybe I’d love exploring new places by myself, who knows!

My family and went to Bulgaria every year to see family, so I figured I’d use that opportunity to spend another 3 weeks exploring Europe. After all, I was already there! Just me and my backpack and a robust spreadsheet to plan the cheapest flights around the country.

I’d graduated from university just a year ago, and I remembered having severe panic attacks for the first month of my undergrad. It wasn’t something I’d ever experienced before, and if you’d asked me, I would have said I was excited about the new school and the new people. But I couldn’t stop trembling and I could barely breathe or think and a lot of days, I’d just sit on the subway for two hours before turning around and coming home. Home was the only place I felt okay.

Even though those panic attacks stopped after the first month, I was worried they’d come back when I least expected it.

I was worried that I’d be in some far-off country where I didn’t speak the language, didn’t know where I was, didn’t know how to get around, didn’t have a home to come back to - and it would hit. And what would I do? It was debilitating and the idea of it happening again was terrifying to me.

So I planned absolutely every day of my trip in advance. I booked every single flight and every single hostel that I’d be staying in for those 3 weeks, because I wanted to know that there would always be somewhere to go. I had paper copies and electronic copies of everything (paper in case my phone died, electronic in case I lost the paper), planned every single bus and train route from the airport to the hostel, and set aside an emergency taxi fund in case I got overwhelmed and just needed an emergency exit from wherever I was.

So with all that preparation, I travelled from Prague to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Lyon, spending 4-5 days in each city.

And I DID NOT LIKE.

While I saw a lot of beautiful things, I hated the discomfort of moving so quickly. Of having to learn new money, new transit systems, new hostels, new people, new ways of getting around. The stress of adjusting to a completely new environment every few days made me feel stressed and on guard, and it made it hard to enjoy wherever I was in the moment.

(I also have a weird thing where I don’t like getting food by myself from unfamiliar restaurants, so eating when I’m away from home is a freakishly big challenge. Cafes are okay, restaurants are a no-go. So if I’m alone, I usually end up eating a lot of croissants and sandwiches, or finding one place that I’ll go to for every single meal. In Prague, that was a crêpe truck that had different fillings, so I’d just switch them up depending on what time of day it was).

By the end of those 3 weeks, it felt like I was dragging myself from airport to hostel to airport to hostel, just waiting to wrap up my trip so I could finally go home to a place I knew. So I could eat like a normal person and go back to routines that were comfortable and familiar.

I ended up repeating the 3 week solo trip the next year as a scientifically controlled experiment to make sure it wasn’t just the newness of travelling alone that had stressed me out. Still DID NOT LIKE, although I did have a lot of fun when a friend living in London came to join me in Berlin and Budapest for a weekend. I have not willingly traveled alone since.

All that to say, as excited as I am about going to New York, I’m nervous too.

This is the backpack I travelled with in Europe. A little hard to see, but I was so proud of my solo trip that I wrote down every place I traveled to and the date I was there on the bottom of it. Adding one more city to the list this week!

This caught my eye

📈 Stock market for beginners. I’ve been frustrated by my complete ignorance about the stock market and investing and have been spending the last few months changing that. This was a great guide to learn the fundamentals. 3 hours long but thorough and easy to follow.

🤡 Welcome to the internet by Bo Burnham. His new special “INSIDE” is a strong piece of performance art, both for what he’s made and how he’s made it. This was one of my favourite pieces from it.

🛋 The rise of armchair therapy. The frameworks and language of therapy have started to leave the therapist’s room and become a part of our day-to-day conversations. What have we gained from that, and what nuance and context have been lost?


Things my mother taught me

Growing up, I never washed my face. Not with face wash, not with soap, not even with water. I’d just wake up and get my day started. I remember it was a revelation to realize that it was something people did EVERY SINGLE DAY, as regularly as brushing your teeth.

My mom keeps telling me it’s counter-productive, and that soap strips oils and healthy bacteria from your skin. I’m guessing this is true to different degrees for different people living in different places, but to this day I still don’t wash my face with anything.

I’ve been experimenting with splashing my face with cold water when I wake up and before I go to bed, but that’s mostly for the shock factor. It’s interesting what different cultures take as a given!


Closing thoughts

Field Guide
By Tony Hoagland

Once, in the cool blue middle of a lake,
up to my neck in that most precious element of all,

I found a pale-gray, curled-upwards pigeon feather
floating on the tension of the water

at the very instant when a dragonfly,
like a blue-green iridescent bobby pin,

hovered over it, then lit, and rested.
That’s all.

I mention this in the same way
that I fold the corner of a page

in certain library books,
so that the next reader will know

where to look for the good parts.

(Found in Sara Campbell’s Tiny Revolutions newsletter)

Warmly yours, 

Nina


If you’re wondering who’s behind this newsletter:

My name is Nina Iordanova. I’m a writer, community builder, and founder of Good People. My mission is to create more ways to make us feel like we belong - to ourselves, to each other, and to the world around us.

Want more?

Follow me on Medium and Twitter.

If you're enjoying this newsletter, I'd love it if you shared it with a friend!

Share Something Good

Was Something Good forwarded to you? You can subscribe here.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you in two weeks! 👋