Quick Advice For Female Travelers In Their Twenties

 

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I‘m here today to talk about one of my favorite topics: travel! One of my main goals when I graduated university at 24 was to travel as much as possible. The problem: I had a very restricted budget (I was broke AF) and was kind of nervous about traveling solo. So, while some of my friends backpacked through Morocco solo, I  got a job at a travel agency, traveled in very large groups and went on adventures with my then-partner. While I think traveling solo is definitely something everyone should experience at least once, it’s only since I’ve been in my 30’s that I’ve become more adventurous when it comes to striking out on my own.

With that said, female travelers in their twenties are becoming increasingly common. If you’re thinking of taking the plunge, here’s a few things that I learned while traveling in my 20’s (and also my 30’s!)

Do As Much Research As Possible Beforehand

While it can be tempting to book a trip with reckless abandon, do your research beforehand so you know what you’re getting yourself into (I’d prefer to stay in places that don’t have murdery vibes, but that’s just me). Just don’t go overboard. You don’t want to get analysis paralysis, but you do need to make sure you’re booking places that are safe, secure and come with positive reviews.

Be Mindful of Your Drinking

By the time I started traveling in my 20’s, I’d heard enough stories that started with “so, I woke up naked on a beach in Thailand after blacking out”, that I vowed never to drink while traveling, period. To be clear, drinking is fine, just make sure that you stay safe. You shouldn’t drink too much if you’re alone, or with people you barely know either. Don’t put your drink down, know your limits and use your common sense. (PS. If you’re going to drink absinthe, don’t do it in the shower.)

Stay Somewhere With Great Reviews

Look for places with great reviews so you know you’re staying somewhere trustworthy. I chose my recent hotel in Jamaica not because it was the fanciest place on the strip, but because it had consistently great reviews. A place like Fairfield Inn & Suites Mexico City Vallejo has features you should be looking for. You want to make sure that you’re going to be well looked after, wherever you’re traveling and whatever you’re planning on doing.

Pack Light

Nothing hammers home the importance of packing light like having to lug a heavy suitcase up the stairs of a five story Italian hotel with no elevator or air conditioning (#truestory). As a recovering over-packer, I always have to remind myself that I usually end up only needing 3/4 of what I put in my suitcase. Pack minimally, pick up anything you need/forget when you get there and leave room to bring home anything you might purchase.

Invest In A Portable Charger

I learned this hard way when I went to Disneyland for the first time as an adult and my phone ran out of power halfway through an epic photo-shoot with Joe the Intern. A portable charger will ensure you always have phone battery – not to just update Instagram, but to call a cab or LYFT if you need to.

Eat The Food And Don’t Sweat It

Although you may want to stay healthy on your travels, give yourself permission to let go a little bit. While I don’t regret eating my body weight in tacos last time I was in LA, I do regret that one time I went to Loteria Grill and ordered a salad when I was really craving a plate of juicy lamb Birria. Don’t be afraid to try the specialty dish, and enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. It’s not going to kill you!

It’s Okay to Get A Bit Lost

If you get lost, don’t sweat it. You might find something amazing that you wouldn’t have found otherwise — like an amazing hole in the wall restaurant or a cool photo op. Allow yourself some freedom in your schedule to really explore and find new things. For everything else, there’s Google Maps.

Enjoy The Moment – Not Through A Screen

For the majority of my twenties, smart phones simply didn’t exist (shout out to my Nokia flip phone, RIP!) so this wasn’t an issue. Now I try to make a concerted effort to limit screen time as much as possible when I’m traveling. Make sure you’re properly enjoying the moment as you travel, and not just through a screen. Be mindful of what you’re seeing. By all means, snap some pictures, but make sure you actually take in the moment yourself.

A Quick Note On Safety

Don’t listen to anyone who says “it’s not safe for females to travel alone.” While there’s definitely some locations that are safer than others (and some that you probably want to avoid altogether), if you carefully plan where you’re going and take safety precautions, you should be fine. You can’t let fear of the unknown stop you from exploring!

Hopefully, these tips have been helpful.

Bon Voyage! xx

How To Be Your Own Best Friend

 

This post was brought to you by omgkinky.com. Thanks for supporting the posts that support Skinny Dip.

There was a period in my life between ages 18 and 22 where I really struggled with spending alone. I went from living with my family, where I was always surrounded by people and spending time alone was a choice, to living by myself in Toronto where being alone was the default. I now covet my alone time, but back then I was terrified of my own company — especially on the weekends, when I assumed everyone but me was out doing “cool stuff.” I’d sign up for extra shifts at work and say yes to plans with friends (no matter how ridiculous) just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the inevitable panic attack that would set in whenever I thought of staying home alone in my apartment.

Something changed around 22 or 23 and I finally re-learned how to date myself. Here’s a few things that have helped me build a better relationship with myself.

1. Find out what you love and do more of that thing.

A few years ago, I realized I feel most like myself when I’m dancing or moving my body (barre, yoga, climbing a pole), so I’ve made a concerted effort to do those things. If you’re not sure what you love, give yourself permission to experiment and try as many new things as possible. You might end up falling in love with a part of yourself that you never knew existed (or you might just end up taking a lot of photos of a half-naked G.I. Joe).

2. Take yourself on dates.

Solo dates are the best because you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT! I used to feel really awkward sitting alone in a restaurant or a movie theater, but now I kind of love it. I still love doing these things with other people best, but sometimes it’s nice to know you can go have an awesome day/night all on your own.

3. Listen to your buddy voice.

Our intuition often gives us the best advice… if we’re willing to listen. That rising sense of anxiety you get whenever you get a text from a certain person? The sinking feeling you get before doing x, y or z? The nagging sense that something just feels off? These aren’t just random thoughts. Your intuition wants the best for you, so it’s important to listen to “your buddy voice” (as my friend likes to call it). Respect your personal boundaries. If something feels wrong, it probably is.

4. Masturbate.

Seriously. I’m of the firm belief that the world would be a better place if we all took more time for self-pleasure. To quote RuPaul, “if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?” The same applies to sex: you can’t expect someone to please you, if you don’t know how to please yourself. So don’t be afraid to explore and experiment in this regard too. You can check out omgkinky.com for some suggestions. The Skinny Dip archives are also chock-full of ideas for solo-play!

5. Stop emotionally drop-kicking yourself.

I can be my own worst enemy, but I’m trying to get better at quieting the negative self talk. Treat yourself how you’d want to be treated. Would your best friend repeatedly tell you that you suck? No, of course not. So, stop saying these things to yourself. Instead, remind yourself that you’re pretty great & are doing your best.

6. Be unapologetic about your interests.

My interests are eclectic to say the least. I like taking photos of Joe the Intern, collecting pins, reading like a beast, looking at art and occasionally taking a few spins around the pole. I’m also obsessed with soul music, hip hop and true crime podcasts. I used to think that I had to hide certain interests so that my story as a person would make sense for other people (I mean, it’s already weird enough that I’m a sex writer without having to add, “oh and by the way, I’m also super into doll photography!”) but I’ve since learned that I’m not doing the world any favors by pressing the dimmer switch on my identity. The more I embrace my interests, the more confident I feel and the easier it becomes to spend time solo.

7. Take a trip by yourself.

My recent foray into solo travel has definitely evolved the relationship I have with myself. While I’d be lying if I said there weren’t some lonely moments when I went to Los Angeles, Mexico or Jamaica solo, for the most part traveling solo was an exhilarating experience. You can visit unique destinations and once you’re there, explore them however you like. Traveling solo is something everyone should try at least once.


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10 Weird Jobs I Had Before Became A Sex Columnist

 

My good pal Kate recently wrote about some of the weird and wonderful jobs she’s had and it’s inspired me to share some of mine. I worked part time throughout the later part of high-school and university (and beyond!) and while the jobs themselves were for the most part pretty normal, I still have a lot of  “interesting” stories.

1. Body Shop sales clerk.

I worked at three different Body Shop locations throughout university, but the one that made for the best stories was the Toronto Eaton Center location. Our store was located on the bottom floor of the Eaton Center — a busy, sprawling downtown mall, dubbed by many “Toronto’s armpit.” Smack dab in the middle of downtown and next to multiple subway stops, when it came to people watching at my former job, there was rarely a dull moment. A few of the highlights:

  • The store had a large makeup section with lots of mirrors. On a Friday or Saturday evening, it wasn’t uncommon to see people come in and do their entire face. After seeing what people do to makeup testers I will never, ever use them — not even on my hand, if I can help it. Shudder.
  • The store also had a large sink intended for sampling shower gels and soaps. One day a man came in, filled the sink, dunked his head in the water and proceeded to wash his very long, filthy hair. Then, instead of toweling dry, he stood up and shook his head like a dog, spraying water everywhere before casually sauntering out of the store.
  • Maybe it was the ubiquitous smell of fruity soap or the fumes wafting in from the food court, but something about being inside The Body Shop compelled customers to tell you all about their bodies. From bikini waxing mishaps, venereal disease symptoms to a man who needed something for what he called his “XXX parts” (very itchy recently shaved balls), I saw and heard things that can never been unseen/heard.

2. The sketchy designer jeans store. 

My first job when I moved to Toronto was working at a store that sold Diesel Jeans (and other brands du jour) on Yonge Street. The store was called Soul and when I saw the help wanted sign, the wide-eyed eighteen year old me thought it was destiny (I mean, I love Soul music. So, what could go wrong?) In retrospect, I’m pretty sure the whole operation was a drug front. We rarely had any customers and every two weeks they’d pay me with cash out of the till. I didn’t mind because they gave me a sweet discount on a pair of Parasuco sparkly denim flares (the jeans had a shimmery silver sheen that made them sparkle in the sun. Like glitter. Oh dear.) In my defense, they made my ass look amazing.

3. Ghostwriting erotic fiction.

When I first started freelancing, I scored a gig creating content for an SEO company that specialized in the adult industry. For several months I wrote a series of “real life” blog posts as “Ginger,” a law student turned cam-girl with a penchant for sex in public places. It was fun & hilarious & weird (and I would totally do it again). FYI, SEO strategy is infinitely more interesting when your keywords are things like “ass cheeks,” “rim job” and “money shot.”

4. The Hungarian deli.

For a very brief period in 2003, I decided to embrace my Eastern European roots and apply for a job  at the Hungarian deli near my house in Toronto. The manager looked like a Slavic stereotype straight out of central casting. Olga wore a white butcher’s coat, a hair-net and a grim expression that made her seem utterly terrifying. Even more terrifying: learning to operate the meat slicer. I was too tentative, which lead to a lot of thickly sliced Tziganskaya (which even I know is a total abomination). I never got called for a second shift.

5. Candy Girl.

My first real job in high school was working at a movie theater downtown. I was initially hired to work at the concession stand. However, I never quite mastered scooping popcorn (notice a pattern here?) so, I was promptly moved over to the bulk candy station. The owner — an older, red-faced man that had a voice that sounded like he’d swallowed a bucket of gravel and washed it down with a whisky chaser – had a mental block when it came to remembering my name so he just called me “Candy Girl.” He told me, “I hired you because you put on your resume that you know how to use a computer.” So, when things weren’t busy, Old Gravel Mouth would bring me up to his office where he’d dictate emails. They were always addressed to a woman named Tammy, who wasn’t his wife.

6. Flight Attendant.

So, yeah. That happened. After graduating university, I thought it would be really cool to get paid to travel. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t (at least for me). I spent two months in an aggressive training program learning all about airplane safety, watching videos of airplane crashes, and doing simulated crash drills that always took place at 4am in empty airplane hangers. Needless to say, it didn’t exactly help with my then un-diagnosed anxiety disorder. I did one flight before turning in my resignation. However, if you need help dragging a body from a burning wreckage (we practiced!) or zip-tying an unruly passenger to their seat, I’m your gal.

7. Coat check.

In third year university, I spent a winter working at the coat check for a high-end night club/cigar lounge. Oddly enough, this is one of the best jobs I ever had. I made an hourly wage, plus tips (usually about $100-$200 a night). The clientele was a lot of pro sports players, C-list celebs and other high-roller types. The money was good and the people watching didn’t disappoint. Annnnd, at the end of the night they’d give us free sandwiches. I’d always leave work with cash in my wallet and a handful of sandwiches stuffed in my purse, that I’d eat for lunch & dinner the next day. Because, #studentlife.

8. Peddler of fancy old lady clothes.

Home for the summer after second year university and desperate for a job, I spent a few months working at a boutique that sold high-end designer clothes. From ten seasons ago. The clothes were brand new, they had just been in the store forever. The rest of the stock looked like it was pulled from the wardrobe department of The Golden Girls. My manager reminded me of Kris Jenner, only more evil and with a raging cocaine habit. She would frequently yell at me because she didn’t think I was selling enough. (IT’S NOT MY FAULT THAT I CAN’T MOVE THIS PAIR OF SUN-FADED SHOP WORN YELLOW VERSACE JEANS, SUSAN.)

9. Managing a Co-Op residence.

This is by far the worst job I ever had. You can read about it here. And yes, I still have nightmares about the van and the never-ending demand for toilet paper.

10. This job.

Being a freelance writer that mostly writes about sex and relationships is weird & wonderful & I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I get to interview porn stars, travel to nude resorts and share my feelings with the internet, all in the name of work. I like to think that all of these other jobs in some way prepared me for what I do now, which often involves writing and speaking about things that make other people feel uncomfortable. “Itchy balls” guys of the world, I solute you.

What’s the strangest or most memorable job you’ve had?

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Things I’d Tell My 20-Something Self – Part 3

I don’t know about you guys, but birthdays always trigger a lot of self-reflection for me. I turned 36 a few weeks ago. If someone were to ask me what I like best about being in my mid-thirties I’d say the clarity. It’s nice to look back and be able to identify everything you’ve grown out of. So, in honour of birthdays and hindsight, I thought it was time to share some more things I’d tell my 20-year old self (you can check out the full series here.)

It’s never too soon to learn about good alcohol

Fifteen years from now you’ll be sharing some Pinot Grigio with a ridiculously handsome man. You’ll hold up the bottle of Masi (a wine which was introduced to you by another man that you once found charming circa 2001and tell him, “this is the only good decision that came out of my years of drinking as a 20-something.” You’ll be 180% right. I know the urge to try things just for the sake of trying things is strong this decade, so I’ll just cut to the chase:

The pink bottle of $4.99 “strawberry wine” you keep passing at the liquor store on the way to the cooler aisle tastes exactly as terrible as it’s neon packaging suggests. That non-FDA approved liquor your friend brought back from Israel will make you black out. And throw-up. Then black out again. It will also make your friends simultaneously black out and throw up. Any drink with Red Bull as an ingredient is sure to make you jump up on furniture (which sounds kind of fun now, but it’s something you’ll grow out of. Trust me.) Drinking on the subway is hilarious, but it’s not classy. Southern Comfort is awful. Stop treating your Friday nights like you’re Janis Joplin on an epic bender. Instead, drink the Masi. Always drink the Masi.

The “one that got away” is a myth.

They didn’t “get away” – they left you. It sucks and it hurts and you’re going to cry over these people, but it’s for the best. I promise. Have the feelings you need to have and then move the fuck on. Don’t waste time obsessing over or longing for people who simply didn’t choose you. They. Didn’t. Choose. You. (Keep this in mind when these people resurface requesting a second chance.) Spend your time loving the people who have chosen to be in your life. Start with yourself.

Expect more from the people you date.

As a 20-something you joke that your dating motto is, “have low expectations and you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.” You adopt this line of thinking after a series of breakups and disappointing sexual encounters – both wanted and unwanted – leave you heartbroken and confused. You start asking for less, when really you should ask for more. Don’t do this. You should expect things from the people you date – like, respect, honesty and integrity. Be picky. Ask for what you want out of relationships. It might mean that you spend more time alone, but it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Learn to be still.

I know it’s hard. You live in a city of 5 million people and around every corner there’s something or someone new & shiny to distract you, but please try. Stop focusing on things and people that don’t serve you, just so that you won’t have to be alone with your own thoughts. The only way you’re ever going to feel at peace with yourself is if you face your problems head-on and deal with your personal shit. Don’t wait until the end of the decade. Begin early.

What would you tell your 20-something self?

Guest Post | On How to Be Single

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Going through a breakup? Our intern Kaitlyn bravely shares her story today about what it’s like to find yourself single after being in a relationship for 7 years. Take it away Kaitlyn! (illustration credit: Erick Davila)

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I‘ve realized that I do not know how to be single. Not just single –  but independent.

I knew this year was going to be filled with challenges. I’m attending a school where I don’t have any friends and my lover is attending a school two hours away. I knew what I was up against from the beginning. Or so I thought.

The first three months of college were great. I had my own little group of friends, something I’ve always wanted. It was a huge self-esteem boost, because thinking back to high school, I didn’t really have friends there either. In hindsight, it was my fault. My lover didn’t approve of my preference for guy friends over girls. When I finally did make a really good girlfriend, I heard rumors about how some of her life choices weren’t the greatest. I distinctively remember thinking “it’s her life, I’m not going to let it affect mine” and I didn’t. I remained her friend for as long as I could, but eventually time and distance pulled us apart.

Going to college was the fresh start I needed. I woke up every day and actually looked forward to going to school. It was my little group against the world. We were constantly going out and making the best of everything and anything. However, as the saying goes, “don’t cross oceans for people who won’t cross puddles for you.” Gradually, my little group got smaller. Three amigos turned into two. Can you even have two amigos? Can my dog count as the third?

Now it’s just me and my roommate.

And of course I still had my lover. Key word had.

As my group got smaller, I found myself back at square one. I hated waking up every morning to go to school. The thought of it made me sick to my stomach to the point I would cry myself to sleep every night because it felt like I just couldn’t continue. All the independence I had gained when I moved was gone. Just. Like. That.

I dragged my roommate to my lover’s college. I was hoping that I could convince her to leave with me and start over at a new school.

That weekend, we toured the college and living arrangements. But, when I met up with my lover he told me, “I don’t want you to start over. Also, we can’t live together because I need to live with my friends for assignments and I don’t think they would be okay with you being there.” So yeah. Ouch.

Now is a good time to mention that I have been struggling with depression since grade six. My lover had rejected me. I was pretty close to failing half of my classes and I didn’t have a support system at school. Cue: depression.

I slowly began cutting myself off from life. First was my school and the teachers. I had no motivation to be in class and just felt was numb. I was a zombie. Wake up. Go to school. Go home. Sleep. Repeat.

And then something happened. More so like someone.

An old high school friend that is one of my roommates.

We’ve experienced similar yet different challenges that have defined who we are today.

As much as I hate to admit it, I live in the past. I’ve carried the past with me because I thought I needed a constant reminder that “this is the shit that got you here” or “this is how things were back then and how they need to be now.” My past hurt was my anchor. I thought that if  I let go of it, then I might fall backward. The irony being, that hanging on to this emotional baggage is what’s kept me from moving forward.

I was bullied and a bully. I was abused emotionally and physically. Because of this, I feel like I carry this incredible weight on my shoulders to get everything right; to be the kid in the family that has the “perfect” life. You know the one where you go off to school, get a kick ass internship (thanks Simone!) find the love of your life, settle down, get married and have babies. Just kidding re: the babies. I don’t want human babies. Or do I?

My roommate is one of the happiest people I know despite everything life has thrown at him. He’s inspired me to not only to let my bygones be bygone, but to grow as a person and to be the best that I can be.

Remember when I said I “had” my boyfriend? As of a week ago I am officially single for the first time in seven years.

I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, to the point where we were talking about engagement rings and future plans. But, he was a crutch. He was my crutch. Someone for me to lean on. I depended on him to tell me what I needed to do, even though I didn’t always agree.

We skyped. I cried, he cried and then we were free.

A weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My lover and I both had very different priorities this year. His top three priorities were: school, money, friends, job. Mine on the other hand, was our relationship. I wasn’t on his list of priorities and for some reason I thought this was okay. Now I know that it’s not.

I told him I need time for me. I need to figure out what I am meant to do and how to do it. I knew that if I stayed in the relationship any longer I wouldn’t have the strength for the soul searching I so desperately need to do in order to begin the process of healing and moving on from my past.

“You have to hurt to heal,” a wise man once told me.

So here I am in the first time in seven years, single, on a journey of self-discovery and learning how to be independent. Wish me luck!

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