Glossy Review: Cosmopolitan's locomotive
Speaking to the Ciao Bella Travel girls the previous day, I'd admitted to the embarrassing fact that I had compiled a 'Look Book' for the trip to Europe for which I'd saved for over six months and would see me away for just shy of a month. A look book! Really. We reasoned that some planning is required in the wardrobe department to ensure you don't look exactly the same in all your holiday photos, as most summer snaps would evidence (one dress, one bikini, is all you really need for a beachside holiday, right?).
Cosmopolitan is prepping readers for travel this month, with editor Jessica Parry recalling her first overseas trip: "Coming from a smallish town, everything about being in Europe amazed me – the food, the history, the culture. I was backpacking alone and that burst of independence I got from navigating my way around caused me to make a life-changing decision when I got home. Within weeks, I had resigned from my job and left behind friends and family to move to Sydney, where I knew no-one. It turned out to be a great move – career-wise and personally... If you've got an important life decision to make, why not do it in New York or Spain?"
[Caveat emptor: travel may lead to major life upheaval. When I got home, I was proposed to. Eek!]
Of course, travel is commensurate with spending money. We girls earn a pretty good wage these days, so why not be rewarded some spoils for toil? But the trend right now, according to the uni students I teach, is "voluntourism", whereby you combine your sightseeing with volunteer work. The trend has spiked in the past two years, reports Katherine Chatfield in 'Give back while you see the world'. The odd thing about it is that one can choose to tailor their travel experience: "You can choose how much of your time is spent holidaying and how much volunteering," says one tour operator, adding that it looks great on your resume, too. The cost can often add up to more than a regular trip "because you're paying for pre-departure support and expertise, accommodation, meals, airport pick-up, on-the-ground support and crisis management... if you're doing a teaching project, your fee also includes Teach English as a Foreign Language training."
Weighing up the cost benefits and holiday-to-helping out time ratio, as well as the motive of curriculum vitae one-upmanship, takes a little of the goodwill out of the idea, which at its foundations is less about serving your own agenda, more serving others with your hands and heart, but it's nonetheless a noble "feel good while you do good" way to invest one's travel funds (mine, I confess, were deposited significantly at Zara and Topshop).
The 'Cosmopolitan Travel' guide also gives us ideas for travelling in a troop (London, Berlin, LA), in a duo (Paris, Fiji, the Galapagos)and flying solo (New York, Bangkok), 'Fashion To Go' (they've done the look book for you!), a list of 'Beauty Souvenirs' to pick up along your way (hello, Sephora), a Little Black Book of addresses care of girls-in-the-know (Nicole Trunfio, Jessica Rudd, Gemma Sanderson), must-do festivals, and a Neutrogena Defence advertorial spread ("Wear sun protection every day to nix any nasty rays, no matter where your travels take you..."), as all travel expeditions, even in print, must be funded somehow (in that capacity, Contiki has jumped on board, too).
Travel website, book and app recommendations, and personal travel tales by Nicole Robinson (Hawaii), Sanjeeta Bains (backpacking in South America) and Zoe Foster ("The Trip That Changed Me") round out the offering.
The self-deprecating Foster writes, "I reckon extended travel is more enjoyable when you have some cash and confidence in your pocket. I had both when I set off on my six-week 'working sabbatical' (oxymoron?) last year, just before turning 30. I realised as a novelist and columnist, as long as I had my laptop, the internet and money for living/coffee/custard tarts, I could work anywhere in the world. And so I was off to Tuscant, a place where all your stereotypes (and pasta fantasies) really do come true...rise early with coffee and fruit, write till lunch, find somewhere tasty for pasta and a glass of wine, nap, have some espresso and gelato, write till the intense midsummer sun cooled, run, a light salad then to bed. It was a routine equal parts discipline and indulgence, and I felt lucky to be able to live so selfishly, with no-one and nothing to think of but my writing and my next meal... It was a special trip, and an indication that maybe, just maybe, I was finally a grown up. Nahhh."
Skipping past the glorified-pornified content (commensurate with the 'Sun, Sand & Sex' style cover lines which immediately betray some very excellent, smart content) – such as the confessions (men's most shameful secrets), word of the month ("pornamental"), the Katy Perry Purr advert, "New touches to rattle his snake" – and the body-con "What I eat in a week" (let's stop comparing food notes, shall we?), but pausing to take in 'Meet the New Carrie Bradshaws' (Sloane Crosley, Emily Gould, Julie Klausner, Andrea Lavinthal and Jessica Rozler), 'The Good News About Your 30s', 'Be a 9-to-5 Workaholic' (which echoes my dad's best business advice), Foster's unjudgemental relationships column (notes taken; see also Rachel Hills' 'When to shut up online'), and Rachelle Friedman's story of becoming paralysed, I then looked out the window where I sit.
A white-haired granny pulled up outside, whisked off her helmet, got off her motorized bike, and pulled her bag from its basket. As I said to the young girls, you can still have adventures right here, right now, in your own world; everything you have and need and want to live – and have and need and want to give – is right within your reach. To recount a cliche, there's no need for expensive trips, as nice as they are to take and adventures that they make: what you might be looking for is a wonderland within. But sometimes it takes getting out of our usual space, a journey, a challenge, a diving in, to realise what you've been given.
Girl With a Satchel