Travel is a bit like acting

Throughout high school and college, I did theater. I loved being on stage with an audience watching, but unlike many of my friends, I didn’t want to pursue acting as a career. For me, acting has always been a fun hobby.

On stage: sophomore year of high school / senior year of college
On stage: sophomore year of high school / senior year of college

I think one reason I like traveling is because it’s a little bit like acting. When I travel, I assume a travel persona, and this persona is different depending on where I am and how I’m traveling.

I noticed this most obviously while living in Hana, Hawai’i for the last two months. Hana is located on the Eastern end of Maui, and is only accessible by plane or driving the Hana Highway — 35 miles that take 2+ hours to drive because the road has so many twists, turns, and one-way bridges. As such, it is one of the most isolated communities in Hawai’i, and home to fewer than 1,500 residents.

While there, I assumed the persona of a Hana Hippie. I embraced showering only twice a week, hitchhiking and using the shaka (hang loose) hand gesture whenever a driver passed me by to let them know that I didn’t mind them not picking me up, we were still cool. I walked around without wearing a bra, and didn’t worry whether or not people could see my nipples — they’re just breasts, and there’s nothing shameful or inherently sexual about them.

Greasy hair, no worries
Greasy hair, don’t care

I’ve adopted personas in other places I’ve traveled too. In Europe, I was a Cool Backpacker, staying in hostels, traveling long term, visiting cities that people back home hadn’t heard of — so hardcore. Oh, yeah, I just have one pair of jeans; it saves space in my bag.

Oh, you've never been to Bosnia & Herzegovina, you really must go
Oh, you’ve never been to Bosnia & Herzegovina?

At least, until I met up with my mother in France. In Paris, I was Sophisticated. I wore mascara and red lipstick and I looked as glamorous as my French surroundings.

Even my umbrella looks glamorous when I hold it at that jaunty angle

After a few weeks in Hana, Hippie Emma felt like a fraud with Sophisticated Emma as her facebook profile picture. Hippie Emma thought sleeping on the beach was a logical, cost-effective choice of accommodation. She also didn’t pluck her eyebrows for a month (but they got super unruly and she finally gave in when faced with enough mirrors).

I realize that a single person can have multiple interests, and I don’t think I’m being false when different aspects of my personality take center stage. Sometimes I like red lipstick, and sometimes I like not wearing a bra, and sleeping on the beach is fun, but so is staying in hostels. On this blog, you get to hear from Blogger Emma. She likes writing for an audience, and talks about her life in the context of travel and happiness and personal growth. She is a sophisticated, hippie backpacker.

Blogger Emma: sophisticated glasses, no bra, backpack is on the other side of the room
Blogger Emma: sophisticated glasses, hippie hair, backpack is on the other side of the room

It’s not an identity crisis, it’s a hobby. Acting isn’t lying, it’s telling a lot of different truths.

What about you? Do you have travel personas? Am I all alone in playing roles in my daily life?

Emma Holliday is well-traveled. After 5 years in Boston, she and her husband upended their lives to move to Berlin where she is currently writing a (funny) book about travel and grief and attempting to learn German.


  • Katie

    I definitely have a travel persona. I am more relaxed and better at going with the flow when I travel, no matter where I am. And I am more outgoing. At home I am better if I am busy and have some stress in my life.

    • opportunemma

      I think I’m more outgoing, and more able to go with the flow too (you’ve traveled with me, and seen some of my freak outs though, so if you disagree, I believe you). Especially when I’m traveling alone, I have to be self-reliant, which makes me more outgoing, and I don’t need to worry about anyone’s needs but my own, so that contributes to feeling relaxed.

  • Jeannie O'Donnell-Northup

    I’m very intrigued about packing just enough to fill a back pack, I know I always over-pack, because I want to be prepared, and just to have more choices of what to wear. I’d like to try it though! A friend of mine..60ish, stays in a hostel when he goes to NYC to visit his daughters. That appeals to me, I’m frugal! It does NOT appeal to my husband. I may have to try it with a frugal girl friend!

    • opportunemma

      I would recommend hostels regardless of age, especially for travel in Europe because there are so many options. Many hostels offer private rooms, en suite bathrooms, free breakfast — quality varies and so do prices; I think you could easily find a place that was right for you. I definitely shared hostel dorm rooms with people older than the typical 20- and 30-something backpackers. And, as far as packing goes, I think I’m planning to write a few posts about that soon. I’m honing my packing skills, and I’d love to share some tips, plus, it’s a topic that’s relevant to everyone.

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