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The Traveler: A Tale of A Double Standard

Musings

The Traveler: A Tale of A Double Standard

Megan Harrod

This is my fourth time trying to write this. FML.

BRIEF DISCLAIMER: I feel like I say this every time I write, but have patience with me with this one...it takes a while for me to get where I intended to go when I wrote this post title. Grab a glass of wine or something. You'll be glad you did, and it might make my writing sound even better than it is. 

I guess fourth time is a charm, right?! Normally I'd get really frustrated, but not today. Today I just took three deep breaths and smirked a bit. It's one of those kind of days. I'm sitting alone in a random sub-par Salzburg cafe in the smokey non-smoking section. Fabulous. Life on the road isn't always as glamorous as you all think. But, for some, rose-colored glasses are better - so I'll try to let you believe it's all unicorns and rainbows. At least for a little bit. Because, still, I love it. And, most of the time, I make it all about unicorns and rainbows...and most people just don't know how to do that. For me, it's natural. I don't know any other way.* 

I've been wanting to write this piece for quite some time now, but as with many things it wasn't meant to be translated from my brain to whatever typeface this is until now. Typically, at the end of the year I take time to reflect on lessons learned, but this year it will look a little different. It became more and more apparent, as time went by and life happened (aka Trump was elected President of the United States...which, by the way, still has me in disbelief), that these words were meant to be shared. So, share I will. And, let me tell youit feels good to finally have a moment of time to write for myself. 

SIDE NOTE: one of my goals in the new year is to set aside at least 30 minutes each day for myself to move, meditate, or write. 

It can be a bit hard to be on the road for the holidays, as a single human, far from your family. The holidays were something special this year. I spent Christmas Eve in Patsch with my American Downhiller family, and Christmas day was spent with Martina's family next door in Fulpmes. It was lovely and felt right. Santa even visited me in my room and stuffed my stocking with treats!! It was a small break before hitting the road for Semmering, Austria for more races, but it was refreshing. Now I'm in Salzburg for the new year, no idea where I'll end up tonight...maybe with my friend Amelie and maybe not. Let's just hope I survive the evening. Going with the flow, as always.

Jan. 1st: Okay, so 2016 continued to take the role of supreme teacher last night. Remember back in September when I used the line, "Ich bin immer allein und immer reisen?!" Well, that pretty much summed up my last few days. And, I just have to laugh. Post-Semmering, I had a fabulous time with friends in my Cesky Krumlov home before heading to Salzburg for New Year's celebrations. I had decided to forego trips to France and Switzerland in order to ring in the new year in Austria, but 2016 had other plans for me. As I was attempting to determine where and with whom I'd ring in the new year, I was sitting in my car both sobbing and laughing. Because, it was poetic after all. Ich bin immer allein. Remember?!

I took some deep breaths, remembering that these moments are moments to test all of the work I've done in the last 12 months. But, alas...sometimes,  you just need to fucking cry. So I cried. Then I drove to Obdach to spend New Year's Eve with my U.S. Ski Team family. You know what I learned again?! Expectations are the danger zone. Don't go there. Just don't do it. Lesson learned. Again. Along the entire 2 hour 45 minute drive, I was gifted the most stunning fireworks and shooting star show I could have imagined. And, the night was actually wonderful. 

Back in Salzburg and spending time with my mental coach and his family Bernie was a gift in and of itself. A nap this afternoon recharged my spirit, and here I am, sharing these words with you. That's a gift. So let's get to this whole "double standard" thing, shall we?! 

When I was living overseas this fall I was thinking a lot about how fucked up it is to be a solo female traveler, strong woman...and to combine that with your day job is even more misunderstood to conventional society. It was a mixture of things like the movie The Lobster, thoughts of my trip to India, and living solo in a small village in Austria that made the realization apparent for me. When you're a strong woman, men find it threatening. When you're a strong woman who travels freely and often independently, you're crazy. But when you're a strong woman who travels freely and often independently, doesn't call a single location "home," speaks your truth and holds others accountable to theirs, and you live out of a couple of backpacks and a duffle bag on the road in a male-dominated industry where the grey hairs make a majority of the decisions for a dying sport...well then, my friends, you're just a downright mystery who questions any man's perception of what "masculinity" means and you might as well be destined to a life alone. Immer allein. Because, mostly, it's not their fault that they can't understand you. You're odd. You're untouchable. A magical unicorn frolicking in a faraway, fairytale land...you're not even on the same planet. Writing that, I realize how challenging it would be to try to keep up with me, let alone understand me. I'm different. Defiant. And, I'm okay with that. Because it's who I am. 

I had a conversation recently with a male athlete on the team about the topic of the challenges of being a woman on the road vs. being a man, and he disagreed and didn't really get it. The fact is, it IS more challenging because we are misunderstood. There's a double standard not solely in the workplace, but even for female travelers on the road. The combo, though is nearly impossible. You can say whatever you want, but I know from experience how hard it is for the man to be the one at home while his girlfriend or wife is away. You have to be an incredibly strong, understanding, caring man to be in that situation. As men and women settle into conventional roles, men, on the other hand, are quite often the gender on the road with the female at home. It's more accepted. Less emasculating, I guess. What does that mean?! I guess I'm destined for singledom for a while...or at least until I find a special human. 

Maybe this all sounds like a mental shit storm to you, but all of these thoughts were swirling in my head as Donald Trumpa man who talks about and treats women like they truly are the weaker sexwas elected president. What a sick joke that I still can't believe is our reality. So I'll just leave that there and share two storiesone positive and one kind of shittyabout what it's like to be a woman in this male dominated world...just in case there are humans out there who still don't get it and need to be convinced. I'm sharing these stories because they each provided me with memorable learning opportunities in 2016.  

The new ink.

The new ink.

KIA KAHA
First, a tale of strength. During my trip to New Zealand, I traveled to a small village with my friend Giulia named Moeraki to visit the boulders and have lunch at "Fleur's Place"...a warmly-lit, lovely little restaurant owned by a crazy-white-haired woman named Fleur, where messages in black Sharpie marker decorated the walls, the seafood soup was salty and delicious and the pinot noir was perfect for my palate. Fleur was there that day, and she inspired me. We sat down and she shared tales of starting businesses solo, as a divorced, single mother with passion and a vision. In the most simple way possible, she told me about overcoming the challenges you face as a female entrepreneur in a man's world. As she shared these stories with a tear in her eye, she simply said, "It's hard to do what you want to do in life...but you just have to be strong and keep moving forward." I bought a book of hers, and in it she wrote "KIA KAHA"a Moari phrase that means "stay strong" and is scattered throughout the lives of Kiwis, found in literature, music and has been written on shop front windows as a symbol of strength in tough times, like post-earthquake in 2011. She inspired me that day, teaching me lessons she doesn't even realize. Because, it is hard to do what you want to do in life, and be what you want to be and who you want to be...and society doesn't support that if it's different. When I went to Prague this fall, I got the words "Kia Kaha" in her handwriting tattooed on my left arm. I haven't shared it publicly until now, and a lot of people have asked me what it says. I joke, telling them it's Kim Kardashian's signature. At the same time, I got my favorite punctuation mark, an ellipsis, tattooed on my left ring finger. Because, after all, there's more to the story...

Anyway, Fleur reminded me to not compromise who I am for anyone or anything...and as I travel down this crazy road with a one-way ticket on La Tour de Insanity, that's an invaluable lesson. Now it's a lesson that will travel with me forever, in ink. Cheers to Fleur and the strong women in my life who encourage me to continue to move forward down this path as ME and no one else.

THE GREY HAIRS
In October we kicked off the start to the 50th year of the Audi FIS Ski World Cup season. You might call me a feminist (which I am, by the way), but in 50 years, I have to say not too much has changed with FIS in terms of the presence of females in this male-dominated industry. Okay, yesSarah Lewis is a woman, and there are women here and there, but the ski industry is still run by the "grey hairs," as I lovingly refer to them...and, unfortunately, they're still the ones at the helm making decisions for a dying sport. And this rant leads me to a story as I attempt to illustrate what it sometimes feels like to be a female in this world: invisible. Which, for those of you who aren't English buffs, is quite the opposite of invincible. In a room full of men involved with communications and media, I raised my hand to give my two cents on a topic for which I was well-versed, being one of few Millennial humans in the room and likely the only one that had worked in the digital agency realm. I was overlooked. Ignored, in fact. For the next five minutes I kept my hand raised patiently as I listened to old men, satisfied with the sound of their voices, droning on about bullshit saying everything and nothing at all. Like politicians. Finally, I put my hand down.

You know what it feels like to be completely ignored? Really shitty, actually. Because the fact remains that if you're one of few women in a room, you have to be ultra-mindful of what you say. If you interrupt and don't raise you're hand, you're abrasive, bitchy and loud. But, if you wait, you'll never get called upon. At times, it's even jarring to hear the sound of your voice. While men can open their mouths and share stupidity with confidence and still be heard, women are not even considered. And this isn't the first time it's happened, unfortunately. The only woman at a spring meeting full of coaches, I spoke up about a pre-Olympic event and was told..."it's a good thing we can plan our training camps around your partying in LA, Megan," through a laugh. Yes, sure, because I party for a living and can't wait to go to LA and spend four straight days in a conference room for athlete interviews. Once, a serviceman (wax technician) told me, "you're not smart." And though I'd like to roll my eyes and say "You're an idiot," instead I just laugh and keep my mouth shut. Because if I'm really being honest with myselfI don't care what they think and I'll never be able to teach them anything. So I smile. I smile a lot. Laugh, wink, hug. All of these things are kind of coping mechanisms for women in this world. This world where a disgusting man can say "grab them by the pussy" when referring to women, and yet still be elected as President of the United States. And you tell me we've made great strides...that there's no double standard in this industry, or on the road as a traveler, or in business. Whether you realize it or not, we've got a long way to go, my friends.

REMEMBER: KIA KAHA.

On Being a Woman...
Why is it, when I am in Rome,
I’d give an eye to be at home,
But when on native earth I be,
My soul is sick for Italy?

And why with you, my love, my lord,
Am I spectacularly bored,
Yet do you up and leave me- then
I scream to have you back again?
— Dorothy Parker

 

Thank you, 2016, for being the best teacher I've had yet...for teaching me the importance of silence, knowing your audience and meeting them with the appropriate energy level, heartbreak, that humans move at different paces and patience is a good thing, meditation, love, loss, moving slowly, not everything has to be on social media for it to be real, not being invited to things is ok, Maui is always a good idea after the season and it's okay to not want to talk to anyone, time spent with nature, impermanence, living a diverse and curious life with many interests is the only way for me to live, if you're happy - there will always be people that want to bring you down and it's often because they're missing something in their life, when given the opportunity to stand in front of a room of humans and share someone's art that you believe in, even if you're terrified - always say "yes", living alone in a small Austrian village and sucking at a new language, and more. Happy 2017...I look forward to learning from you, too. 

A big thanks to each and every one of you for following me as I travel on this journey. When I get a moment to write, it's a gift...and it's even more of a gift when you read my writing. Thank you for your encouragement and love, always. 

Love, 
Me

*The Real Truth
I was thinking the other day about how bizarrely misunderstood I am and how bizarrely misunderstood my role often is. I wasn't going to bring this up today, but I feel compelled to, so I will. I was on a hike with a colleague who told me that one of our other colleagues said he'd love my job because "all I do is party and go to the best locations." Fair enough, but sometimes perception is not reality. It's actually partially true. I'm lucky to travel to the most amazingly beautiful destinations, as are we all in this industry. However, I'm more boring than most people think, and I often am awake until the wee hours of the morning working. Most people don't see that, though...and they don't have to. Heck, I figure if I do my job good enough for them to think that, then that's a compliment. SO, thank you all. Life is a big party, after all. Right?!