Gay, Balding and Abroad

That’s me. Traveling around the European continent with a receding hairline and a not-so-Irish giant rainbow floating over my head. No, that doesn’t mean I’m a leprechaun, but rather I’m a millennial gay man who is struggling to grasp the idea of growing older. Granted, being 23 doesn’t constitute as old, but there are many things that I assumed I would have accomplished by the time I turned this age. Maybe I’d have my master’s degree, a house, a new shiny SUV and 2.5 kids.

Instead, I received my undergraduate degree only last year after changing my major five times. Instead of working a 9-5 job with a 401k and a growing savings I work 65 hours a week making less than I did at my previous job. Instead of being straight, I’m gay. Instead of spending so much time worrying about the status quo and what people think of me, I’ve come to discover the joys of living independently.

This mindset to stray from the status quo is brought to the surface by traveling. Traveling makes you think about things in a way different than what you’re used to. It makes you question your way of life. It makes you question your upbringing, your education and what you thought you found most important. It challenges your beliefs and values. It makes you appreciate the beliefs and values of people different than you. It exposes you to a universal acceptance of all things different.

It’s this universal acceptance of differences that has encouraged me to live a life unashamed. Unashamed of who I am and where I come from. Unashamed of my own passions and interests. Unashamed of my own beliefs and views. Unashamed of my receding hairline, growing older and being gay.

What I am ashamed of is how long it took me to get here.

Rural Kentucky has its own culture. A culture that involves close-knit families, hard-working lower-to-middle class citizens and small communities. My hometown of Bardstown, a Catholic community that houses a thriving bourbon-tourism industry, was dubbed “the most beautiful small town in America” by Southern Living Magazine. So naturally, everyone knew everyone. And most everyone was a conservative.

I attended a small Catholic school with a class of only 10 boys, nine of them played sports. Two guesses for the one who didn’t? As a result, I was often the oddball out. At an early age I realized I was different than most around me. While everyone else played sports, I was often the only one taking art classes, favoring schoolwork and immersing myself into clubs and organizations my peers would shun.

I didn’t understand then that I was on the path of discovering my holistic self. I was in training to become a man that lives not by the masses, but by the guidance of his own aspirations. A veteran as a person who can muster confidence in the most nerve-wrecking situations. A man who would soon travel the world.

And while I still stress and panic over things I haven’t accomplished and judgement of my way of life, the only reason I do so is because I fear ridicule of people closest to me. My whole life I’ve lived by black and white rules, careful to never step over the line to being unconventional. However, as I sit in a tiny coffee shop in Grantham, England writing this post I realize that fear of being different is a pitiful excuse to keep me from living my own version of a holistic life.

So whether I’m a millennial gay man with a receding hairline or a man stressing about his next career move, I could not ask for a more fulfilling life. I’m thankful for not being tied down to a mortgage, a large car payment, children or my own insecurities.

—NM

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Lake District Nostalgia

It usually starts with a flutter in the chest and a feeling of butterflies in the stomach. That feeling of romantic nostalgia that forces you to take a deep breath as you soak up the views of the English landscape around you. The Lake District is an area that inspires the most talented writers and the most simplistic people. From foggy views to waterfall climbing, the adventures to be had in the District are vast, making it a special experience as I share it with the students of Harlaxton College Spring 2017.

Here I go talking about being back at the Manor after a four-year absence following my time as a student in 2012. A trip that is unlike any other in Europe, the Lake District encourages students to become one with nature. For someone like me, that can be a task. However, as I reflect back on my time visiting the Lake District as a student while sitting in a café today overlooking Windermere Lake, I’m reminded of how surreal it felt to be exploring the most beautiful parts of the English countryside.

The second time around, however, it’s much different (better.)

This is the time in the middle of the semester that I start getting serious and sappy. When I was a student I remember how easy it was to get caught in the excitement around me (making new friends, trying to cram so many trips into the semester, etc.) This time I’m able to mentally compartmentalize my job from my Harlaxton 2.0 experience. I know that our time is coming to a close and I remember the struggle of leaving the place we’ve all called home for so long.  The one thing that makes this semester so much better than my first are the students.

*Gasp*

I’m usually not one to get attached to anyone. Nor am I person who gets warm and fuzzy easy, but getting to share this Lake District experience with the students I’ve grown to known and love is irreplaceable. I sit down and converse with them every day. I canoe with them. I get to know them as a person and not as student who I’m responsible for chaperoning. And it’s a true honor.

So my trip to the Lake District this past weekend was an eye-opening experience. It has hit me that I only have a few more weeks with the Spring 2017 students. And while I don’t want the semester to end, I’m reminded that our time together is precious and brief. I look forward to the remaining time I have with the students and prepare for our separation on April 19.

The Lake District is almost like a magical land. It surrounds you in a fairytale environment of woods, fog, lakes and moss. For me, it engulfs me in nostalgia and holds me back, encouraging me to take a deep breath and absorb the beauty of the landscape (and people) around me.

—NM

*Flight attendant starts speaking in French* “… well great” — Me

How I survived going to Nice without speaking a lick of French is still a miracle to me. From boarding the flight in London to finding our seats for the Carnaval festival, the struggle was all too real. And while I’ve been to countries in the past where the native language is not English, I (clumsily) gracefully cruised through my adventures without a worry of the language barrier.

This trip was a little different. As soon as I sat down in my seat on my flight from London the flight attendant began speaking solely in French. I looked to my friend and met her identical, confused and shocked facial expression.

Well, great.

How did I survive the weekend without speaking French and being surrounded by delicious food, beautiful beaches, beautiful architecture and even more beautiful people? Apart from walking around with a blanket expression on my face to warn people of my lack of language comprehension, I survived because Nice is a place where cultures collide.

Nestled among the mountains of southern France and just minutes from the famous Monte Carlo, Nice is a sight for anything but sore eyes. Something that two student development interns needed after spending months working 65-hour work weeks surrounded by enthusiastic and energetic college students. *insert sleep deprivation here.* Nice was a place where we heard dialects from all over the world — Spanish, German, Chinese and (thank God), English.

Admittedly, I previously never had a desire to go to France because of the number of negative stories I received from friends and colleagues who visited the country. I’m ashamed to admit I was a fool to give in to other’s perceptions of such an amazing country and destination. Such a beautiful place that I can’t put it into words, but rather made a video to document the cities stunning features.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCopZ25hIx8

“My American is showing” — My Colleague

One thing that we warn the students at the study abroad program where I work is to be subtle everywhere they go. We encourage them to make in effort to immerse themselves in the local culture without being stereotyped as American college students known for being loud and obnoxious. (I promise you I have never been that American college student…)

Sure enough, there were moments when I said stupid things. Far too often I found myself saying “sí” instead of “wé,” or “hello” instead of “bonjour.” Even ordering at Big Mac at McDonalds was a challenge. (Also, yes — We were those Americans who went to McDonalds. Twice).

The response I received from the locals was always the same. A little chuckle at my flub, a slight nod, followed by them resorting to speaking English. So this blog is an opportunity for me to thank the people of Nice of being so nice (I had to say it at least once, right?) Thank you for sharing your incredible city with me. Thank you for your hospitality. And thank God you all speak English.

—NM

“No, you actually do not spell my name Knowland.” — Me

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“No, you actually do not spell my name Knowland.” — Me

Far too often I receive a cup of coffee from a local coffee shop with my name misspelled. But as an avid fan of caffeine I simply smile and say thank you because my only concern at that point is if the barista remembered to put an extra shot of espresso in my venti skinny Flat White with coconut milk. If they did forget my extra shot of espresso though… (well, that’s a rant for another blog post.)

I digress.

I’m Nolan Miles — A 23-year-old recent college graduate wandering the UK as a media intern in search of my next big move. Whether that be professional dog walking in Sydney, serving coffee at a local shop in Florence or (preferably) working at a global public relations and advertising agency, I’m both #blessed and #stressed for the new adventures and uncertainties that lie ahead.

“#MilesTraveled is my new hashtag” — Also me

I should start by warning any readers that this blog is yet another amidst the millions of others online written by millennials to document their adventures or mediocre life (I’m probably considered a member of the latter.) I should also warn any readers that this blog will probably be filled with millennial lingo, trends and other things that will embarrass me when I look back on it ten years from now.

With that being said, Miles Traveled is a blog about working abroad and any ‘ah-ha” moments and interesting occurrences that happen while traveling the European continent.

Also, yes. I did come up with the hashtag and I’m admittedly very proud of it. #MilesTraveled #blessed #happy #hashtag

“Are you an interior designer?” — The Pinterest followers I don’t have

No, but sometimes I wish I was. I’m a public relations new pro working as the media coordinator for a study abroad program called Harlaxton College. I do have a passion for interior design, but I also have a passion to write and produce digital content. It’s interesting how well writing and a sense of design go together. So don’t be surprised if you also see content about my other passions, like interior design, certain social issues and gummy bears.

Without further ado, please enjoy any future posts from yours truly!

Knowland

JK, Nolan Miles (—NM)