It seems like galaxies away since my visit to Star Wars and the Power of Costume at the EMP Museum in Seattle, Washington. Looking through photos and remembering my costume for the Sadie Hawkins dance in high school, it’s clear that although Star Wars may not be as prominent in my life, it still has an effect on me. While Star Wars has been ridiculed for its wooden dialogue, the most recent trilogy criticized for being “Popcorn Movies,” and people wondering about its future success with Disney, I can’t help but continue to be intrigued by its heroines, mainly Princess Leia. Known for having cinnamon roll shaped hair buns on the side of her head and the unforgettable metallic bikini from Jabba the Hutt scenes, her courage and strong-willed behavior is something I keep in mind throughout my life. My most recent solo travels in British Columbia, Canada had me thinking on exactly how much this princess of the Star Wars universe influence my thoughts, actions, and decision-making. Here are a few ways Princess Leia has shaped how I travel:
Don’t wait around to be rescued, and don’t be afraid to be the rescuer. Although Luke originally saves Leia in Episode IV: A New Hope, Leia doesn’t play the part of damsel in distress and immediately jumps up to join him when she learns he knows of Obi-Wan Kenobi. She isn’t afraid to jump into the garbage shoot and find an alternative way out of a sticky situation to seek help. The same rules apply when she retrieves Han Solo from the frozen carbonite in Jabba the Hut’s Palace. Leia’s not afraid to disguise herself and rescue Han Solo, and when she has the opportunity to strangle Jabba the Hutt with chains, she doesn’t hesitate. Thinking back on a recent discussion with friends about planning solo travels, my friends commented, “We’ll be afraid for you, because you’re a woman.” Although women have to be cautious and aware of different circumstances than men do, this doesn’t stop me from considering my solo adventures. If I can surround myself with good resources, be aware of my surroundings, and adopt the courageous spirit of Princess Leia who refuses to wait around for others to make things happen, then I’m all set for solo travels.
Always trust your instincts. Many Star Wars characters have said the iconic phrase, “I have a bad feeling about this.” And usually, they’re right. During Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Leia trusts her feelings when they warn her of Luke’s struggle to survive while hanging onto an antenna outside of Cloud City. While some may second-guess these instincts, Leia trusts them and refuses to listen to Lando’s warning to save Luke from near death. When it comes to travel, I’ve been told countless times from bloggers, travel books, and other resources that you should always trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t get involved and don’t be afraid to speak up and leave the situation. Trust that innate sense in you that signals to get the hell out, rather than embark on something that you don’t feel quite right about.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Leia is a woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. When Han Solo insults her, she gives it right back. Perhaps I admire her for this because I come from a family where people are encouraged to speak their mind, and both my mother and father come from very outspoken families, so you have to make sure your voice is heard. Whatever the case may be, I’ve always admired characters like Leia who speak up for their true feelings and aren’t afraid to ask for what they want. Thinking back on some of my travels, I recall times I didn’t speak up for myself and regretted not being able to see or experience what I wanted. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more vocal about my desires because I realize anything could happen, and if I want to see a specific place while I’m traveling, now is the time to do it.
Be creative when finding an exit strategy and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t mean you are weak. Princess Leia knows that reaching out to influential figures like Obi-Wan Kenobi with the help of R2-D2 is not a sign of weakness. With all of the various mishaps and unexpected traps, Princess Leia and other Star Wars characters are constantly finding creative ways to escape and making unexpected friendships for help. When Princess Leia meets an Ewok and forms a bond with this creature, it turns out to be an incredible asset as the Ewoks help the Rebels fight and defeat the Empire. While visiting the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, I ran into a woman from Australia in several different sections and even ended up on the same bus back to downtown. We started talking more and sharing our adventures and I was intrigued to learn about her adventurous spirit who was on the way to Vancouver and Alaska. Before I realized it, the bus pulled up at my stop and I had to leave. My only regret was not getting her name and contact info, because you never know when someone you just met could turn into a powerful ally and friend.
Never forget the importance of your friends. Leia is always a loyal friend. She comforts Luke when Obi-Wan Kenobi has passed away and she doesn’t trust Lando after his betrayal of Han. She understands the importance of loyalty in friendships, something everyone could learn from. When I’ve gotten sick while traveling or miss the comforts of home, it’s my friends who always find a way to communicate via social media, e-mail, or phone call so I know I’m not alone and there is always hope. Some friendships have regrettably ended, but the ones who have stayed around despite disagreements or life changes, are the ones that are always worth fighting for, no matter the miles apart.
Know the importance of home and where you came from. Leia is always fiercely protective of her home planet Alderaan, and not solely because it’s a peaceful, harmless, and beautiful planet. She protects Alderaan because she knows that’s where her roots are, and she’s devastated when the planet is destroyed in front of her because she refuses to disclose the Rebel base. This is something I struggle with, because I feel I have yet to find a place I belong and can call home. However, I also know that home is wherever my family is, and they are the people I am protective of and care for, no matter what.
Even though I no longer wear that Princess Leia tunic my mom cleverly crafted so many years ago and my hair is way too short to put up in hair buns or braids, I still carry the lessons and influence of this sci-fi character. I still crave adventure and don’t need to wait around for others in order to explore the world. No matter where I am in the world, I’ll always be a loyal friend, I know when to ask for a friend’s help, and I’m always open to making more memorable friendships. Most importantly, I know to be aware, trust my instincts, and always remember where home is when I need it. Until next time, I’ll be on another travel adventure, in a galaxy far, far away . . .