Seventeen months. I traveled the world non-stop for seventeen months.
Why? It’s hard to explain. I wasn’t ticking countries off a list; that’s for sure. If I had, I wouldn’t have revisited so many countries or stayed quite as long. Of the 20 I visited only half were new to me.
I think my RTW trip was partly a chance to see more of the world while I’m still young and fit and responsibility free. My thirtieth birthday isn’t as many years away as it once was and I feel my wants for travel changing by the minute.
But experiencing these countries in my twenties wasn’t my only draw. This trip was an experiment in travel. I already knew what it was like to live in foreign countries. A year here and there teaching English taught me how easily one can establish his or herself abroad. I’d find work, a social circle and begin the routine of life, only every routine task would be slightly foreign. I’d speak another language, I’d adjust myself to fit another culture’s expectations, I’d learn.
This sort of travel is my most preferred. But when you’re 27 you realize it’s unrealistic to live as an expat in all the countries you still wish to see. So I decided that if I wasn’t going to be able to live in them all in my 20s I was going to stay in them all.
In most the countries I visited in my nearly year and a half of travel I didn’t stay as a tourist, but a guest. I’d volunteer and work for my food and accommodation. I’d befriend locals or other extended travelers in the area. I’d unpack my bag and when I was just about happy with my routine, just about comfortable with my surroundings, I’d tear myself away and move on to the next destination.
Was it better than hopping from place to place; 3 days in this hostel and 24 hours in this city? ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY.
Well it was for me. I can’t bash someone’s travel choices anymore than I can tell them that blue is a much better color than red or yams are better than sweet potatoes.
But it wasn’t all glamorous destinations and laying on beaches, fruity cocktail in hand. Well, there were a lot of beaches…
Life is still life when you’re traveling. I got diarrhea. No, really. 2 serious times. Like go to the hospital and get shots in my ass bad. I had a surgery on my kidney. I got treated poorly by fuckboys. I missed trains. I lost my whole fucking purse off the back of a motorcycle. I had times that I felt sad and lonely and all other emotions most humans experience in a year.
Have I grown so grateful for every day of this journey we call life? Am I holier than thou? Not really, it all feels pretty normal. A friend once told me I’m able to make the most of any situation. But I think I’m much more apathetic than a Pollyanna. I recognize how life can at times be dull and grim and I think I defy it by shrugging and ordering that other fruity cocktail or doing headstands in the sand. A sort of “If I’m going to hell, I’m going there playing piano.”
I’ve gained new skills in languages, yoga and mediation. I survived 3 months in India and can tell you I now feel like I can show up anywhere and act as I belong. I’ve spoken foreign tongues and even volunteered in a massive event as an interpreter. I’ve experienced new cultures and ways of seeing the world and living in it. I’ve embraced an inner badass that was probably always there.
I’m seeing the buzzword “Solo Travel” more and more frequently. Hello! My blog tries to empower women to do so. But seeing girls fresh to travel on Facebook groups chirping about their upcoming solo trips as if they’re announcing deciding to cut their hair I have to bite my tongue. There were so many times I felt lonely. I’d tire of being alone or hanging out with people I’d only known for a week. I want to scream at these chirpy chirpers, “It isn’t all fun!” But then I remember that thanks to being alone and making myself open and available to others I’d strike up conversations with strangers and befriend… or even fall in love with someone while on the road.
In truth I regret nothing from my trip. The good, the bad, the completely and utterly normal. ….On second thought…maybe I do regret not putting that purse strap around my neck when I was on that motorcycle.
Is travel still in my future? Yes, I think it always will be, in one of its many forms. But what’s been intriguing me the most as of lately is the notion of home and community. The last months of my trip I started to crave so deeply a routine, a circle of tight friends, a boyfriend to cuddle and share with that didn’t have an expiration date; none all too attainable while traveling.
Looking back, my happiest moments on the trip were when I had a steady flow of exercise, social life, cash income, nature and someone to come home to.
I’d love to end this post with something deep and spiritual and wise, but my advice is to follow your pinterest boards. No, seriously. One day I realized I wasn’t pinning destinations, but interior decorating and cooking recipes. Wanderlust was out and stability was in. Follow your hearts, my friends, and if that doesn’t work, follow your pins. ❤