When I started this blog, I figured it would be a mix of documenting my travels as well as a journal of my inner thoughts, but that latter part hasn’t really happened. I’m not keeping any other kind of log, journal or diary of the trip. The mundane details of each bus ride, hostel, or what I ate for dinner don’t really interest me, so why would anyone else care? I take a lot of photos, probably only a quarter of which actually make it into the blog. I have a good memory, and usually when I see the photos, everything comes back to me when I go to write about a place I visited. This seems good enough to meet my desire of documenting my travel experiences. However, this blog post is going to be more about my thoughts, so what follows is just a random stream of consciousness…
So what’s it like to travel the world for months on end? There are days that are so incredible and amazing, I can’t believe this whole trip is still really happening. Some days that come to mind… the time I hiked up Mt Rainier, the spontaneous day trip to Arches National park, arriving in Iceland and feeling like I was on another planet, seeing London lit up at night as my flight landed at Heathrow, standing in front of the remnants of the Berlin Wall, being awestruck as I walked the beautiful streets of Prague, the incredible people met and time I had in Budapest, the day I flew over the Swiss Alps and arrived in Paris and headed straight to the Eiffel Tower, spending an entire month exploring Spain, finally seeing India and Thailand.
I never take it for granted that I can travel, and always remind myself of how unique the experience is. I wonder if anyone keeps data on how many people have done around the world trips. It can’t be more than a fraction of a percentage of the world’s population. I’m fortunate enough to have been born in a developed country where the currency is worth a lot more than in other countries. I also had a good education, and was smart enough to save enough money to make this trip around the world possible.
All of that said, however, there are days that are so mundane and boring, I think the people back home would laugh. I would have to say that after traveling for about three months, the whole experience becomes a new way of life. Even if you know it’s only going to last several more months, it’s your new routine for the time being. Not having a home or a job doesn’t seem so strange anymore. You lose track of the days, and everyday becomes Saturday. You’re surprised to find places closed, only to discover it’s Sunday and normal people aren’t at work. There are also errand days… doing laundry or dealing with stuff back home (I just did my taxes for example). There’s also the mundane travel details like figuring out where I’m headed next and how I’ll get there. What are the entry requirements for this new country? Do I need a visa? Where will I stay? What will I do when I arrive?
Traveling by myself has generally been really good. I’m usually not alone. I can almost always find other people either through my hostel or couchsurfing to hangout and explore each city. That said, I certainly do have very lonely days on the road. Some cities or hostels just don’t work out. I’ll go a few days without talking to anyone and wonder what the hell I’m doing. I kind of envy people I see traveling with friends or a significant other. They may be less likely to meet other travelers since they have each other, but they have a shared travel experience. I have no one person to share the entire experience of my trip with. I’m reminded of the line in that movie Fight Club where Ed Norton’s character talks about having “single serving friends”. That’s mostly what I have for each new place I visit. Nothing wrong with it, but is a little sad.
Time has sped up again
In the early stages of my trip, I noticed time had slowed down significantly. The passing of time is relative to each person, and I believe is based more on the number of different moments your mind experiences than some ticking clock. I’ve noticed in the last couple months time has sped up again. I guess it’s no surprise. Like I said, travel life has become the new normal. It’s what I do. Instead of a morning commute to work, I commute to a new city or country. Instead of optimizing a database query or building a report, I explore a new city and meet interesting people. Instead of going home at the end of the day, I go back to my hostel and look forward to the chance of meeting some other travelers who’ve just checked in. Instead of making dinner, I wander the street markets looking for something new to try or an old favorite if I’ve been in town for awhile already. Point being, it’s my new routine, so time seems to pass quickly again. I need to find new ways of breaking things up again if I want it to change.
Exotic becoming everyday
It’s funny how all these places that I thought of being exotic don’t seem that way after visiting them. I imagined Budapest and Istanbul to be these old world places that were full of mystery. I kind of pictured them to be these giant villages where nefarious characters roamed everywhere. What nonsense. They’re major cities. Walking down the street in a lot of these places feels like almost any other big city I’ve been in. Perhaps India is the only place that truly was exotic, and matched my expectations to a degree. Chances are, if you’ve heard of the place, there are travelers there. They have some kind of mass transit system, and figuring out your way around town isn’t too hard. Also, English is everywhere to a degree. The people might not be fluent, but a couple key words in the context of a given situation are all that is needed.
Falling into old habits
Solo travelers will all agree that you learn a lot about yourself when vagabonding alone. I realize that after months of being on the road, I’m more daring to try new things. However, I’m still susceptible to falling into old habits. Some days, it’s so easy for me to want to just sit in the hostel common area and veg-out on the computer all day. I still procrastinate and wait until the last minute to buy bus or train tickets, or book a hostel. I also get tired of doing all the planning. There are days I’d love just to hand it over to someone else to manage for a couple weeks.
I’m really over the whole hostel thing. They were a good life experience thing to go through for a while. I’ve stayed in about 30 different ones at this point, and I’m starting to venture back to couchsurfing. I’m also looking into doing homestays if possible. I want a more local feel for a place, and hostels just don’t cut it. They’re great for meeting people, but they can also be full of very immature people who just want to party.
I’ve really fallen behind on updating this blog. I wrapped up Turkey in late January, and then spent three weeks in India. I’ve now been in Thailand for three weeks, so that puts me about a month and half behind on updates. Most of the reason is not having reliable internet in developing countries. I’ve also gotten out of the big cities more in the last few months, and find myself in remote places that only have internet cafes. I’m not likely to sit in one of those places for a few hours writing in my blog. I have to be honest, though, I also don’t have the same level of motivation to write blog entries that I did in the beginning. Like I said earlier, this whole travel life has become the norm, and most people don’t journal about things in their everyday life, even though in this case, it’s pretty amazing.
Thinking of home
I seem to be thinking of home more these days. I miss all my friends and family back in Columbus. I think about all of you everyday, and really wish I could magically transport you to wherever I am, even for just a few hours so we could see these amazing places I visit together. In my imagination, you were there with me.
Have I Changed?
Before I left home, a few people told me that I would come back a different person. I’ll leave it up to the people who know me personally to judge when I get back if I act any differently. I don’t think I’ve changed in any fundamental way, but I definitely have a different perspective on the world. That was one of the points of this whole adventure, so glad it happened. I hope my post-trip life will continue to have more of an international flavor. I see myself as a citizen of the world, and never want to have a single country-minded or even continent-minded approach to life ever again.
That’s it for peeking inside my head for now. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments below. Sorry, no cool pics in this entry, but here’s one of me chilling in the woods in the middle of nowhere in Turkey with some tea.