Preparing for a new travel experience. It has been over 10 years since I last left the country with the plan to be gone for more than a few weeks. I certainly have some fears and concerns, but there is just something inside of me that is pushing me to do this and telling me that this is an experience and challenge that I need to be doing right now. Because I am older now, I have fears that are based in leaving behind the stable life I have built up over the last decade. Are these fears based on a predisposition that is natural and inherent in all people or something that is more based on societal norms that have been ingrained in me everyday since I was born?
When I took off for my first long term backpacking trip in 2002, there were no fears. The process was quick, poorly thought out and filled with the naivety of a 19 year old who only knew the world he grew up in. Now, because I am older and more established, there seem to be so many loose ends to tie up before leaving. The hardest and most stressful of which is choosing to leave my beloved pup. She is the one constant that I have had since truly entering adulthood. Although there is a certain amount of concern and guilt I have been experiencing with this decision, I know that it is best for her to stay back.
Having more possessions, responsibilities and people that in some way rely on my availability are what consume my thoughts as I prepare for these travels. Now, odds are that all these things will be ok while I am gone and I truly believe that with the technology we have today, any issues can be handled from afar. That does not relieve me of the stress completely, but it does offer a constant reminder that it will all be good.
As I get closer to my departure, I am learning that I am seeking an understanding of what it is that makes me want to do this at this time. Why am I a person that almost constantly has that voice in my head that is telling me to go and seek the unknown? I am learning that for me, complacency and societal norms are not a place for me to find long term happiness. I thrive and enjoy being on the precipice of change. It is what gives my life the most excitement. I almost feel as though I need the risk of major setbacks in order to push forward and grow as a human.
The last 10 years have been the most productive in my life in terms of career, education and adult growth. Finishing my degree, going through my first substantial love and heartbreak, finding some success in a career, financially preparing myself for the future and watching the health issues, both physical and mental, that my parents are experiencing, have lead me to where I am today. When I look back at these experiences, I am proud. It gives me the confidence to be able to go and do a trip like this at an age that is irregular, because I have the confidence to be able to do it all again if needed. For me, it has been finding that confidence and using it to argue against the concerns that arise.
I am so fortunate to have complete support from all those that are important in my life. My friends and family have done nothing but tell me to go and chase this. I cannot imagine how difficult it might be if that were not the case and their support certainly adds to my confidence.
Another prominent change in this journey is the addition of the amazing woman I have met, Lianne. When we met and started to discuss taking off on a journey together, I was telling myself that it is a big mistake, because if she were not involved, I might not be doing it. A couple of months ago, that voice actively changed and along with it, my mindset. Does it matter at all if you would or would not be going if she was around or not? I don’t think so. I started to think of it in a new light. Some people come into your life for a reason. Perhaps I just needed a catalyst and a partner to do this journey with and what is wrong with that? I have been so fortunate in my life to have many amazing experiences. Many of them I have shared, but an equal or greater amount have been experienced alone.
When I look back, I feel as though the ones that I have shared have had a deeper impact on me. There are always personal journeys that cannot be shared with another as we continue to grow and learn about ourselves, but it is the small things that we experience with people that are best to be shared. Driving around a corner and seeing an amazing view that you stop and enjoy for a length of time. The initial excitement of getting somewhere new and the exploration of it. Hearing an amazing song while a perfect breeze hits you and you look out over the sunset. These types of experiences can bring about such a euphoric feeling and I can remember having those feelings and feeling trapped because I didn’t have anyone to share them with.
There is a better opportunity to experience substantial personal growth and self-discovery when on your own. I have lived this and can attest that there needs to be a certain amount of solitude to reach these places. I would always encourage someone to go out and do this even though there are major fears and difficulties involved. What I have found is that it forces you to find your true self. We all need social interaction to some extent and when we can take time to be on our own and face those feelings of loneliness and self discovery, we become better versions if we allow ourselves to face these truths.
One of my biggest concerns leading up to this trip is the way that technology has impacted people’s ability to escape within themselves and discover their truth. It is going to be hard for me because I have developed bad habits of constantly checking and being engaged with my phone. Part of that is due to work, but a bigger part is that it allows an escape from sitting alone and facing myself and the loneliness that can come from that.
A couple of years ago when I was in the Philippines, I realized that the new generation of long term travelers stay connected and in turn, there is less human interaction. Instead of staying in the moment and being fully open to meeting people, whether it is locals or fellow travelers, phones and computers are nearly always present. I felt as though the travel experience was being diminished because the goal was to share the experiences they were having as quickly as possible for what I assume are a variety of reasons.
I do not think that this is all bad and am guilty of this as well. What I have been thinking about and trying to gain a better understanding of is why this need to share the experience immediately exists. Is it to get likes, followers, show off; or is it to inspire, educate and engage with people in a more collaborative light? I imagine that there is a healthy mix of all these things for most people. One of my personal goals on this trip will be to make sure that I am remaining open and spending plenty of time away from my devices so I can fully take in the experiences I am bound to have.
With this podcast, I want to talk to fellow travelers and learn about them, their journeys and most importantly, why they are on their journey and how it has affected them. People tend to only share the amazing aspects of their lives and I want to hear about the difficulties as well. The homesickness, the fears walking an unknown city at night, health issues from eating bad food or accidentally digesting the water. I have enough experience with this to know that it is not all glamour and positivity. What I also know is that the highs cannot be as high without the lows. These bad experiences shape our journeys and add to them without us really knowing until after the fact. These are the truths I want to discover and possibly help others to discover as well.
The anxieties that I have been experiencing as this trip approaches are necessary. I have always felt that nervousness helps us to focus and make our best decisions. I hope I always have a healthy fear of the unknown and use that fear to maximize my experiences. I may get a couple months into this journey and realize that that was enough time for me. I may see it coming to an end in 8 months and just be wanting more. There is no way to know at the moment, but the only failure that I can see is not trying and not listening to this voice that has been pushing me to go.
I am such a different person now than I was when that 20 year old took off for Asia. I am excited to travel as this version of me and see what changes and growth happen this go round. I am grateful to have an amazing person to be coming along to share in the experiences as well! I hope to put together some enlightening conversations that will lead to a few successful and insightful podcast episodes. Mostly though, I hope to change some of the bad habits I have fallen into. Relying less on my devices for companionship, staying open to personal growth and experiencing new places, people and cultures.