What have I learned from making travel a priority in life?
I am twenty-two years old and have visited twenty-two countries. I present my passport like a treasured relic to any customs officer who asks for it. Once the travel bug bites you, it’s hard to satisfy that itch.
There are many who have traveled cheaper, smarter, and broader than I, but efficiency was never my intention. I learned from hands-on experience. For example: bandanas are ideal for smuggling the inedible parts of goat head curry, from your mouth to a nicely forested area, while enjoying dinner in a village in Nepal.
I read a few articles about budget traveling before I left to travel around the world. But like most things I tossed myself into the experience. As a result, I spent too much money on things I shouldn’t have. I visited places I would rather have skipped. I spread myself out across the world too thinly to truly drink in each culture. I realized that I didn’t want to spend all my time on a computer, deciphering the cheapest way to go about it. That took away from the time I had to explore. Money comes and goes but my experience in each place was fleeting.
I explored several countries with my family but visited most of them on my dime. How, at 18, did I save the money to travel around the world for twelve months? I made it a priority. I worked sixty plus hours a week for a year and a half while living at home. I don’t have a magic formula and am lucky to have a family who enjoys my cooking enough to keep me around. Not everyone has this ability, nor do I recommend it to many. However, it was my way of showing myself I could do what it took to make this desire into reality. It was my investment in myself.
The key to traveling is deciding you are going to do it. If you truly, deep in your bones, want to take a trip, then make it happen. Don’t let anything hold you back. Make it a priority. Once you venture down the rabbit hole of excuses, there is no coming back. All you have to do is buy a ticket. Over planning can save you money but limits the amount of random life changing excursions you never thought you would take.
Traveling solo was the best experience I’ve had. It taught me self-reliance, to trust my instincts, laugh at awful situations, sit in loneliness, and realize there are many ways to live this life. It was also unsettling to disconnect from routine. To sleep in different places every couple of nights and feel ungrounded in the constant motion of it all. There were times I felt like I was wasting days as I traversed cities. Travel is hard. It’s beautiful and completely real. I highly recommend it to everyone but realize it is not a way to escape. Life catches you quicker than you think.
Returning home, after a year of being gone, was completely debilitating to me. The culture shock of being in a place that was so familiar, created an illusion around my travels which made them feel as if they never took place. I stumbled across this article when I first came home and just rediscovered it. I think it does a beautiful job of describing this particular feeling.
I tend to take far too many "mindless photos". Pointing my phone at this or that and shooting away. Annoyed that I miss out on experiencing situations because I was too busy photographing it, I decided to buy a 35mm film camera. This way, I could really think about the photo I wanted to create and only take one or two. I have loved the experience, although a slightly expensive one, and I love the physical feeling of holding pictures in my hand.