Just last week I was writing about hitting a major milestone—turning 30—and now it is time for another: it hardly seems possible, but Tony & I have now been traveling for six months. I know it’s true, and yet I can hardly wrap my head around it.
My mind balks at the thought we’ve been gone for HALF A YEAR now. Half a year! That empirically seems incredibly long but, in reality, it has felt like no amount of time at all. And yet I can’t deny the changes that I have undergone, changes that no amount of wishing or wishful thinking will bring about, but only result from the thing resembling the spiritual bootcamp that we have constructed for ourselves.
Six months ago, we threw our old lives away and flung ourselves headfirst into the world, hearts open to whatever we might discover. Now as I stop to take stock of what I have achieved thus far, I see that my perspective on life and my way of seeing myself and what I am capable of, these things have irrevocably changed. Travel has changed me in ways I had fiercely hoped it would, but also in ways I never dared to dream it could. Whenever I doubt that this is the case, I need only look in the mirror or at our photographs compiled over the months. It is written on my body not just my psyche; not only is my soul lighter, I am physically lighter, too. In six months, we’ve left a lot behind, and that includes 25 pounds of unwanted weight on me alone.
When we first conceived of this trip, our mission was to conquer an unknown section of the world, and in so doing kill two birds with one stone: we would cross some places off a travel list that was quickly spiraling out of control, slaking our wanderlust while we had no major commitments, all the while figuring out what it was we were meant to be doing with ourselves when we returned home. At the time, a year devoted to travel seemed impossibly decadent, and the itinerary that we had carved out for ourselves would surely allow us to say proudly that we had traveled and that we had seen something of the world.
Six months in, the itinerary is as dead as the lives we were living (existing?) before we left. In an unforeseen mishap, our original route was accidentally deleted off the site, something I lamented when I discovered it, but now is something I think is probably all for the best. So, while I can’t refer you to our best-laid plans, I can tell you that those plans that once seemed so monumental, now seem like hardly anything at all. And this is not to belittle what we have seen and done, but is simply because my views on what my life has become and what is possible for myself are so much bigger than they used to be. It’s funny how the decision to give one relentless, ineffable dream the room to breathe caused the world and my life to crack wide open to me, but in taking the risk to travel, that is exactly what happened. I’ve quoted these exact words of wisdom by Joseph Campbell before on this site, but they are so fitting, I have to type them again: “You must give up the life you planned to have the life that is waiting for you.”
Only my life isn’t waiting for me anymore. It is right here, right now, and it is mine. Now every day that I wake up is precious because life is once more scary and exciting and unpredictable and challenging and in all these things there is beauty. So many things have happened on this trip that I never planned and, if I’m being completely honest, had insufficient imagination to even conceive of. I won’t attempt to enumerate them here as that’s what all our other posts are for, but suffice to say that though there are certainly days on the road when things are hard and sometimes even bad, the one thing life certainly is not is dull. I am always learning and growing, and I am constantly being surprised by twists along the way, and if that is not the way life is meant to be, then I might as well hand in my passport right now because if that is truly the case, then I have learned nothing.
Six months in, the old itinerary is out the window and the new itinerary… doesn’t exist. Now we only crudely sketch out what the coming months will bring, because as John Lennon once sang, “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I’m learning to embrace the unpredictable and to focus on the present in ways I never was able to. We make last-minute plans and change even those at the last-second. Gone are the maps and bucket lists and instead the only compass by which we navigate is driven by the desires in our hearts, right here, right now. We go where we want most because the world is big and life is short and when you add those things together, there is no point saving the best for last or even until tomorrow.
Given all that, I can tell you that in six months, we’ve visited eight countries and our ninth is just on the horizon. But I can’t tell you where we will be six months from now and what our tally will be at that point. All I know is that it won’t be enough. We were never so foolish as to think we could see the world in one year, but we were naive to think that whatever we did see would be enough, that we could cross countries off our list, content with the sense we had seen them and discovered all we could. Of the eight places we have been, only two of them are places we feel no burning desire to return to any time soon. And no, China isn’t one of them (can you believe it?!?)! What’s more, our list of places we *need* to see, has only increased. The more we see of the world, the more we realize how little of it we have seen, and how there is something inside us telling us that we must keep pushing and exploring, because the world has an uncanny knack for keeping you honest, astounding and humbling you whenever you feel just the slightest bit jaded. It has been six months, and I truly cannot envision a reality in which I exist and I will have had my fill of travel. It will never be enough.
Before we left on this trip, we had several people cautiously say they thought our idea was cool, but what did we plan to do when we got back? I would shrug and awkwardly mumble that I didn’t really know, but part of what I hoped to discover on this trip was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
And now I know: I want to spend my life traveling and chasing my bliss. The next six months, we’ll continue doing exactly as we have, turning the world and ourselves upside down to find the very best bits in each of us, but we’re also going to start laying the foundation to ensure that we can keep doing this. I don’t entirely knows what that means, but I know I have to find out.
I also know that one day, sooner than I would like, it will be time for us to head back and embrace the new life and host of possibilities that will be waiting for us there. The thought of it scares me, but I hope that when the time comes that I will be able to face that fear head on, just as I did six months ago.
But for now, I’m mostly just glad that today is not that day and instead brings another day of travel.