One year ago today, I ran away.
Thoughts on a year of traveling the world.
Everyone’s told me that I’m so brave. But I’m not. I’m a chicken. I’m scared to death of this whole thing. I hate being out of my comfort zone. But I just think I want to be a braver person. A different person.
July 3rd, 2011 at 6:56 am
When I left home, a year ago today, I really didn’t think I would make it this far. I was scared. I was intimidated. And a whole year seemed like such an immensely long time.
I’m pretty sure that no one reading my blog in the early days of my trip thought I would make it three months, let alone a year. Honestly, there were so many times that I was ready to just pack up my bag and buy a ticket home. Dejected. Thinking that this trip that I had thought I had wanted to take for so long was neither something I really wanted nor something I could accomplish.
But, here I am. Twelve months later.
Am I a braver person like I hoped to become? I don’t know. Am I a different person? I think, in some ways, I am.
Travelers often say that they travel to “find themselves.” It’s one of those generic and cliche answers that is also so perfectly appropriate. “I want to find myself.” I mean, isn’t that, in some ways, a goal all of us have? Who doesn’t want to look in the mirror and know exactly who is looking back? And what better way to find yourself than to throw yourself into a massive world-wide game of hide and seek.
I don’t always feel like I’ve changed, but I know, in a lot of ways, that I have.
I’m more confident, I’m more relaxed. I’m able to deal with strange situations on a different level than I could have before. I’m able to interact with people on a different level than I could have before.
But I can’t say, in any way, that I’ve “found myself.” In fact, looking back, I feel like I pretty much knew the girl who I was.
I was a girl who didn’t have sex with guys she just met. The kind of girl who loved her pasty white skin. The kind of girl who dreamed of a nice wedding, a nice house. Kitchenaids and granite countertops and the like. The kind of girl who was perfectly content to sit around watching DVRd reality shows on a Friday night.
It’s this girl, who is unfamiliar to me.
This girl smokes an occasional cigarette while drinking. This girl orders beer. This girl has a constant tan. This girl has had sex with more men in her 30s than she did in all of her 20s. This girl will sit down at a table full of strangers. This girl has gotten impossibly good at remembering people’s names when they introduce themselves.
That girl had planned her wedding since she was five years old. This girl is looking at her savings account and thinking “I don’t need to ever get married, I can travel for just another year…”
Quite frankly, I have no idea who this girl is. But, even though she’s a hot mess, I’m pretty sure I like her a lot.
And she doesn’t want to stop traveling anytime soon.
Sure, I want to return home. I want to meet my no-so-new nephew. I want to eat deep dish pizza and beef sandwiches and hot dogs.
I want to see my friends.
Because my friends are kind of amazing. I am more than thankful that I have so many amazing people in my life who are so supportive of what I’ve chosen to do.
People keep telling me that I’m going to come home and no longer be able to relate to my friends. And that makes me sad for those people.
I think I’m lucky that I have so many friends who just get it. Like Heather, who ditched an engineering degree because she wanted to teach and is always able to find ways to make ends meet and whose perseverance has finally paid off for her. Like Nadia who went back to school to study science because it’s what she’s always wanted to study. Like Jen who packed up and moved to Seattle because she’s always wanted to live there.
Just because they aren’t traveling the world doesn’t mean they aren’t trying to make the life they want for themselves. And I totally respect them all.
And, besides, I can drink beer now which totally makes me relate more to people at home. Just saying.
Of course, part of me wants nothing more than to go home and get an iPhone and a condo. I mean, my life list…and my life…doesn’t revolve around travel. And I haven’t totally given up my dreams of Kitchenaids and granite countertops.
Some days I just want stability. Routine. I would like to have a relationship that lasts longer than two weeks, something I don’t know if it’s even possible that I’ll ever find that on the road. And I want to be somewhere were I can take guitar lessons, go to a gym.
And I buy souvenirs. Lots of them. And I imagine where I’ll put them in my imaginary apartment.
I’d like to grow a garden. Keep a plant alive for longer than 6 months. And I still dream of renovating a Wicker Park three-flat.
But I’m not sure I’m ready to give this lifestyle up anytime soon.
I can’t imagine going back to a desk job. Working 9-5. Waking up in the morning thinking “what do I have to do today?”
I love the freedom. I love meeting new people with new accents. I love seeing new things, new places, daily. I love waking up in the morning and thinking “what do I want to do today?”
And, truth be told, I kind of like the status of it. It kind of makes me feel like I’m, for once, the cool kid at the table when I’m sitting with a group of backpackers and I’ve been traveling months longer than anyone else at the table.
So, the question is, what now?
I had originally planned to go home in May. And it’s now July 3. And the return date in my mind keeps creeping further and further back.
I do plan to go home. I may return in September to road trip for a few weeks. I may stay in Asia a little longer, head to Bali and the Philippines and return in October.
I’m still not quite sure, but I will be back for a wedding in October. That I will not miss.
But I don’t plan to stay home for long. Not yet.
I think I may go to Mexico and work my way down until I really am out of money. Through Central America and hopefully a little bit of South America.
And I hope to find a way to make money. Because, seriously, I made a plan for where I would like to go for the next 5 years (I still want to road trip Australia, I want to spend more time in Spain, I want to go to Morocco, I want to visit England and Ireland and Scotland, I want to drive to Alaska). And while I’m not sure how long I will want to keep going, I’m hoping I can make the option to keep going work out.
Because, here’s the thing: I’m 31. I can go home, buy a condo, think of all the travel I still want to do. But if I go home I would probably settle into a job and a mortgage. I want to keep the momentum going. I want to keep going.
So here’s to the last year of my life. The first year of my life where I really took control and lived the way I wanted to live. And here’s to the next, I can’t wait to see what other adventures are waiting for me out there.