Two years of traveling around the world.
I never know what to say anymore when someone asks me how long I have been traveling. Two years ago today I left home on a one-way ticket to New York. And, a few days later, left New York on a one-way ticket to Berlin, with no further plans.
I didn’t know I would end up spending two months in Spain. I didn’t know I would end up spending eleven months in Asia. I most certainly didn’t know I’d wind up backpacking through Central America. I had no idea where I would end up, or if I would end up anywhere at all.
But I haven’t completely been traveling this whole time. After 15 months abroad I went home in October and spent most of the next five months there, attending my friend’s wedding, working as a consultant at my old job, relishing in the fact that I had a kitchen again.
So I am hesitant to say I’ve been traveling for two years (even though I totally slept on an air mattress the entire time I was in Chicago, which, really, shows no sense of permanence). When someone asks, and everyone you meet traveling always asks, I usually say “a year and a half of the last two years,” or, when being particularly modest, “I’ve been in Central America for four months.”
In any case, two years ago today I left Chicago on a one-way ticket.
And my life has never been the same.
Last year, at this time, I wrote about how a year of travel changed me. Or enhanced me. And right now I am not sure what to say. I feel like any changes in me are now more deeply ingrained, I don’t notice them. I realize, sometimes, in the thick of things, that old Val would probably be crying. And I don’t cry so much anymore, unless it’s something really big. Like tragedies at home. Or finding out that my friend’s adorable daughter has cancer. The little things don’t get me anymore. I just realize that everything will work out. If I am lost I know I will find my way.
And sometimes, in the thick of things, I find myself stepping back and thinking, “Wow…this is my life.” I am here, wherever that may be, in a forest, in an ocean, on a random street in a random town. And I am not sitting on my couch at home. And I am not sitting behind my desk at work. This is my life.
In the past year, my second year of travel, I made it to the Philippines and fell in love with the beaches. I made it Bali and started to learn to surf (I really need to get on doing that more). I got a new tattoo. I said goodbye to Chiang Mai, to Thailand. I celebrated my birthday in Hawaii. I celebrated Easter in Guatemala. Learned to speak Spanish (though, not well). Learned to love snorkeling (though, not with sharks). Went volcano boarding. Saw more volcanoes than I’ve ever seen before.
I’m not going to lie, the past year has had its fair share of ups and downs. I’ve thrown out my back. Twice. And backpacking in Central America started rough for me, I wasn’t feeling it here like I felt Asia. And while I still feel as if I felt more at home in Asia, it has grown on me here.
And don’t even get me started on the fact that I have met pretty much zero men I’ve been interested in here in Central America. Zero. (OK, maybe like one…but pretty much zero.) And let’s just say it’s been a long time since I’ve had any stories of particular note. (Insert a big sad face here for me, please.) (Seriously, my blog is probably way more interesting when I am having regular sex.)
I suppose it’s time to update you on my future. Because everything is about to change.
I fly home from Colombia on September 10. It was weird booking a ticket this time in that it didn’t feel as emotional as the last time. Maybe because I have a few more plans up my sleeve. Maybe because it will only been six months since I last saw my friends and family and home. And that doesn’t seem like all that long ago. Maybe because I’ll be going to Riot Fest a few days after I return.
Oh, and did I just say I have a few more plans?
Two and a half weeks after I return to Chicago I’m flying to Ireland and then to England.
Why the fuck am I going to Ireland and England?
Long story short, a cute boy asked me to come and visit him in London. And so I said hell yes. And then that happened to kind of coincide with the TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) conference in Dublin. So, in an effort to make this detour totally not about a boy, I booked a ticket to the conference. Plus, a few friends I’ve made over the course of my travels have offered up couches in London, and one of them invited me to go to Bonfire Night (whatever that is?) with her. So, while I may have no idea how I will afford it, and it may be a complete change in path, it will be a nice way to officially end my ’round the world trip.
When I come home from London I will be home for good.
Maybe not for good good. But for a long time.
Not because I particularly want to, mind you, but because I am almost out of money. And I have to go home, find a job. Don’t get me wrong, I am partially looking forward to going home. I find myself looking at class schedules on Dabble or Old Town School and thinking of everything I could do, learn, if I was just in a place. I find myself, still, lusting over teal couches and dreaming of how I will decorate my future apartment.
But I am also still dreaming of Africa. Of South America. Of Australia and Antarctica. Of living in Spain. Of motorbiking through Vietnam.
Some days I get nervous wondering what will happen, what I want to happen. What if I can’t find a good job and forever have to live with my mom, in the suburbs, without a car? What if I fall in love and everything goes out the window? What if I end up at home for longer than I want? Do I want to get married? Do I want to keep traveling on my own?
But, those times, I have to step back and remind myself that there is no right or wrong path. That whatever is going to happen is going to happen. And, as long as I keep living my life with intention, as long as I keep living forward, not stuck in a limbo, things will work out just as they are supposed to.
So, next year, on July 3, I may not be celebrating three years of travel. But I will still be celebrating three years of living my life on my own terms, of not being stuck, of choosing figs, of chasing figs.