As you could imagine, I’ve been asked more than once why I want to go on a trip like this. Why did I come up with this plan? Why do I want to go for so long – can’t I just take a few weeks a year? Why am I doing this alone? Why now?
As you may not imagine, I ask myself why all the time.
Why is an important question, it’s what made me ultimately decide to go this year. At the very base of it all, the most simple answer and the one that made me need to go now, is that I would regret not doing it. That looking back at my life I want to at least be able to say I tried, and hopefully be able to say I accomplished, my dream of traveling the world.
But to understand that why, I have to explain a little more about how this even got to be my dream.
I think at lot has to do with how I was raised. I spent a lot of time outdoors as a kid – some of my earliest memories involve biking on paths through the woods and playing on falling trees. Mine was a childhood about imagination and adventure. As I grew up, my parents fueled my sense of adventure with yearly family vacations to different locations, first around the U.S. and then internationally. Going to Europe every year for 8 years focused my adventure in a new direction: to discovering other cultures. This eventually led to studying German and spending 5 months abroad in Germany, where one of my secretly proud moments consisted of being asked directions on the streets of Berlin in German, responding in German, and getting a “Danke!” as they drove off. No English was used and I didn’t need any help directing them to where they wanted to go (mind you I was just in Berlin for a week, I was living in Freiburg). It was a minor interaction that only lasted a minute, but feeling comfortable in a new place by myself speaking to strangers in another language and then happily continuing on my way to explore all Berlin had to offer was a quiet moment of excitement in discovering a new place.
I could go on with travel stories but I’ll save them for future posts. Suffice it to say, with all the traveling I did in those 5 months plus all the trips I’ve taken before and after, I have always had moments, some quiet some very loud, where I feel most excited about life.
Life to me is about more than the daily routine. More than being successful at a job or a relationship. Right now, life to me is about putting yourself out there as much as possible to discover all that life can teach you. It’s bigger than me and I want to see more.
So why this plan and why for so long? Why won’t a month do?
Because, as I have said a lot lately, I don’t want a month I want a year. I want everything that comes with extended travel – the highs of solely focusing on experience for a year, the lows of overnight bus rides instead of flights. I am excited by the challenges this type of trip will offer me and what I will discover about myself when I face them. I am excited about all the possibilities that are out there. To actually change my mindset away from the normal routine I need to disconnect for more than a month. For a month I’ll always be coming back to this regulated world, to a job. But after a few months I’ll be able to say that what I do right now is travel. Experience. I will be able to explore the adventurous side of myself more than ever. And why not just 6 months? Because at that point, I’ll be out there, and there’s just too much to see to come back after 6 months. So I’m trying out 9 months with no return flight. 9 feels like just the right amount of time planned in advance to fit in most of my top list but not too long of an upfront commitment in case I don’t handle those travel challenges as well as I think I will.
Why am I doing this alone?
Flexibility. Freedom. The chance of meeting new people. The ability to encourage people to meet me somewhere. Not having to wait on anyone else to go. Traveling alone will get lonely at times, I know. I’ve had dinner alone at a restaurant trying to hide in a book so I don’t look as awkwardly alone as I imagine. And then I decided who cares if I look awkwardly alone, that’s just what I am, but I’m here and that’s what matters. Traveling alone gives me the freedom of last minute decisions, of only going to places because I want to go to them not because I have to coordinate with a group. Selfish? Maybe. But I’m the one taking the time to do this, so I think selfish is a given at this point. And I do hope people come join me. I want people from all walks of life to jump on for a leg of the trip and we’ll go anywhere they want to or I want to go. I’m flexible within my plan, so if someone says to me “oh I see you’ll be in Buenos Aires in September, I’ve always wanted to go Montevideo” I can say “Sounds good, lets meet there before I leave for New Zealand!” I also want to meet people along the way and, if the idea sounds right, travel with them for a while.
One night I was alone at a hostel in Istanbul with two Australians, a Dutch guy, and another American. My flight home was in a few short hours, and they almost convinced me to miss my flight so I could stay and travel with them. To this day, that night is one of my favorite nights in my history of travel, and all we did was hang out at the hostel swapping stories. In this trip, I will be able to keep going with those new friends.
So why now?
There are a few reasons. First, I am about to reach my travel budget goal, so I finally can go. Second, because I have been at my job and in this city for 3 years, and 3 years feels like the time to decide whether to stay or make a change. I know I want to do this, so I want to do it now before I get too settled into anywhere. Third, there’s something appealing about doing this trip at 27. I don’t believe the “life ends after 30” mentality that I’ve heard so much – I have to do all of this before I’m 30 and then I’m old and have to stop changing things – but I do like the sound of going on such a meaningful excursion at 27. Maybe it’s because as a kid that was the age I thought I’d get married (HA yea right like I’m anywhere near that) so I always had an idea that something big would happen at 27. Or maybe because it’s the beginning of my late 20’s. My early 20’s were characterized by college, my mid-20’s were focused on jobs and living in big cities, and now, at the end of this decade when we change so much, it’s time to try out a different kind of life. A nomadic explorer life. And before I do hit that big 3-0 I want to get out and see what else is out there so if I do feel like calming down a little then, I’ll have a better idea of where to do it and what to do.
And lastly, why now goes back to a conversation I had with a friend not too long ago. He asked me: what do I want to have done in 5 years? It’s easy to say I want to look back from my death bed and have traveled. That mindset almost had me convinced that I still have time, I could go later. But just 5 years is the immediate future. And with full confidence, I answered: I want to have done this trip.
So with that, I made it official. I told all my friends and family, gave my job 5 months notice, and started this blog. Now begins the countdown till departure. 4.5 months to go…