Updated: Mar 17, 2020
A year ago, I quit my corporate job and embarked on the longest trip I’ve ever done; four and a half blissful months of world gallivanting across 12 countries and more towns and cities than I can count. For some, this may not seem like a long time to be away from everything that’s familiar, for me, it was long enough to create a life-changing impact on who I’ve become. Here I am, a year later, realizing that I am no longer the same person I once was before I left on this adventure.
I don’t know how or when exactly it happened but there has definitely been a shift in my mentality. Prior to this, my longest trips have been a couple of 3-week vacations (which is still great!), however the style of travel is so different when I know there are only so many days to see and do as much as I can in the short time frame given. Each day is seized, itineraries are jam-packed and a ton of planning is done in advance.
This trip, however, was different. Without the pressure of time, I was able to truly live in the moment – not that I didn’t do so in my previous getaways – but this time, I appreciated the little things in very different ways. Instead of always being on-the-go, I had time to take pleasure in the relatively mundane but often overlooked aspects of travel. Things such as catching a student performance at the local theatre, sharing a pot of tea in the afternoon at the home of our tour guide and learning gardening techniques from our AirBnb host among many other unforgettable experiences. Some days were spent indoors, reading or watching local TV shows or doing laundry. There wasn’t a strict schedule where things had to be completed; days melted into one another and the sense of time became whatever we wanted it to be.
It really defined travel for me, a stark difference from being on vacation. I truly felt what it meant to be a traveler rather than a tourist. I got to know the people around me, observed what their daily life was like, dined in the same eateries they brought their families to. I observed traditions that were different from mine and participated in cultural and religious events with an open mind. I even adopted new ways of thinking that aligned with core beliefs of my own. It became apparent that there is so much more to life than the comfortable bubble I was living in.
Through my long term travel I realized material things weren’t as important as I once deemed them to be. I learned to work on a strict budget which meant sacrificing certain comforts or indulgences – looking back, I have absolutely no regrets. In learning to cut back, I recognized the things that I deemed significant and accepted what I could let go of (despite putting up an internal fight at first!). Wealth for me, came from memorable experiences and thrills were a result of connections I made with people and nature. There were moments on this trip where the beauty and majesty of our planet left me completely speechless; times where I was so filled with emotion and gratitude from just existing and being present that I felt it deep within my every fibre. After that, there was no doubt in my mind whether the sacrifices made were worthwhile.
I’d be lying if I said it was easy to get to this point. At first, I struggled with whether I truly wanted to give up certain things I was used to paying to experience while traveling (like fancy meals, tickets to certain attractions or better accommodations), but with being abroad for an extended period, some luxuries just don’t make the list. I made the conscious decision to leave the safety net of a stable job and had to learn very quickly how to stretch every dollar.
Since being back, I have taken my newfound realizations and implemented them into my life in “society”. I purged my home of all the things I thought defined what made me happy, but really, was just clutter taking up physical and mental space. I became conscious of everything I left behind when I packed for my trip and questioned whether I even needed them now, having survived almost half a year away without it. I now look for ways to revel in simplicity and discover joy in its purest forms – not in tangible things but in what feeds my soul.
This trip helped free me. It grounded me and taught me that I didn’t need a lot to be happy. It helped me be more grateful for my life of good fortune and privilege. Lastly, it propelled me to go back to my passion of helping others create their own memorable experiences. I decided upon returning home that I would dedicate my time to being a travel planner and focus on sharing my newfound knowledge through a reignited desire of doing more of what makes my heart happy. Being a part of another person’s journey of what could possibly be their own life-pivoting adventure is such a rewarding and humbling role. It isn’t always glamorous, but it is something I am proud to say that I love doing.
I am biased in saying that foreign and long-term travel has the power to impact you in substantial ways; putting yourself in any situation that allows you to feel vulnerable and alive will lead you on a path to self-discovery. It’s exhilarating and liberating. If there is anything to take away from reading this blog entry, it’s to get out there and do what drives you, even if it scary (especially, even). Take that step out of your comfort zone; I promise, you won’t regret it.
Looking to plan your next getaway? Feel free to connect with me here.