Can you believe we have been traveling now for six months? It has been a life-changing experience for us, but with none of our regular “people” around, it is hard to gauge whether that change is mostly internal or if it can be seen by the people who know us.
We have traveled more slowly than most people on this trip. It was a conscious decision from the start to do this both to learn more about each place and to save money. Even so, we’ve managed to do some pretty incredible things in this short time:
- Cruise from the Antarctic Circle to the equator
- Camp on Antarctica
- Trek for 4 days to the mountaintop fortress of Kuelap
- Bribe a border guard at Christmas
- Celebrate the Day of the Dead in a cemetery
- Witness a volcanic eruption
Most people on a round-the-world journey are in some sort of transition in life or looking to get something internal from their travels, and we are no different. What are we learning?
You may recall that we started our trip by flying into Ecuador the day after an attempted coup. From the very first moment, we have lived a life of adjustment, flexibility, and moving forward in the face of uncertainty. It spills over in large and small ways every day.
We don’t buy tickets in advance unless there is no other option. The reason? Plans change a lot, and we want to be able to go with the flow if a new opportunity arises. Sometimes it is an invitation to do something with new friends or to follow a fellow traveler’s tip to visit another place in a completely different direction.
We would have never seen the fortress of Kuelap or the mountains of Northern Peru without a tip from a fellow traveler, and without our local friends Catherine and Fernando we would have never been comfortable enough to enter an indigenous cemetery on the Day of the Dead. Both are highlights of our trip so far, and we are learning to rely more and more on this attitude of flexibility and spontaneity.
Call it what you like: living in the moment, gratitude, paying attention. This has been the most evident change both to us and to those around us. We watch sunsets, observe animals, and patiently wait for ice to calve off glaciers. We are learning the art of using all our senses to experience an event, an interaction with another person, or the feelings we have inside. Living without television and with limited internet access has been a huge help here, as I can see us sliding backward into a multi-tasking lifestyle when we have regular access to both.
Another way this has manifested is in food. We eat more consciously now, and that combined with all the hiking has meant that we’ve lost 20-25 pounds each. Paying attention to the food that goes into your body – and my body’s response to the food – is something completely new for me, and I’m so glad to have finally learned this lesson.
Life is richer when you can give your full focus to a person or activity and get that in return. I don’t know why we shy away from it – maybe we are not prepared for the power it holds? Either way, this is something I hope to see more of in our lives going forward and is one of the best things that has happened to us individually or as a couple.
Bribing a border guard to get out of a country, getting food/lodging in a new country without any local currency or credit cards, hitching rides – these are all things I could not imagine us doing before this trip. Warren is the better of us at “the ask,” though I think we are both getting to use this muscle more.
In fact, our entire 5-week cruise from Argentina to England with Gap Adventures is due to Warren boldly asking our hotel manager on the Antarctica cruise if we could do it. No one had before, and there were no rules in place for it to happen. But because he saw an opening and knew the worst thing they could say was no, he went for it. And I’m currently writing this post from the library of the ship somewhere between the Tropic of Capricorn and the equator on the Atlantic Ocean.
So many times in life we don’t ask because we are afraid of getting a no, embarrassing ourselves, or letting our true wants be known. The logic says “how will you ever get what you want if you don’t face those 3 (relatively minor) hurdles?” It doesn’t make logical sense, but I completely understand why so many of us don’t ask for what we want. But I am officially calling *bullshit* on all excuses for all of us from now on. Instead of fearing embarrassment we should embrace it because it means we are being truer to ourselves. And that’s the toughest audience to please anyway.
Has it been worth it?
We get asked this a lot. People wonder how we feel about selling our house and possessions and if we miss home and a “regular” life.
No, we don’t really miss having our house and possessions, though I sometimes would like to make my own coffee in the morning. It is probably because we took 2 years to get rid of everything and had plenty of time to get used to it, as well as the fact that we lived with a friend for 4 months after we sold our house and got used to using other people’s things and living out of a suitcase before we even left.
Most importantly, though, “home” is wherever we are together, not a building or possessions. What most people think is the hardest thing for us is actually the easiest.
What is hard is being away from the people you love. My dad retires this year, my mom changed careers entirely, my brothers are both making big changes in their lives, and my nieces and nephew are going to be functioning adults by the time we return. Not to mention our good friends who continue living their lives and experiencing joys and sorrows without us. Sure, we keep up via Facebook, Skype and email, but it doesn’t change the fact that we miss all the everyday happenings and we are not able to be there for them like we were before or depend on them to support us. We’ll always hear about the big stuff, but we’ll miss 1000 little things, and that’s what I love most about relationships.
At a time when we are going through the biggest experience of our lives, we are cut off from the people we’d most like to share it with. But there is a silver lining to all of this. I’ve found that not having that support system in place increases our dependence on each other, which has made our relationship stronger and more honest than it was before.
There really are no secrets when you live together 24/7, and a lot of the masks you put on in your life fall away.
I’d say that 6 months on the road has taught us a lot more about being present – really living – with ourselves and with each other.
What does the next six months hold? Well, we can’t think about that right now. You see there’s a beautiful sunset coming that I don’t want to miss…