I have tried to put off the ‘end’ of my trip for a while now. I have never actually said the words “the end” or “it’s over” on this blog (and don’t worry, I hope I never will). But it appears that at least for now, I have taken an extended break on the ‘world tour’ even though, I was STILL technically living out of a bag until just a few months ago when I untethered what was left of my cherished/despised possessions from their 3 ½ year lock down in storage. Don’t get me wrong, I am not done traveling and am always in some sort of early planning stages of the next trip, albeit probably never such a long one. See my Where Next post for where I may be heading soon. Admittedly, for the aforementioned reasons, I avoided doing any kind of wrap-up of the first two ‘world tours’ from 2006-2009. If you need a refresher on where exactly I did go, check out the Where LL page for my itineraries and locations around the world.
So I traveled solo around the world for 3 1/2 years – what the heck did I learn?
1. I learned more patience in the mundane.
Waiting for planes, trains, and automobiles became no big deal. I did a lot of waiting. But I was never in a hurry so it never really mattered. For once, time was on my side. I often didn’t know what day it was or whether it was the weekend or not because it didn’t matter. And unlike, ‘normal’ life, I never felt like I was wasting time, even if I just sat in a café all day or just wandered around. I have never felt so much in charge of my own time as I did then. When you have an open calendar and an open road before you, time is your friend and you find the joys in relaxing in the ‘wait.’
2. I learned to relax more and work less (obviously).
I learned the art of doing nothing. In my ‘real life’ with lots of to-do lists, jobs, hobbies, relationships, pets, friends, activities, outings, and vacations to plan, I had very little time to just sit around and do nothing. And I wasn’t good at it either. Just chilling for the sake of it and not crossing off lines on one of my many lists was hard for me. I have become better at just sitting in a café and letting time slip by or saying ‘yes’ to friends who just want to hang out. Now the trick is making sure I can continue to relax as my new reality of work, apartment, bills, and every day tasks inevitably grows longer once again. Gotta keep the balance.
3. I learned to let go of some control, to sit back and go with the flow more.
Although, I was traveling alone and very much in control of where I went and what I did and still had some semblance of structure, I was never totally sure of what a new day would bring. I tried to be open to change and new opportunities that came along. I let other people sway me more and tried to be open and flexible.
4. I learned I can make friends and build a community basically anywhere I go.
I arrived in Istanbul with no real idea of how long I would stay. I met some people right away who introduced me to more people and before I knew it, I was teaching English, had an apartment, was cat sitting, and had a borrowed cell phone with 20 new contacts – all residents of Istanbul who were now my friends. Amazing.
5. I learned how much we all have in common.
I connected with so many more people than I ever imagined I would.
6. I learned to give myself time, to transition to new feelings and things.
In my first month away, I felt lonely and unsure of how I would continue to live this new life for so long. Then I transitioned to my new life and the new rhythm of it all and it was okay. I realized that I needed ‘transition’ time every time I changed cities and said goodbye to new friends or even hotel rooms. Without fail, I would get to my new destination and would feel a bit uncomfortable, a bit lonely, and often would feel ‘icky’ in my new room for some reason. But I knew if I gave myself a day or two, those feelings would go away and I would have new reasons to enjoy where I was and often times, I found I liked it even better than the last place. Well, except for that one crummy hostel (university dorm during the school year) in Budapest or the pretty nasty bathroom at a couchsurfing bachelor’s flat in London. I don’t think he’d ever cleaned it …ever.
7. I learned there is beauty everywhere and in everyone.
8. I learned and believe more than ever, that people are genuinely good. There are ‘bad apples’ everywhere and yes, a few really evil people, but most people I encounter at home and abroad are genuinely good, warm, helpful people.
9. I learned to say ‘yes’ as much as possible. I think I always did this as a rule and less as an exception, but maybe this entire trip was my biggest ‘yes’ yet – to say yes to something most would knee-jerkingly say ‘no’ to right away.
10. I learned how little we need.
From living out of a bag with few clothes and very few belongings, I learned firsthand how very little we need (materially speaking) to live and be happy. I did not need or miss my TV or my food processor or my leather chair or my twenty-plus sweaters in various colors or dozens of pairs of shoes. Sure I missed some comforts of home at times…mostly just that, the comfort of being alone in my own home, but learned at the same time how unimportant all that ‘stuff’ is. What I do want and need is the stimulation of meeting new people, learning and trying new things, companionship, laughter…and most of all…love…just as John Lennon said.
Yes, there are so many scary reasons not to quit your job, sell your car, and get rid of most of your stuff. But, that is possibly just another reason I said ‘yes’…to buck the trend, to take on the challenge, to grab life by the balls and live the heck out of it!