10 months into the journey and post Mexico, I find myself unexpectedly situated in LA now for 2 weeks and it has given me the luxury of being in a comfortable non-foreign environment with lots of time to reflect on my journey. Catching up with old friends and sharing the highlights, the learning allows me to summarize, analyze and digest this massive experience.
Though my travels are not finished yet, I’d like write this all down and share.
The biggest luxury of travel – Time to think and talk to yourself
I was never good at taking time to think to myself. In your daily life with work, you go from one place / task / appointment to the other, catching up on status updates and emails in between on your smartphone. Probably the only time there is no distractions of new information entering your brain is when I was running. But even then, I was going through realistic To-Dos and brushing over matters that were close to daily life.
It took a few months to get used to letting my mind wander free to where ever it wanted. I would think about the day, about tomorrow, yesterday or 10 years ago. I let it wander to day dream, about the past, about friends, family the best of times, the worst mistakes, work, relationships, theories, food, and anything that entered my mind.
It also helped too that I lost 3 phones on my journey and I rarely had good internet connection to be connected and having so much time such as 12 hour bus rides with no lights or over nights stays at the airport or days with no plans but to take a walk around.
These allowed me to dig deeper beyond the surface, be comfortable and entertain myself and to finally feel comfortable in sitting still with my own thoughts. In addition, travel brings new scenery, people, flavors, smells, language, music in every step at a very fast pace so it naturally trains you to question, compare, accept and think on a daily basis.
Thoughts 10 months in and what I am grateful for to discover.
- Meeting people in the same state of mind – I have met the most amazing friends from literally around the world and I felt like we connect mentally at the same state that I am in. As I have taken the leap out of my comfort zone to see and discover new things, other travelers have all taken the same step to get here. There are differences in the backgrounds but I found the commonality in the mental state were so strong and a means to become friends very quickly and deeply that it was one of the best discoveries of the trip.
- Becoming attractive to attract people – When you are having fun and at your best, you attract people. The amount of attention I have felt on this trip is 100 times more than a year ago and it is because I am at my best and happy.
- Social skill – You wake up in different places, beds with different people (and I mean roommates) almost everyday. You have to quickly acquaint yourself to the new environment, make small talk, sometimes grow it into instant friendships and it is a constant challenge to your social skills. You learn to be interested in people that you may usually not associate with if it were your hometown and take an interest in their lives and stories. It has definitely widened my social topics and the conversation skills.
- Facebook & Social Media – I feel like I need to say a big Thank You. Without it, I would not have connected and re-connected to many of the people along the journey and even people from the past. How so many people have offered their advise on places I was visiting or put me in touch with their friends, came to meet me along the way is amazing and would not have been possible without FB. It has greatly influenced and changed the path of my travels. So I know its not cool to love social media, but hey, Thank You Facebook.
- Discovering new ways to live – I never saw so many options on how to live. A couple taking a year vacation on a RV with a 1 month old baby using the mom’s maternity and the husband quitting for the year. A software programmer that works 6 months and travels 6 months every year, a family living out their dream traveling through Latin America homeschooling 3 kids traveling in a van, a family living out of hostels, a couple that works and travels with no end date. I thought traveling was saving money, taking time off work but its opened me up to completely new ways people live and travel.
- Everyday new learning and rewards – When you are in a new environment, starting with the language you are constantly faced with new things to understand and learn. Learning your way around the neighborhood, figuring out the transport, finding new products and how to use them, new foods, new music, new customs. These are all small things but that sparks the mind. Also the great things is that you get a rewarding feeling of accomplishment when you get these right one by one every day.
- Getting used to changes – Nothing goes as planned. Things are different from what you searched online or what you heard. There is no use complaining about it, you just change your plans. You become flexible in accepting that things don’t go as planned and appreciate that you were able to come up with an alternative plan quickly. Yes, sometimes it costs you a lot of money and bruises your ego for all the planning in advance but its always at the end opened me up to new adventures.
- Being creative with what you have – Because I travel with one bag, the effort to keep it compact and sufficient was a constant challenge. You pack and repack and reevaluate the necessities. So you have to be creative with what you have. You don’t carry around the “just in case” nice heels, but do with flip flops and sneakers to make it into a acceptable night look. You reuse your sarong as a scarf, as a top, as a towel and accept that its not the best in the crowd but be pleased with your creativity.
- Things are just things – When you go from one place to the other every week, you inevitably lose things. My list is long with phones (3), wallets, credit cards (3), sneakers, towels, bathing suits, jackets, books…. etc. etc. etc. They devastate me each time and I hate myself for it but after a day or two, you realize they’re just things and you just learn to live without it. Things are just things and as long as you are safe and happy, you can go on. The only thing I would be really devastated to lose would be the HD of photo and memories which would be irreplaceable.
- Experiences, not things – Being in LA makes you realize how much we spend on things like having a good outfit to go out or having a nice car, and it makes me afraid that I will want them the more I am here. In my travels it was never about the things but what I can do with the little money that I had. I have lost the desire to own things but rather experience things and thought that is often very difficult in modern society, I hope I can hold onto these feelings.
In the 10 months, the adventures, the scenery the new encounters have been beyond amazing. But perhaps the biggest luxury of all is the time that I had with myself. To have the time to listen and talk to myself and be entertained by my own thoughts. Just a year ago I could not have sat still for 5 minutes. Now, I can sit still for hours with calm and with a smile on my face.