It’s hard to believe, but it was exactly two years ago today that I said “fuck it” and left the safety of stationary life behind. I haven’t been on the road constantly — I’ve spent several short bouts “at home” in Austin, TX — but I’ve never stayed in one place longer than four months.
Travel allows you to explore the nooks and crannies of the world in intimate detail, but leave its true mark on you in the fundamental changes and, in some cases, re-affirmations it makes to your belief system. Here’s where I’m at, 24 months in.
The world is mostly safe
I have never been mugged. And this is not for lack of trying! From São Paulo, to Naples, to Cairo after the revolution, I have walked alone at night in “dangerous” cities such as these and have not so much as been glared at. And I’m an unthreatening gay boy! I won’t say that crime doesn’t happen — and I’m almost certain I’ve just jinxed myself for the future — but I think people’s fear of being harmed almost always exceeds the likelihood of being harmed. Living in fear sucks; let’s stop it.
Alone time is good
Alone time, both at home and on the road, is a “processing” period where you subconsciously and consciously decide which elements of your recent experiences are worth holding onto. Whether you’re readying your own version of “Eat, Pray, Love” or are meditating on the extent to which your dream job or dream spouse actually fulfills you, awareness only comes in solitude. The tricky part is that experiences are more plentiful when you travel, but being by yourself is often impossible.
Love is always at first sight
I’ve already written extensively on this topic (i.e.: here and here) but my long-held assumption — that you pretty instantly know if you like and, in some cases, love someone — has proven overwhelmingly to be true. I’ve got boys in all corners of the world I now wish I had stayed for, and will surely have a couple more before the next time I return home. If I return home: One big travel goal of mine is to have a long-term foreign boyfriend.
Money is becoming passé
You know what’s really nerdy? I got a glass top for my tacky IKEA dresser and put all my foreign coins and notes under it. I love the way money looks, under dresser tops and otherwise, but the more of it I change and exchange, the less meaning it has to me. The void failing national and regional currencies have left in the economy is being filled by a new ether currency of sorts. I don’t think we’ve even seen the beginning of “e-commerce” yet, folks.
Getting angry is never worth it
I’ll admit it: I’m a little bit of a travel diva. From poor Wi-Fi connections, to clogged shower drains, to last-minute prices switching, I’ve been a huge dick to more than a few people. But sometimes I get legitimately angry, and it’s a wonder I don’t get my ass beat — I’ve come close! The only effect getting angry has is alienating you from any person who witnesses your tomfoolery, whether you’re in your backyard or the remote Moroccan Sahara.
“Yes” is the best answer
Speaking of Morocco, I was in Morocco last autumn that I met Erin from Melbourne, Australia. “You know what I don’t get,” she said, as we headed toward Morocco’s über-interesting east coast, “is why we’re the only foreigners on this bus, headed toward this amazing old city!” I agreed with her, but I’ve also been on the other side and forgone excursions for the creature comforts of the city. Anyway, life has a lot of gifts to give, many of which are “one-time only” offers; if you don’t accept them, it’s on you.
Life is not a competition
I’ve acquired truth traveling, but I’ve also sought thrills, from doing it dirty in Brazil, to scaling huge volcanos in the Philippines, to attempting to take an overland trip to a country at war with all of its neighbors. But the thing is, the rewards of travel are not directly proportionate; you don’t (necessarily) become wiser visiting your second 20 countries than you do your 40. What counts is not how much you experience, but how you experience it. I’m working on that last bit, I promise!
Home is where your passion is
I’m currently at my friend Bianca’s place outside of Zürich, Switzerland. It’s the fourth time I’ve visited, and I know her family and friends so well I feel like I’m part of their lives. But familiar faces are not a prerequisite for feeling fulfilled or content! The key to overcoming feelings of longing and even nostalgia is finding the things that bring you joy in life in your new surroundings, and getting over the fact that the faces and street plans are different.
Setting goals is essential
I first became obsessed with setting goals back in 2002, when I secretly drove to Atlanta to visit my then-Internet boyfriend. Only it wasn’t a secret, because my car broke down halfway and I was screwed. My Dad made me repay him every last cent I borrowed from him during the ordeal; I set a goal I initially considered unachievable — and achieved it! The same has been the case for my move to China, freelance writing from on the road, and eventually making money from my blog. Your thoughts are your destiny.
Everyone is capable of enlightenment
If you find bliss in the forest, come back and teach it to me.
Right now, I consider this line from my favorite travel book Siddhartha (said by Siddhartha’s father to him) my life’s mantra. Only I don’t only want to teach my father to be blissful: I want to teach everyone I meet! I don’t write a travel blog to pat myself on the back — well, not only for that reason — but because I want you to be patting yourself on the back, too! Whether you travel like me, or seek knowledge in your own way, you are completely in control of the extent to which you understand the world around you. Curiosity is your greatest resource!