I was recently reminded of a travel story from when I was down in Patagonia several years ago. It’s one of those classic traveler memories that are funny after the fact but in the moment there was absolutely nothing funny about it. I’ve always acknowledged this reality about traveling in my own mind but it isn’t something I generally stop and have conversations about. It led me to the outward recognition that this is a traveler truth. Then I began wondering, “what other traveler truths are floating around out there?”
I ruminated for a while and this is what I’ve come up with…
Traveler Truth No.1:
Things will most certainly not go as planned and it will not be funny until approximately 1 year after the fact, at which point it will become hilarious and looked upon with fondness.
Once I began thinking about what happened in Patagonia (which is almost certain to be an upcoming blog post) my brain flooded with other memories from that trip then New Zealand, Belguim, Colombia, etc. It seems that everywhere I travel I have an uncanny knack for immersing myself in at least one ridiculous situation but I’m not unique in this capacity, it’s a badge of honor for those who care to brave international travel. There are translation blunders, culture clashes, misunderstandings, wrong directions, and unexpected illnesses.
Traveling is filled to the brim with choosing food from a menu by pointing and hoping for the best, driving with completely unknown traffic rules, encountering insects 20 times larger than you’re accustomed to, learning through experiencing, making fast friends, being pleasantly surprised, wondering where the hell you’re going, not knowing what day of the week it is, wishing you spoke the language, entrenching yourself in cultural traditions, walking-walking-and more walking, and above all; being exactly where you are.
It’s just you and a few meticulously chosen items stowed in a pack on your back traipsing through an unknown land. All the stuff filling your house that you can’t seem to part with has long since been forgotten as you sit cross-legged on the ground cooking another simple yet tasty meal in your one pot. In this moment I want for nothing. I have every single thing I need and I am reintroduced to the full body sensation of being content.
Traveler Truth No.2:
There is an inherent difference between wants and needs. When your true needs are being met your excessive wants tend to dissipate and dissolve into thin air.
On the other side of that coin is appreciation. When you live with the basics anything above and beyond is truly cherished. Your first hot shower in a month, a decent cup of coffee, someone speaking to you in your language, a flushing toilet, a resupply at a supermarket, dry shoes, clean clothes and/or a quiet night free from the sounds of howling street dogs. No wonder why us Wildland Firefighters travel so much in the off-season; most of the things I just listed are an everyday deprivation when you’re out on fires. We acclimate to this lifestyle for 6 months a year, why not keep going?
Traveler Truth No.3:
There is contentment in simplicity; there is disquiet in instant gratification.
In a time when instant gratification is all around us travel brings out the long game. It serves as a reminder that things, moments, and amenities are so much more valuable when you’ve done something to earn them. That incredible overlook cost you a long strenuous hike; the silence from howling street dogs was earned after 10 nights of tent camping for the upgrade to a nice cozy hostel, etc.
I’ve felt nomadic in my core being for as far back as my memory can recall. How can you recognize that feeling? For me it’s an underlying sense of dissatisfaction if I’m in one place for too long. By too long I mean that a few weeks of sleeping in the same place is enough to make me feel stagnant and disheartened. I think others may feel a sense of comfort from being at home where as I get that feeling when I’m away from home.
All peoples of the earth initially started out nomadic. We moved with hunting and growing seasons but now we hunker down because we have the ability to have everything that we need come to us, not the other way around. But what if those who came before us recognized that there was more to it than that? What if living nomadically also fulfilled a deeper purpose by experiencing parts unknown and interacting with different types of people?
Traveler Truth No.4:
You live wherever you are, not where your “stuff” is.
When you set out on a trip to someplace you’ve never been it is an intentional step outside of your comfort zone; it feels daring and bold. Whether you’re a well-seasoned traveler or a meticulous planner you still cannot truly know what to expect, which is part of what makes traveling so intriguing. This leads me to my final traveler truth.
Traveler Truth No.5:
The only way a journey can begin is to pack a bag and get your foot out the door.
Make the choice and devise a plan to get you there. Life is fleeting; that is proven to us daily, so why wait?
If you don’t ever fulfill that dream to go see the Eiffel tower then you’ll never trip on your shoe string at the bottom of the stairs falling down flamboyantly with windmill arms while you accidentally take out three other tourists like dominos. We need more bumbling traveler stories in the world, not less, so get going!