- A gap year is a given.
- Journeying is normal.
- International experience is par for the course.
I forget, sometimes, that in the grand scheme of things, this is not normal for most. What’s normal is a two week holiday, if they’re lucky, once a year. That two weeks is all they have, and choices must be made about where and how to spend it.
I sipped my wine, caught a sly look out of the corner of my eye from a friend who could hear my thoughts, and decided to enter the fray. He hadn’t had a vacation in years, he bragged; he worked full on, and he was proud of it.
In my signature to-the-point style, I did my best to offend him:
- Who, in his right mind, would brag about that?
- Who would celebrate being chained to a desk?
- Who would count living one’s life for slavery instead of dreams a virtue instead of a vice?
His blue eyes locked with my chocolate ones, and we moved the conversation to the bar. It was a long evening of deep conversation, in which I found an unexpected friend.
By the end of the evening he’d made me a promise: Within one month he would take a two week vacation, hop on his motorcycle, and take a trip. I smiled and informed him that I’d require a photo emailed as proof. Six weeks later, I got it. In the photo, he was grinning.
I disagree. If two weeks is all you have, then it’s infinitely more worth the effort than at any other time. If you get a two week vacation and that’s it, then it becomes even more imperative that you make the most of that time, to rejuvenate, to rest, to educate and inspire yourself, and to feed your soul.
What can you do in two weeks?
- Fly to Cusco, immerse yourself in highland culture, hike to Machu Picchu and back, the hard way.
- Cycle the Rhine River Valley in Germany.
- Spend a week in Mexico City studying art and archaeology and then a week in Oaxaca tasting mezcal and mole.
- The major museums of Paris, and a lot of baguette and crepe tasting.
- A whirlwind tour of New Zealand and a week in Fiji, like our friends from Ohio did.
- Dubai, with a vengeance!
Just to name a few.
We met a couple cycling in Germany. They were from the Netherlands and were cycling to St. Petersburg, in Russia. They’d been at it for three years, in two week chunks. They’d take a train to where they left off and carry on as far as they could before taking the train home and back to work. They were building an epic adventure out of bite sized chunks.
I know a woman, in her mid-sixties, who spends more than half of her time in Cambodia working with a family run orphanage as the result of a two week trip she took whilst recovering from a life trauma.
Sometimes, long term travel grows slowly
It is in those two week chunks that eyes are opened, compassion is developed, dreams are kindled, boxes are stretched, glass houses are shattered, and kids who’ve grown into adults with no sense of themselves in the bigger picture are brought to their knees at the abject joy and wonder of the world and the commonalities that run like threads between humanity on every corner of the planet.
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Make shorter trips part of your strategy
We planned for a solid two years before we hit the road full time with our kids. We began on bicycles for a year, through Europe and down into North Africa.
During that planning time we took our vacations on two wheels in order to train our bodies and our minds for the greater cause.
- We tested gear.
- We tested our planning.
- We tested our mettle.
- We tried out staying in hostels.
- We determined we needed proper touring bikes.
- We built our confidence in our ability to fly by the seat of our pants.
We took loops through Maine, just one state away. Then we took off for Martha’s Vineyard, “unsupported.” Then the big enchilada: a 500 mile test trip through the maritime provinces of Canada. It took closer to three weeks. We learned a lot. You could do the same.
My friend has a big dream: a month’s walk along the Camino de Santiago, in France and Spain. She has a “real life” and a “real job.” She’s using every spare moment of her time off to train for our adventure this coming June. She’s hiking, she’s traveling, she’s learning Spanish on her days off, she’s researching like crazy. She’s taking a few days here and there to camp, and to load her backpack and tramp between cities in Canada, on foot. Baby steps towards a bigger goal. You could do something similar.
Two week trips matter
Oh, and the man with the piercing blue eyes who sent me that picture of his motorcycle and his smile six years ago? He tagged me in a Facebook post recently. It seems he’s sold his house and his stuff, purchased a bus, and has taken his show on the road full time, touring the USA, working as he goes. Now that is an epic life change, and an escape worth bragging about over drinks.
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