You’re not alone, you know.
I think just about everyone makes the same mistake when they’re planning and setting out. It’s so easy to do. Especially when you’re working so hard to break free of something and you’ve set your hopes high on this dream trip that’s the culmination of all of that effort.
It’s easy to let yourself believe that the trip, the adventure, the journey is the magic that will fix everything. That somehow you’ll discover who you are, and where you’re going, and make peace with where you’ve been on the road. That, suddenly, it will all become clear, your creativity will return and your life will have purpose that it seems to be lacking in the here and now.
It’s easy to let yourself believe that the trip, the adventure, the journey is the magic that will fix everything.
And then… you take off on your trip… and you find that so many of those things you thought you could see waiting for you, just over the horizon, are a mirage.
Can I tell you a secret?
Travel is not magic. You are.
The mistake we make when we put all of our personal – development and fulfilled – life eggs in one travel basket, is that we abdicate our responsibility to create our own awesomeness and our own adventure.
Yes, travel facilitates change by getting a person out of his comfort zone and things are learned, abroad, by seeing different ways to live life and experiencing what it’s like to be an outsider, a minority, and stretching to bridge those very real gaps of language and culture.
But there’s another secret to know: travel is just one way to learn those lessons.
The thing I’m continually learning and relearning about travel and adventure is that it’s almost 100% about what is going on in my head and has very, very little to do with geography.
When we travel, we see things differently than we do at home because we’re jarred into consciousness by the assault on our senses. The complacency and mental lethargy we exist in (and often lapse back into) at home is a choice. The thing I’m continually learning and relearning about travel and adventure is that it’s almost 100% about what is going on in my head and has very, very little to do with geography.
Everywhere I go, I am traveling (and not just because I’m professionally homeless!). A trip to the grocery store in middle Indiana, a walk in the park in the town I grew up in, a hike up a mountain on the island next to my brother’s, an afternoon at a gym day with my kids, and cleaning out my friend’s basement on Thursday afternoons are no different, for me, than crossing my favorite lago by boat to buy the week’s food at the mercado, or hiking New Zealand’s highlands, or camping across the Outback with my kids’ best Australian friends, or having 14 backpackers for Christmas dinner.
The trick is changing how we think, regardless of whether we’re able to travel
Almost all of the experiences we pine for in travel can be had, by the intrepid, at home. Virtually every town or nearby city has a population of immigrants. There are places and ways to learn a new language without leaving home. My uncle, who has traveled only a little, works with refugees in central Indiana. He works on language acquisition and cultural acclimation, and as a result, he’s become an expert in their culture and passionate about their causes. My friend Jade teaches English and works for the Canadian government settling immigrants into their new Canadian lives, right in the town we spent our childhood together in.
We can examine our cultures, wherever we happen to be at the moment, in the same way we jump into the deep end of the pool in other cultures when we travel.
We can examine our cultures, wherever we happen to be at the moment, in the same way we jump into the deep end of the pool in other cultures when we travel. We simply need to shut off our filter for what’s “normal” and begin to look with new eyes. A trip to the grocery store ceases to be a necessary evil and begins to be an adventure in culture study. We choose our foods for diversity and personal growth rather than comfort and ease. We talk to people, with a sincere desire to know something about them. We think about the world around us and how we fit into it.
Travel, adventure, contentment in a quiet life at home: it’s all in your head.
Travel will disappoint you if you don’t understand that. You’ll come to a point where you’re laying in a hammock thinking, “Is this it? Is this all there is? I thought there would be more, I thought I would be more….”
You will come to a point where you realize that what you’re looking for isn’t “out there,” it’s “in here,” and once you discover that, the world truly is your oyster.
Long term travel, in particular, is often a fast track to seeing your world, including what’s right around you at home, through new eyes.
Travel may not cure you, and it’s your head that you have to get right to make true changes in your life, but travel can certainly put you in the right mindset to make those changes. Long term travel, in particular, is often a fast track to seeing your world, including what’s right around you at home, through new eyes.
Of course the road will still sing her siren song, and you’ll lace up your boots and follow the melody no one else hears. You’ll be drawn to the far away and the exotic. Your “normal” will include other people’s wildest dreams.
You will learn to travel, and at that moment you’ll find that you’re profoundly at home, in your own head and your own heart, which is what finally allows you to find home again.
So, go ahead: plan your trip, climb the mountain of your adventure, dream very, very big dreams, but don’t give up the power in your life to a journey.
Remember that you are the magic.