The Travel Drug – Asia, Europe, South America
Sometime last May, I took my first dose of "The Travel Drug", but before I go into this too much, let me give a bit of background. I was born in California, USA. I am an average white, middle-class American. I've lived a fairly monotonous suburban upbringing in Brea, California. Brea is the picture perfect example of a "cookie cutter" – all American city. Anyone reading this gets anything out of this article, it should be this: If you do some travelling around southern California, and even think about stopping in Brea (don't know why you would), skip it, you're not missing a thing.
Enough of the angst for an otherwise normal city, but it does bring me to why I decided to see what else is out there. Time had come. I was ready to give myself an informal education on the world today: the politics, the cultures, the foods especially, and anything else I had missed out on in my previous 22 years of existence. First came complete cashing in of everything I owned, which unfortunately, only added up to about $4,300. Then came getting the proper equipment for eight months abroad; the necessities, or so I thought. I had my rucksack, my plane tickets which I had bought three months prior – to Chile, Britain, Singapore, Japan and home in time for Christmas. Of course, my parents were frightened; friends were slightly envious and supportive. I hadn't a clue as to what to do.
First stop, first time out of my country, first time going anywhere on my own. I landed in Santiago, Chile with absolutely no grasp of Spanish. I learned quickly. I spent two weeks in Santiago, searching the internet for things to do, partying with every traveller coming through the hostel. This plunged me into something I'd not experienced until that point: all sorts of great people with different accents, different languages. Everything was gravy. I ended up networking quite a bit, learning more of these people, and the places they had come from.
This is where "The Travel Drug" comes from, obviously a metaphor, a metaphor I use to describe what travelling really is – a complete and utter life high. I've found that every time I set foot on new soil, speak with someone from somewhere I haven't been, or even go somewhere and scope out different regions of that place, new windows are opened to new places that strike my fancy.
I went hog wild with my cash in South America, simply because, well, it's easy to do that there – so much to see and do in each country, and for pennies. I went to Brasil with an employee from the hostel in Chile. From there, my trip took off. While mostly moving about alone, I met many people with whom I'd travel. I formed unique bonds. We'd part, promise to keep in contact, which has, and has not happened.
In South America, I spent a third of my eight month's savings. My next destination on my world ticket was Britain. Something interesting here. Every time there was a chance of me calling it quits, flying home, something would happen that enabled me to continue my travels. I'm not one to believe in destiny/fate, in fact, I'm skeptical of such notions. However, whenever I was in the dirt, someone picked me up and helped me continue.
Towards the end of my South America trip, I met an Aussie pair who gave me the address of a nightclub in Edinburgh where I could find work if I mentioned their names. When I walked up to this particular nightclub three weeks later with no money, desperate to finish my eight-month world trip by any means necessary, I was greeted as a friend, welcomed with anticipation. I worked there for 11 months, creating friendships with several of my fellow employees.
Four months later, I completed my world trip through southeast Asia with the money I had saved. I even returned to Edinburgh to save for other trips without having to go back home. I am going to continue this travel drug, this complete annhilation of my former ignorant self, this constant uncertainty of tomorrow, this life as a vagabond.
I have now visited 13 countries over the course of 15 months. I've picked up a beginner's grasp of two foreign languages, been educated on European Football (Soccer), learned much of global economics and politics, seen some of the most amazing landscapes – all due to taking a hiatus from the norm, rejecting the belief that The USA is the only country of importance, not to mention sacrificing many comforts I'd taken for granted.
There is a minor problem with living this way. Like every drug, this one is no different. There are negative side-effects. Imagine experiencing a perfect day with a complete stranger with whom you spent the most amazing time with in a relatively short time, and then turning to that person and saying goodbye, not knowing whether you'll ever see that human being again. Now think about doing this three, maybe four times a month over the course of a year. Constantly meeting characters you wish you could know for a lifetime, then parting ways. This is the comedown, this is the "yang" to that three-day "ying" on an island off the coast of Brasil, some secluded beach in Thailand, that quaint mountain town in northern Spain, even that moment of impending doom whilst running with hundreds of terrified others – all who are in your shoes, despite language barriers, backgrounds.
The lack of clean clothes, a non existent roof to cover my head, even that dreadful absence of the most amazing Mexican platter from back home, missed family – it's that consistent departing from these random individuals you've spent great times with, that is really the comedowns. I can see most people reading this and thinking, "What is this guy going on about?! Travelling is a drug? Saying goodbye to people you hardly know being the ultimate comedown?" It truly is though, and this is why: every time I meet another traveller, holiday-er, adventurer, what have you, and that person is completely sound from first impression, and I may be talking a lot at a pub, or enjoying a sunset with this person, I then realise that no matter the language, social class, upbringing, or ethnicity, there are few things all human beings can appreciate. This reaffirms my faith in the good nature, love for life I believe most people share.