What A Life Of Travel Does To You


photo by: MANGO RED

What A Life Of Travel Does To You
By: Alex Brueckner

A life of travel is a good thing to have. But once you start off on it, there’s no looking back. What traveling does do to you is work its way inside of you, changing you completely as it finds a seat deep within you. It’s a parasite with a greedily voracious appetite. That bastard is hungry. Once the travel bug bites, you’re afflicted for life. Once the wanderlust hits, your feet never stop being restless.

It creeps into the edges of your mind. You start clicking through Facebook albums from past trips to Peru or China or Ghana. You find yourself browsing WikiTravel or Intrepid Travel, concocting perfect two-month tours of Africa or South America. Idly, you check Orbitz to see how much a flight next month is to Cambodia. Just for the hell of it. Just in case. It never hurts to know, right?

The temptation is always there just to take off work, drop everything, and go. And once you have a trip on the books, it’s inevitable that you eyes creep toward a calendar during any spare moment and instinctually count down the days until you can flee. There’s a constant itch that gets under your skin, and the only way to scratch it involves a plane (or train or bus) ticket, a backpack, and plans that don’t go beyond “just get me out.”

Our heroes are people like Anthony Bourdain, who makes a living (and a life) out of trekking to the furthest corners of the map. We like stumbling through sentences in foreign languages like kindergarteners. We feel proud when we can get through three weeks in Eastern Europe on a single backpack or successfully navigate through the tricky back alleys of a new city. We get thrills during the moment that a plane takes off from the runway or a bullet train pulls out of the station. We get off on eating foods that contain things we’ve never tried before, let alone heard of. We love filling out those “where I’ve been” maps and seeing just how much of the world we’ve covered.

For those who make traveling a lifestyle, the fear of putting down permanent roots is always present. Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson has said, “Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that’s what gets you.” He may have been talking about supercars, but I think the philosophy applies just as well to traveling, too. If you’re constantly moving, whether it’s on the back of a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City, a vespa in Firenze, or a kayak down the rapids on the Rio Grande, suddenly hitting the brakes can be absolutely devastating. It’s a constant fear that I’ve hit my “peak” and that I’ll spend the rest of my life wanting to travel and being unable to. Instead of actually getting out to see the sun rise in Goa, I’ll have to settle for a picture I found on Google as my laptop background.

When I returned home to Pittsburgh from living in Germany, my mum remarked to me, “We’ll have to nail your feet down to keep you stateside, won’t we?” And it wasn’t a week later that I told my parents I wanted to move to Japan after graduation to teach English. I’m lucky, and I know it. The job I have right now basically allows me to travel as much as I want; I may officially be an “Assistant Language Teacher,” but if I had it my way, “globetrotter” would be front and center on my résumé.

One of my favorite quotes about traveling is “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” It sums up perfectly just why I love globetrotting so much. Once you start, you can never truly finish. There’s always more to see, more to explore, more summits to climb, more seas to dive into, more cities to get lost in. Germany was the first foreign country I set foot in. I could travel there every summer for the rest of my life; I’d never see it all.

For the hardcore travelers, our sustenance lies in those perfectly surreal moments that you just stumble upon by mistake. They’re moments that, when you seen them in a movie or hear other people reminisce about them, seem utterly fake. Their very perfection takes away from their realness. If there were a Shutterstock for traveling experiences, it would catalogue those impossibly perfect moments.

But when it’s you experiencing them, you can’t help but grin to yourself and feel a certain gleeful shiver work its way through you. My favorite, but by no means solitary, example of such a moment happened in Paris last summer. I was walking through an arcade near the Louvre, turned a corner, and then was greeted by a busker playing the cello set against the backdrop of the setting sun reflecting through the Louvre pyramid’s glass. That right there is something straight out of a Woody Allen movie.

As scared as I am that I’ll lose the means to travel, I think I know in the back of my head that I’ll never let it truly happen. Wanderlust doesn’t just die from disuse or neglect. Get a camel, a hot air balloon, a pair of snowshoes, a hang glider, a sled pulled by dogs… if you want to get out, you’re getting out.

Promise Yourself

Promise Yourself

To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

― Christian D. Larson

The Desiderata of Happiness

THE DESIDERATA OF HAPPINESS
1927 Prose Poem by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere, life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Why You Should Travel Young

WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL YOUNG
Jeff Goins

Image

As I write this, I’m flying. It’s an incredible concept: to be suspended in the air, moving at two hundred miles an hour — while I read a magazine. Amazing, isn’t it?

I woke up at three a.m. this morning. Long before the sun rose, thirty people loaded up three conversion vans and drove two hours to the San Juan airport. Our trip was finished. It was time to go home. But we were changed.

As I sit, waiting for the flight attendant to bring my ginger ale, I’m left wondering why I travel at all. The other night, I was reminded why I do it — why I believe this discipline of travel is worth all the hassle.

I was leading a missions trip in Puerto Rico. After a day of work, as we were driving back to the church where we were staying, one of the young women brought up a question.

“Do you think I should go to graduate school or move to Africa?”

I don’t think she was talking to me. In fact, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t. But that didn’t stop me from offering my opinion.

I told her to travel. Hands down. No excuses. Just go.

She sighed, nodding. “Yeah, but…”

I had heard this excuse before, and I didn’t buy it. I knew the “yeah-but” intimately. I had uttered it many times before. The words seem innocuous enough, but are actually quite fatal.

Yeah, but …

… what about debt?

… what about my job?

… what about my boyfriend?

This phrase is lethal. It makes it sound like we have the best of intentions, when really we are just too scared to do what we should. It allows us to be cowards while sounding noble.

Most people I know who waited to travel the world never did it. Conversely, plenty of people who waited for grad school or a steady job still did those things after they traveled.

It reminded me of Dr. Eisenhautz and the men’s locker room.

Dr. Eisenhautz was a German professor at my college. I didn’t study German, but I was a foreign language student so we knew each other. This explains why he felt the need to strike up a conversation with me at six o’clock one morning.

I was about to start working out, and he had just finished. We were both getting dressed in the locker room. It was, to say the least, a little awkward — two grown men shooting the breeze while taking off their clothes.

“You come here often?” he asked. I could have laughed.

“Um, yeah, I guess,” I said, still wiping the crusted pieces of whatever out of my eyes.

“That’s great,” he said. “Just great.”

I nodded, not really paying attention. He had already had his adrenaline shot; I was still waiting for mine. I somehow uttered that a friend and I had been coming to the gym for a few weeks now, about three times a week.

“Great,” Dr. Eisenhautz repeated. He paused as if to reflect on what he would say next. Then, he just blurted it out. The most profound thing I had heard in my life.

“The habits you form here will be with you for the rest of your life.”

My head jerked up, my eyes got big, and I stared at him, letting the words soak into my half-conscious mind. He nodded, said a gruff goodbye, and left. I was dumbfounded.

The words reverberated in my mind for the rest of the day. Years later, they still haunt me. It’s true — the habits you form early in life will, most likely, be with you for the rest of your existence.

I have seen this fact proven repeatedly. My friends who drank a lot in college drink in larger quantities today. Back then, we called it “partying.” Now, it has a less glamorous name: alcoholism. There are other examples. The guys and girls who slept around back then now have babies and unfaithful marriages. Those with no ambition then are still working the same dead end jobs.

“We are what we repeatedly do,” Aristotle once said. While I don’t want to sound all gloom-and-doom, and I believe your life can turn around at any moment, there is an important lesson here: life is a result of intentional habits. So I decided to do the things that were most important to me first, not last.

After graduating college, I joined a band and traveled across North America for nine months. With six of my peers, I performed at schools, churches, and prisons. We even spent a month in Taiwan on our overseas tour. (We were huge in Taiwan.)

As part of our low-cost travel budget, we usually stayed in people’s homes. Over dinner or in conversation later in the evening, it would almost always come up — the statement I dreaded. As we were conversing about life on the road — the challenges of long days, being cooped up in a van, and always being on the move — some well-intentioned adult would say, “It’s great that you’re doing this … while you’re still young.”

Ouch. Those last words — while you’re still young — stung like a squirt of lemon juice in the eye (a sensation with which I am well acquainted). They reeked of vicarious longing and mid-life regret. I hated hearing that phrase.

I wanted to shout back,

“No, this is NOT great while I’m still young! It’s great for the rest of my life! You don’t understand. This is not just a thing I’m doing to kill time. This is my calling! My life! I don’t want what you have. I will always be an adventurer.”

In a year, I will turn thirty. Now I realize how wrong I was. Regardless of the intent of those words, there was wisdom in them.

As we get older, life can just sort of happen to us. Whatever we end up doing, we often end up with more responsibilities, more burdens, more obligations. This is not always bad. In fact, in many cases it is really good. It means you’re influencing people, leaving a legacy.

Youth is a time of total empowerment. You get to do what you want. As you mature and gain new responsibilities, you have to be very intentional about making sure you don’t lose sight of what’s important. The best way to do that is to make investments in your life so that you can have an effect on who you are in your later years.

I did this by traveling. Not for the sake of being a tourist, but to discover the beauty of life — to remember that I am not complete.

There is nothing like riding a bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge or seeing the Coliseum at sunset. I wish I could paint a picture for you of how incredible the Guatemalan mountains are or what a rush it is to appear on Italian TV. Even the amazing photographs I have of Niagara Falls and the American Midwest countryside do not do these experiences justice. I can’t tell you how beautiful southern Spain is from the vantage point of a train; you have to experience it yourself. The only way you can relate is by seeing them.

While you’re young, you should travel. You should take the time to see the world and taste the fullness of life. Spend an afternoon sitting in front of the Michelangelo. Walk the streets of Paris. Climb Kilimanjaro. Hike the Appalachian trail. See the Great Wall of China. Get your heart broken by the “killing fields” of Cambodia. Swim through the Great Barrier Reef. These are the moments that define the rest of your life; they’re the experiences that stick with you forever.

Traveling will change you like little else can. It will put you in places that will force you to care for issues that are bigger than you. You will begin to understand that the world is both very large and very small. You will have a newfound respect for pain and suffering, having seen that two-thirds of humanity struggle to simply get a meal each day.

While you’re still young, get cultured. Get to know the world and the magnificent people that fill it. The world is a stunning place, full of outstanding works of art. See it.

You won’t always be young. And life won’t always be just about you. So travel, young person. Experience the world for all it’s worth. Become a person of culture, adventure, and compassion. While you still can.

Do not squander this time. You will never have it again. You have a crucial opportunity to invest in the next season of your life now. Whatever you sow, you will eventually reap. The habits you form in this season will stick with you for the rest of your life. So choose those habits wisely.

And if you’re not as young as you’d like (few of us are), travel anyway. It may not be easy or practical, but it’s worth it. Traveling allows you to feel more connected to your fellow human beings in a deep and lasting way, like little else can. In other words, it makes you more human.

That’s what it did for me, anyway.