I have 45 days left on the road before coming back home to the good ol’ USA.
This is putting me home almost a month before I planned to be home – why so early?
I’ve had such an amazing time on this trip – more wonderful and inspiring than anything I’ve ever done before (or will probably ever do again).
By the time I get home I will have:
- Bathed Baby Elephants
- Visited mutiple famous prisons like Alcatraz and Hao Lo
- Celebrated 4/20 on Hippie Hill in San Francisco
- Learned the value of family & generosity while living with a Vietnamese family
- Taught English in Thailand and hated it
- Finally visited the place at the top of my list – Japan – and eaten tons of sushi there
- Spent my days working in a cat cafe
- Rode a motorbike until I got lost in a rainstorm
- Been a mermaid in a waterfall
- Avoided being kidnapped
- Made new friends
- Saw a wonder of the world
- Went to 9 new countries
- Eaten so many new foods – including Durian and snails
- Learned about the importance of compassion
- Questioned my patriotism
- Learned how to make Pad Thai – LEGIT
- Filled 10 pages in my passport
- Discovered so many new things about myself
- Learned “Hello” and “Thank you” in 9 different languages
- Finally feel like I’ve done something meaningful with my life
That last one one really hit me a few days ago. “Finally feel like I’ve done something meaningful in my life”. Hmm…
Before I left to travel, I had a great career I worked hard on, and was proud of, but what was that worth really? On my deathbed was I going to be like “I was THE BEST at calming down angry customers! Oh, and I earned so much freakin’ money that didn’t buy me happiness!”
Did the memories I formed at work make me smile when I was at home sitting on the couch? Did I accomplish anything there I was excited to tell my kids about someday? Did my accomplishments within my career set me apart from everyone else?
Did my experiences while working help shape my ethics and define me as a person? Did my role deepen my compassion and understanding towards other people? Did my job move and reshape the depths of my soul as if it were a deep ocean current?
The answer to all of these is a resounding “Fuck No“.
If we rephrased each of these questions to pertain to my trip, they would all say “Yes”.
I can hear the voice of my parents in my head already “Honey, working a job that doesn’t make you any better of a person or inspires you at all is just part of life…what you’re doing isn’t real life.” Shut up parent voice…I know, I know.
UPDATE: Haven’t even published this yet & was told this morning “What you’re doing isn’t real life, people can’t travel forever.” Le sigh. When I have kids, I’m going to tell them they can do whatever they want – and believe it. With enough hard work and diligence, I could do this full time! I WILL do it.
So why come home early?
I’ve hit a bit of a wall within the trip – it actually hit a few weeks ago. My ‘new experiences’ meter is about full. I really struggled with this decision. Am I failing by coming home early? I’ve decided that no, I’m not.
There is a difference between giving up and knowing when you’ve had enough.
I’m not giving up. I plan to continue to travel. For now though, I need some time to regroup, be still, and process everything so I can decide how I want to move forward with all this new information.
There are also a few things about long term traveling that no one talks about that, over time, grow old.
- Learning to navigate a new city every few days
- Having to go out and find food for every meal. How does this fit in my budget – does it fit? Do they have something I want? Does it look clean? Is that dog meat?
- Sharing a room with 5-7 other people who don’t always whisper if you’re sleeping, wear headphones while they watch movies, or leave the lights off when they come home drunk at 3 am.
- Finding a place to do laundry and then a place to air dry it. Also, drip dry underwear is crunchy.
- Constantly having to shoot people down who are trying to sell you services or items.
- Seeing rampant poverty everywhere – destitute people, stray animals (or animals in super cramped spaces) and sickness. Sadness is is emotionally exhausting.
- Feeling like you have to make the most of everywhere you visit because you might not ever be there again.
- Planning tours, juggling reservations, and booking transport.
- Using bathrooms where the floor is always wet but you never know why.
- The heat…it can really wreck you if you don’t sleep for three nights straight because some of your skin is touching other skin.
- Not being able to develop a “go to” bar, restaurant or hang out area.
- Only meeting people for a few days at a time and always talking about the same things. “So, how long have you been traveling? Where are you going next? Where are you from?” Rinse and repeat.
Don’t get me wrong – all of these things are so worth it! Each of these could be conquered by staying in one place for an extended amount of time. If I were to set up shop and rent an apartment for a month in a single city, that would be great. For this trip though, I wanted to see as much as I could and wasn’t monetarily, or emotionally, prepared to be still for an entire month.
I made the call to come home a bit early for 3 main reasons.
- I miss my family, my friends, and my cat. Sure we’ve all stayed in touch (yes, I’ve even FaceTime’d my cat), but it isn’t the same.
- Money would start to be un-enjoyably tight toward the end – it’s already becoming a more conscious thought. My last few weeks will be in Japan, and I want to be able to enjoy it there, not just be there. If I was so broke at that point I was eating cereal from 7/11 instead of sushi or ramen, it wouldn’t be the experience I wanted. Does that make sense?
- I need to process it all. As stated above, there’s been a lot of new experiences and lessons. I don’t think a lot of them have fully sunk in. Things like being able to flush toilet paper, drinking fountains, and personal space are all western culture specific. At home, there will be so many things I’ll appreciate that I didn’t before – and can’t – until I get there and realize the difference. Like having an oven in the house! Literally no ovens in Asia.
Then what’s the plan, Stan?
*fidgets nervously* …You know…about that….uhh…
Well, of course I’m going to need to get a job. I won’t be looking for one the first day back in America, and probably not even for the first week..make that like 10 days.
After that though, I’ll begin the hunt – and this time, it’s going to be different.
No more customer service.
Fucking blow my brains out if I go back to dealing with the general public. Of course you gotta do what you gotta do, but I’m going to DO everything in my power to avoid any sort of customer service role. I’m done. No more retail, no more tech support.
I’m going to try and find a job in a new field, one that is physically demanding and customer facing free. I’ve become much more fit and healthy on this trip and I want to keep that ball rolling. I’d like to get a job at a trucking company, a warehouse, a mail carrier (FedEx/USPS/UPS), a factory, I’d even be open to construction..somewhere that will keep me moving. My dad jokes that maybe I could be a truck driver lol
I find a lot of satisfaction in being able to sit back at the end of the day and see results of what I’ve accomplished – not just throw myself into a blackhole of invisible accomplishments.
Why not go back to corporate?
Easy – I’m planning to leave again.
I’ll be back in the USA for what I expect to be about 6-8 months. I’ll be a working, blogging, money making machine during that time. I’ll be paying off any debt I incurred this trip, trying to get ahead on my student loans a little bit, and saving money for the next adventure.
I don’t want to go through the whole song and dance of interviewing, buying a professional wardrobe (I got lucky with my last job, it was super casual…like sweatpants) and trying to sell them on how much of a good investment I would be all the time knowing I’m going to leave.
I know a lot of people wouldn’t have a problem with this, and would try to find the best paying job they could. It just seems like a waste of everyone’s time though doesn’t it? I feel it would be rude of me to trick them like that.
It’s true that any company I work for will be hoodwinked in this way – but there’s a whole deal of difference between learning to unload trucks and check inventory, and learning the whole company process at a start up.
Where will you be off to next?
Mexico and South America, baby!
Affordable like Asia, and much easier to get to, I’ll be heading south next time. I’m now heat-tolerant and hope to stay in good shape (via a physical job) so I can be ever more prepared for heading south.
Airline tickets are relatively cheap to Mexico and all of the countries are pretty affordable. This would also give me a good chance to brush up on my Spanish (which I’ll be working on over the next few months).
Needless to say my parents aren’t thrilled I’m picking yet another ‘dangerous area’ but I think it will be okay.
Also potentially on the docket, Europe with my sister!
The Second Wind
In closing, having now set a proper date for when I’m coming home has given me a second wind. Knowing the days are numbered has reignited my zeal for exploration and is going to make these last several weeks incredibly enjoyable.
HERE WE GO!