Nine months ago, I announced that I was leaving my job, my home, my family and friends to head out into the world without a solid plan or a known return date. This got some mixed reactions; some people said “Awesome, I have always wanted to do that!”, others said “I think it’s great but I don’t think I could do it”, and some thought it was absolutely crazy.
Shortly after my plans went public, one of my co-workers came into my office and very seriously asked me “Why are you running away from life?”. I remember instantly feeling defensive of my decision and confused as to why he didn’t see it the way I saw it; running towards life. However, after being away from home for 6 months and having had many experiences that I could never have planned or imagined, I can look back on that perspective with a different view and see that it came from honest concern for my well-being. At that time, I had traveled a little before and felt that this trip surely would open my eyes to all kinds of new things that would be amazing, exciting, difficult and unexpected. But from his view, it seemed like I was going on an extended vacation without much to learn or expand my life. It must have appeared that I was deciding to put my life on hold and simply escape, or hide away. I can see this now, and I can finally explain how this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
This trip has not been a vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I have certainly had my vacation times, laying on the beach in Rarotonga, snorkeling around the islands of Thailand, ziplining through the jungle in Laos. While relaxing and recharging my batteries every now and then is awesome, there is no denying the fact that the past six months have been a lot of work as well. Challenges pop up around every corner, from simply organizing (and reorganizing) the details of getting around, to learning a smattering of language skills in each country, enduring hours upon hours of excruciatingly uncomfortable transportation and the occasional broken down bus, struggling to ensure I am not getting ripped off, dealing with the governmental red tape of getting a new passport abroad, keeping myself safe in some sketchy situations, painful realizations about suffering far beyond anything I have experienced, dealing with occasional illness and injury, and learning to interact with people of such a huge variety of backgrounds and personalities that it can sometimes set my head spinning. These are all part of the challenge of travel that leads to personal insights and growth that have already and will continue to contribute so much to my understanding of life. The unexpected has become so frequent that I now feel a bit spoiled when things go according to plan.
I know that this trip will eventually come to an end. I will have a “normal” life again, but I will also have a new approach. Working simply to work doesn’t seem so appealing anymore. I have become so addicted to constantly learning and discovering that this will certainly remain a part of my life. My perspectives and priorities have shifted, and although there will still be many places to visit and many trips to take, I also know that I value having a home-base (and a constant supply of peanut butter, hot showers, a washing machine, easy phone calls and visits home, and clean feet). I have no idea what the future will hold (nor do I really want to know) but I do know that whatever is in store, it’s going to be good. How could it not be? So, now when I think about the question “why are you running away from life?” my reaction is very different. Yes, I am certainly wandering, but I am definitely not lost.