[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter every journey ends, another place begins to pull my spirit toward it — even if I have no clue where that place is yet. It’s like my spirit has an internal compass, but instead of the needle being drawn to the magnetic north, my spirit jumps around until the place drawing its arrow emerges from thin air. Usually the places I end up going are spur of the moment decisions, but other times I have no clue where I am being pulled to. Something is pulling me — be it a photo or a book or an article or the words of excitement about the place sang from another backpacker’s story. Or slurred from a backpacker over a few beers.
As I return home after every extended trip, the most recent one in Thailand for 6 months and Europe for 2 months, I return to work to save for the next trip. And during that time, I perpetually feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff. That funny feeling of fear but eagerness to leap already. It’s always in my stomach. A thousand needles pricking my skin when my imagination drifts and I forget that I should be refilling somebody’s drink. I just want to keep swimming in distant oceans. I want to dig my toes in distant beaches. I want to feel the warmth of the familiar sun in an unfamiliar setting. I want to breathe the breeze of serenity and mystery as it kisses my scraggly backpacker bearded face atop some newly conquered mountain. Pretty much the only thing that would want to kiss me after a hike while I’m wheezing and stinky. Maybe that’s why I have such a love affair with travel? She’s good to me.
Either way, I always return to a place that could be considered home, but doesn’t feel like home anymore. My home was one that fell apart long before it was actually torn down and rebuilt. Pieces of home are still there in the form of family and friends, but it is no longer a place I feel happy. I don’t know if I ever did feel true happiness for the place. There is a nostalgia that always lingers.
Fast money and familiarity are usually the reasons I return to Washington DC. It is incredibly easy to settle into another job waiting tables, or an old one, and save money fast. And I know it — it’s comfortable. But that’s also exactly the reason I chose to leave, because it’s comfortable and easy to settle in. Settle down. And when you are comfortable, you are idle, and you are more likely to veer away from your path. When I come back to Washington DC I always end up going out with old friends to bars, drinking up and reminiscing, and working a couple of jobs to save money. What I don’t always do, very rarely at that, is continue my creative and passionate endeavors; writing, videography, exploring.
[highlight]This depressed feeling engulfs me.[/highlight]
I don’t feel as though I am productive or driven. A laziness that I don’t have when I am traveling takes hold and all I do is feel like sleeping in. Maybe it’s because of the two jobs, or the hangovers, but either way I don’t get much done. And I obsess over money. Okay, true that I need money to travel and that I am saving for another trip, but I get frustrated and angry at work and if I’m not making good money, I get mean. And I don’t like that feeling. When I am in DC, there is a pressure that invisibly haunts the people who live in it, one that impresses upon us this stress that comes from nowhere. It’s hard to explain, but something that needs to change for me.
I need to stop coming back because it is easy, or because it is comfortable. If I am going to return to the United States in the future to work, I need to create a base somewhere that I am happy. Somewhere out west. But, my main goal and one that I’ve never followed through with, is not to have to return. When I leave for another big trip, I always say to myself that I can make it and spend a couple of years traveling. I never save enough money to do so on my own because I get too eager to spend a couple of years in DC, but I always tell myself that I will figure out a way to keep it going abroad. And at times I take the steps to do so — through making freelance money from writing, or teaching abroad. Yet, I never truly follow through. In the back of my head I always know that if I run out of money, I can always return to DC and save up again. I always know I can make money the “easy” way I always have by waiting tables, instead of the harder way of writing that is ultimately my passion. And what I want to make a career out of.
[highlight]Something has to change. I have to stop coming back to the broken pieces of a past life. I believe it has finally clicked in me.[/highlight]
After I returned to DC to my old jobs and old neighborhood and some old habits, the question of “why the Hell am I here?” kept popping into my head. I know the literal reason why I was back — to save money for the next trip, but why was I back here? If I want to keep traveling, I should be able to make money anywhere if I really want to. I can make money if I really want to continue traveling. I’ve just never wanted it bad enough it seems. Or maybe I wasn’t confident enough. The feeling of not being good enough has always plagued me previously, as I tried to measure up to some standards I thought I needed to, but I think another thing is that in a society where we are told what we need to do to succeed where they think we should, we fear our own greatness. What if we quit what is easy or a method that is tried and true and truly break away? Well, damn, we could really make it in whatever we want to. But what happens when it doesn’t work? If instead of working 6 months and traveling 6 months, I dive head first into what I really want to do and things don’t pan out?
[highlight]That is the fear of our own greatness.[/highlight]
We can do great things, but great things take risk and it is a natural feeling to fall back to what is comfortable. Like I fall back into returning home to wait tables in one of the rudest but richest cities in America where I can’t stand most people I interact with. Instead of really trying hard with every damn drop of energy and persistence to really make it as a travel writer.
Over the past 3 months as I stopped writing on the blog, and stopped doing anything creative because the work grind had me too exhausted, I really began to see the fault in this cycle I created. Though I was still doing something that makes me incredibly fulfilled, half of the year I am back in a self-made purgatory. In November I vowed to write a book for National Novel Writing Month on a typewriter. Everything was set up and I was so excited to take on the challenge. Within a week after long nights serving tables and starting a second job, I had given up on it. Either I would go right to sleep, or sit in front of Fieval (yes I named my typewriter) with a blank stare and blank mind. Fitness was also a goal and I told myself I would be working out and eating healthier, and I did the opposite. I just don’t feel like doing anything except collecting the cash and going on a new trip.
No. I don’t feel like collecting cash and going on another trip. This time I’m too damn tired to do that. This time I want to actually commit, I want to follow through with my plan, I want to create the lifestyle I want to live for 12 months of the year, not just half of that. Throughout my life I’ve struggled with following through with anything, maybe rooting from being told growing up that I wouldn’t be anything or my fear of my own greatness and the work it will take to reach. It’s time to stop being lazy or making excuses.
[highlight]It’s time to take action.[/highlight]
With the 2,00mi Rickshaw Run run coming in April and the unknown coming after that, I am filled with a drive as I always am before a new adventure. A happiness that rises in me leading up to the departure date. This time though, I am also feeling a new determination in myself, one that will not just settle for what I’ve done in the past. One that will take the steps and do the work to succeed where I want to. The next couple of months until I leave for India, I will be doing the same grind I always do to save for the trip (since I do need to pay for a rickshaw and all that jazz) but I will also be making sure to do what I love leading up to the trip, and laying the ground work for continuing to travel after that. When I board that plane March 25th to Delhi, it will be the last time for a long time that I board a plane from DC where I was working. I’m sure there will be trips to visit family and friends, but I can’t do that to myself anymore.
[highlight]I cannot compromise my spirit and sanity for a quick buck and an easy way out.[/highlight]
April: Rickshaw Run – 2,000mi of Adventure on Three Wheels
In March, the 25th to be exact, I will be flying out from Washington DC to Delhi, India. It is my first time in India, and has always been a place that seriously intrigued me. No, it isn’t because I want to drop acid like the Beatles and expand my mind, but the culture and country is so diverse and unique and every traveler I meet seems to love it. Plus, I’ll be taking on one of the craziest travel feats I’ve ever attempted with Derek of The HoliDaze, the Rickshaw Run in April over 2 weeks. It will be one crazy adventure, so make sure to read more about it.
May: The Silk Road & Stans
There isn’t an exact date set just yet, but after we finish the Rickshaw Run at the end of April, Derek and I will be exploring India for a few weeks. After we explore a bit, Derek invited me on one adventure that most wouldn’t think of doing, and one I couldn’t refuse. He has wanted to do the full ancient Silk Road for a long time, and decided this will be the year he travels to all 7 ‘Stan countries. Being that I’ll already be around with him in India, he invited me along. Most people will tell me not to, but my heart jumped in excitement when I got the email and I had to do it. That region is one that isn’t explored much by travelers, especially two of those ‘Stans, but we will. And we will show you what it’s really like, starting with Pakistan. This will probably be an adventure of a few months, and after I have yet to plan that part out.
June: My Big Move to Australia
After the Rickshaw Run ended, and the original plans to travel to all 7 ‘Stan countries with Derek fell through, I was lost as to what I should do next. There were so many options at my feet — almost too many to choose from which was stressing me out. Though I never make too many plans ahead of time when I travel, deciding what I should do was difficult. Should I teach English somewhere? Should I hit Europe again and go to the countries I missed out on last year? After a long time of thinking, I suddenly began to see signs right in front of me. Over the course of three weeks, most people I met were either Australian, or had been there and would not stop raving about the country. And they all said Melbourne and I would fit perfectly together as well. So, on a whim, I decided to apply for my working visa — and after I was approved, flew off to the land of Oz where I will be living and working for the next year. And of course, getting lost at every chance I can.
[custom_headline type=”center” level=”h4″ looks_like=”h4″]What are your big travel plans this year?[/custom_headline]