Hello from the other side… of the world. I’m currently in Indonesia where I’m so far ahead (13+ hours from good ole eastern standard time) I’m behind on posting.
Since I am now a traveler of both time and space, allow me to take y’all on a journey back in time: it’s January 2016 and like a neglected carton of milk shoved in the back of the fridge, my allotted time to live in the cozy college bubble is about to expire. I have no plans once I’m tossed from this pseudo adult wonderland. Past internships experience? Zilch. Job applications filled out? Zero. Clues I had? Znone.
But then, on a Sunday drive, my train of thought began to roll:
“Like my arsenal of Z words, I’ll just fake it till I make it… In lieu of joining the 9-5 world, I’ll travel the world.” Gaining speed down the track, “This makes perfect sense… I want to be a writer, so why not dive headfirst into the deep end of life experience? I already have friends in England.” Now fully steaming, “Mark (my cousin) is getting married in October and Brittany (another cousin) is getting married next June, so I’ll travel for the eight months inbetween!”
I figured my parents were sure to think I’d gone off the rails, but rather than pull an Ozzy I knew this plan was not made in vain. I’m beyond blessed to say rather than clash, my parents were supportive from the moment I told them my post grad plan.
After I decided to turn my life into a coming of age, adventure film the soundtrack became a chorus of, “you’re so brave, I could never do that,” and “I wish I had the personality to do what you’re doing.” It’s funny because I don’t feel like I’m doing anything brave at all. I’m just running away from reality, desperately hoping my 10 something minute mile will be quick enough to elude its clutches forever.
Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely appreciative of the plethora of encouraging words I have received. It’s made this endeavor easier knowing I have a huge support base back home. However, I feel like I’ve been built up too much. By no means does someone have to be a character from an epic novel to fill the roll of world traveler. Trust me, I am wayyy closer to being a Clark Griswold than an Odysseus. Allow me to humanize myself.
Junior year of college a friend discovered I keep a list of words on my laptop. These are the words that after numerous attempts to spell on my own accord, autocorrect still flummoxed, I have to concede and look up on dictionary.com. To put in perspective how embarrassingly elementric this list is, “area” is on it. *Cue face-palming by all of my past English teachers*
Good thing I don’t want to be a writer. Oh wait… Guys, my spelling is abysmal and my grammar is less than impeccable. These should probably be gargantuan flashing stop signs on the road to becoming a writer. However, as I mentioned in previous post I prefer public transportation to driving anyway, thus I’ve bought my ticket to ride and I don’t care. (Even if I tend to spell ticket as tiquet from time to time.) Don’t Worry, Be Happy<— Read and ask yourself what many others have asked before, “how have you survived this long in life!?”
Let met give it a go at being the (motivational) poster child for world traveling:
Do you dream of traveling the world? Don’t think you have the right personality? Not enough fortitude? Well banish those thoughts to the part of your mind that always gets lost because you can do this! Yield and proceed with caution if that is more your speed, but don’t let fear be a stop sign. Believe me when I say, anyone who has a desire to do what I am doing can do what I’m doing.
Before donning the title* “world-traveler,” I was a beach bum with buds by day and a waitress by night… and in cahoots with more friends by later at night. That was the great and small on the endless round, the circle of life. Basically the only time I spent alone was when I washed off the sand in between the beach and dashing off to work. Why? Because just as Tom Symkowski from Office Space, “I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people!” More so, I was someone who hated to be alone. I could count the number of times I spent the night alone in a house on one finger, so naturally I thought, “hey I’ll go travel the world by myself for eight months.”
From the day my plane touched the tarmac in Manchester, MAN did the structure of my days change. I’d spend 6, 7, maybe 8 hours site-seeing (aka aimlessly wandering with a purpose, blissfully stumbling upon unexpected wonders while trying not to get lost) on my own. An incredibly empowering experience. The beauty of exploring with no one in the copilot’s chair is having complete control over the pace and path of the journey. When I want to take a right, I take a right. When I’m hungry, I stop and eat. And best of all, as someone who’s convinced their bladder is pea sized, when I have to pee, I stop and pee. The ability to make a decision at the drop of a hat with no explanation other than it just feels right is a mind-bending, intense level of freedom.
I’m nearly 90 days into my trip and for the past month straight I’ve actually spent it traveling with other nomads running from normalcy. For nearly three weeks I crossed Cambodia with two lovable Dutch shithead… players. (Totally talking about the card game and alluding to nothing else.) Since I decided to take a page from Jack Kerouac’s playbook, I’ve found it’s impossible to get lonely while On the Road. There’s a reason why there’s no “I” or “me” in ” solo travel.”
Four days before New Year’s Eve we said our “see you laters” and I hopped a plane for Indonesia completely at ease because I knew I had eons of time to make friends to help ring in the new year. Guess what? Fate put a ring on it. After my first full day in Indonesia and a series of fortunate events too coincidental not to believe some things are meant to be, I found myself sharing a room with two lovely souls I’d known for less than 24 hours but already shared a meal and some laughs with.
I would not trade the time I’ve spent with others this past month for all the puns in the world. Seriously I’ve begun to pencil in my post-March European itinerary in part by destinations to visit new friends. However, I now actually crave to have a few days spent alone with my thoughts. (Lord knows what adventures those daft devils will take me on.) Don’t get me wrong the days I’ve explored with others have been lush with laughs and nonstop fun. But the days spent alone there’s no pressure to keep conversation or feeling like an inconvenience every time I want to stop and take a picture of a brick wall.
When traveling you’ll get sick, but not from homesickness. Instead the intoxicating levels of culture, freedom, and life-enriching experiences is what will leave you dizzy as you try and catch your breath. After a day solo site-seeing and soul searching, I return to a hostel which are always teeming with life. Misleading by name, hostels are anything but hostile, “wanderlust hubs” is a far more appropriate term in my opinion. Hostels are filled with travelers ready to put the bond in vagabond.
I’m not sure what my spirit animal is, but turtle it is most definitively not. The downside, I constantly get lost as I try and navigate my way back home. The upside, I don’t have a shell. If “shooting the bull with random strangers” was a marketable skill, I’d type it in bold and put it at the top of my resume. It would go right above “knowing all the US presidents in chronological order.” I realize short of a chameleon, it’s unrealistic to undergoing a complete personality change in an instant, but even if your vert is more intro than extro have no worries because you will meet people that will draw you out of your shell.
Loquacious, genuine, open-minded, and accepting are the top words that describe your average backpacker. Upon meeting someone the standard opening line is, “Hi where are you from?” After exchanging geographical locations the possibilities of conversation are endless. If you’re like me and think as you speak, it’s often hello to embarrassing stories in 2.5 seconds. Nevertheless, the trick is just keep saying words. Chances are in less time than it has taken to read this post so far you will find a common connection.
I mentioned while in Liverpool I pub crawled with the best of them (twice.) By best of them I mean fellow travelers who went form being strangers to friends in one day flat…. who knows maybe future flatmates? Night one, I was sitting in the hostel bar with a gaggle of travelers, sipping on a Budweiser** when a guy from Denmark plops down and the following conversation ensues:
“Hi where are you from?”
“Oh are you a fan of Michael Jordan!?”
Hook, line, and instant friend.
I am constantly being reminded just how small the world actually is while traveling.
Night two, I swear I really was not planning on going out again, but as I walked through the lobby the pub crawl leader said, “Hey are you coming out again? You have to you were the life of the party!” In general it doesn’t take too much arm twisting to get me to go out. A light poke will do really, thus two hours later I found myself sitting around a familiar table, pre gaming with some of the same faces and some new. Somehow the conversation of dance came up, and a girl from the first night started raving about my dancing to the newbies. Guys I have been told on countless occasions I dance like one of those blow up things you see in front of used car lots.
I can’t say I disagree, but despite this when I hear a beat I can’t help but throw everything I have into the music and move like a maniac with all of my heart and soul… and limbs. Apparently on the first night a circle was formed around me on the dance floor, but honestly I didn’t notice because I was having too much fun just doing my thing. I don’t share this anecdote to brag, but to show that you don’t have to worry about being judged. Just be yourself, because the people you meet are down to Earth, accepting souls, and will genuinely love what you have to offer… even if it’s dancing that could be mistaken for interpreting cooked spaghetti. I was telling a friend about the type of people you meet while traveling and I believe he worded it best, “it’s like being at a music festival but less loud and smells better.” Except when laundry day is about two cities past due, this is the perfect description.
Backpackers are like ships passing in the ocean. For a brief amount of time you are in the same place, but each of your next ports will be different. Trying to keep up with every single person you meet would be like trying to grasp every grain of sand. Many will inevitably slip through your fingers, but some will stay with you long after y’all have parted ways.
When traveling it’s understood social patterns are chucked out the window like last years fashion. (Well if you’re a backpacker you will gladly buy a shirt that’s “so last year” if it’s cheap and seems like you can get at least 1,000 wears out of it.) When you only have limited time to make friends/ see as much of a new continent as possible after clicking with someone use my line, “Hey let’s become friends on Facebook let me know if you want to get a cup of coffee or visit a foreign country together.” Trust me it’s not crazy, and I’m not the only one who uses it.
On my train to Madrid I ran into a girl whom I stayed in the same hostel with in Valencia. (See I can’t even go a day without running into a familiar face.) We initially bonded hard-core over the fact that we were so dysfunction it took us nearly ten minutes to figure out how to get out of the train station. After we were free we became Facebook friends and parted ways towards our respective hostels. She messaged me about getting dinner, after which we meandered around Madrid until Midnight. As I shuffled backwards pointing two finger guns saying, “see you tomorrow,” “she said, “yay for this not being awkward.”
Life is truly just finding people who are the same type of weird as you.
The next day we spent another 12 hours exploring the city, and in less than two days we went from being complete strangers to great friends. Just on the first night alone we talked about hostile experiences, US politics, college, home towns, US drinking culture, friends, crime rates, life goals, architecture, tattoos, craft beer, our travels, the growing dependency on technology, people we’ve met along the road, gun laws & a slew of other social issues. After dinner we got a drink and in one point I was in tears from laughing so hard when talking about some of the weird encounters we’ve had while on the road. It’s amazing the deep conversations you can get into with people you’ve know less than the time Bittney Spears was married to Jason Alexander, but it all goes back to the fact that the majority of people you will meet have minds that are wide open.
To anyone who wants to travel but doesn’t think they have what it takes, I hope my stories have helped silence that little voice in your head that says, “You think you can do these things, but you just can’t.” There are plenty of fish in the sea, so why be a Marlin when you can be a Nemo? Go out and touch that butt!
*It wasn’t until my after-post editing sesh I had a thought, “hmm tittle doesn’t look quite right.” A double check from dictionary.com confirmed that no “tittle” is not the word for “distinguishing name of a book” Y’allllll I am an aspiring writer that didn’t even spell title right…. trust me your dreams are in reach.
**Fun fact when it comes to beer, it is assumed that all Americans drink is Budweiser. I find ironic that the “king of beers” represents a land that despised a king so much they sparked a revolution, broke free and established a government with no monarch. In this case it was free, while handing us a brew our pub crawl captain even said to another American and me, “hey the beer of your people right?”
Update corner: Dennis, the friend pictured in the new years gang, and I met up again in London of July 2018 where he, his mom, and I attended Paul Simon’s final concert together. To this day Dennis and I regularly keep up with one another a rap about life. Sombath, my Madrid mate, and I met up in Seattle in the summer of 2017 and again in London in July 2018. She has become one of my closest friends who is more like a soul sister than travel buddy. I have visited Bram and Thomas, my Dutch travel buddies, in their homeland on multiple occasions and Thomas even let me stay in his flat while he was out of town. I’m telling y’all traveling will allow you to meet some true-blue, will-stay-in-your-corner-for-life, people.