We think about that trip daily and the overall experience has weaved its way into our day-to-day psyche. At the time of our return there were two immediate takeaways:
- Our Earth is an amazing place full of natural wonder.
- Humanity is an experience and interactions with people from all walks of life are humbling and enlightening. People are genuinely good and want to help.
During our trip we realized we had been living in a cycle defined by a set of constraints built around lives. We had a home, we had jobs. We had a work week and weekend. We would see a movie, go out to dinner. We took a vacation here and there. We went grocery shopping and surfed the internet. We paid bills and had dry cleaning. We visited family during holidays.
Extended traveling introduced us to a completely different way of life defined by a set of constraints we were not used to nor could image before we left. We could not imagine it because we did not realize our daily lives had any constraints. We were comfortable and free but had built an unconscious structure to give us stability. There were pros and cons and you get used to both.
We did not have to pay bills or go grocery shopping but we did have to figure out where to go next. We had to learn to negotiate. We had to communicate without language. We had to find far-away places not listed in guidebooks. We had to get our bearings to eat. We had to accept in certain cases there was no immediate way to ‘just leave’.
I appreciated the vast amount of time at our disposal. Our six months was both an instant and an eternity. We could spend days on a remote beach reading books from start to finish. We could travel for hours on a crappy bus to find a remote bungalow. We could spend an extra day here or there. But it all went by so quickly.
The time between events were precious. Observing people in a remote Turkish bus depot, or taking a break on a trek in Nepal, or waiting for a boat in Burma, or sipping afternoon tea at a cafe in Jordan, or eating lunch in the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat. Simply being where ever we were. Those moments made the trip.
People were always curious about us as we were curious about them. We did not realize our previous vacations had kept us in a bubble but traveling on the cheap off the beaten path brought us closer to people we never had an opportunity to previously interact with. We slept on a mat in a woman’s bamboo home in the Thai jungle, we shared a meal with a Nepalese family in their kitchen on a trek in Nepal. And some Burmese women gave us food just so we could try the local specialty. People across this globe simply live with an understanding that we are all trying to do the same. We were lucky with crime and theft (although a monkey stole our lunch).
When we returned everything worked out. We got jobs. Our careers were fine. We got back into our routine. We did chores.
We now have two amazing kids. We get stressed out. We go to the beach every summer. We pay bills. But we remember our experience and we remember the genuine kindness of the people we met and remember we all have our own thing going on.
We randomly remind each other of ‘that time’. We tell our children stories of camels and monkeys and underground caves and mountains and jungles and river boats and weird fruit and we can’t wait to do it again with them.