I still love it, but the fervor is gone
After three months in, my journey feels different. Even though my main stressors are deciding where to go next, where to eat, or whether to visit a local temple that seems far, it feels as though the trip has plateaued. The raw excitement of the first two months has gone away. Everything is still amazing—don’t get me wrong—but the magic is gone and sometimes, I want to go home. It’s like when I first got my car almost 16 years ago. I used to just drive it around with nowhere to go. Now, I still love it, but the fervor is gone. Still, I think I’ve found the optimal way for a trip like mine.
I have a adopted a new pace. Rather than rushing through a locale’s sights, I take my time. Instead of seeing 3-4 sights per day, maybe I’ll see 1-2. Hell, there have been times I stay in bed all day just because I can! I’ve also begun booking flights when it’s time to leave instead of in advance before arriving to the location. Yes, I do pay extra, but this strategy allows me the comfort of staying as long as I want. That was always part of the plan, actually. I began with very expensive countries: New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Staying in them for long periods of time, without having at least flights booked prior to arrival, was a luxury that I couldn’t afford. I would’ve loved to stay in Japan for much longer but as expected, it’s been the most expensive country so far. But, now I’m in South East Asia (SEA) where my American dollars afford me much more and I can stay as long as I want.
This is the best way to do a trip of this kind, to get rid of the pressure to “hurry up.” It’s a much more pleasurable experience. This is not to say I regret the way I traveled through the expensive countries. But if you have the money, then do it. If you have more time, get a job as it will give you different experiences and ways to interact with the locals. Staying longer in locations also gives you a different perspective. I’ve found the first two days in any place is always a bit confusing since you’re still figuring out how to get around, what to see, or where to eat. Everything looks new and while that has its appeal, it’s better when you’re comfortable getting around. You don’t really lose the excitement of something new, but you learn things better because you’ve seen them multiple times. You feel more like a local than a tourist. It doesn’t really help you with language since you need a lot more time for that, but at least you can say the name of the damn road you wanna get to (showing your google maps to a local means nothing since it’s in English).
And therein lies a lot of the beauty of a journey like this…
A slower pace also affords you the time to interact more with people since you’re not always rushing somewhere. More time also gives you the flexibility to change your plans since you can always extend one more day. You can push your plans for tomorrow and do something your newfound friends planned to do today, or find something new to do together. It’s a win-win. But it’s not just with other travelers that you’ll have more time for, it’s also with locals. Often times I was heading somewhere, and I happened to start a conversation with a local—who speaks English—and I will talk to them until the conversation naturally dies out. I will even postpone whatever I was going to do for later to allow that to happen. Since I’m new to a place, it is a perfect way for me to get information straight from the source! But even small and brief interactions are just as important. For example, I will point at a mango and then to my mouth to communicate my desire to eat the mango. Through these micro exchanges, you may get something you didn’t expect… a warm smile. And therein lies a lot of the beauty of a journey like this: strangers being nice to you and/or you being kind to someone you’ve never met. The world is good.
The first leg of my trip was highly structured and planned. I had pre-booked all flights and hostels in advance. That in itself can be good. The operation was a well-oiled machine that dictated me where to go without much effort once I was at the location as the itinerary had already been set. But there is a problem with that: you don’t have time to stop and smell the roses. Because all the locations are predefined, you are limiting spontaneity. I understand that when you’re on vacation for a week or two, you should plan accordingly to try and maximize the little time you have at your destination. But that style of planning doesn’t take into account local conditions and your current mood. Coping with unexpected challenges and more importantly, allowing yourself to be surprised is where most of the rewards are found. This is what causes people to say that a trip of this magnitude was one of the best things they had ever done in their lives.
The best parts of the trip happen when you let go of control, to learn to accept and appreciate the things that come your way, whether you want them or not
You learn through traveling that life can be so rewarding despite constant disappointments that you experience. My biggest disappointment so far was not seeing Mount Fuji because of a cloudy sky. Many disappointments in fact were brought because I’m in the middle of rain season in this part of the world. And although the rain is not optimal for pictures, getting around or outdoor activities, it doesn’t bother me as much anymore. Because by allowing yourself to be disappointed, you get to experience the magical moments that are happening all around you if you just pay attention and learn to appreciate what you can have. The best parts of the trip will happen when you let go of control, learn to accept and appreciate the things that come your way, whether you want them or not. So why do I feel like going home at times? Because home is where you have deep and meaningful relationships. I miss that.