It’s a funny thing coming home. Nothing changes. Everything looks the same, feels the same, even smells the same. You realize what’s changed is you. – F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is something that I’ve wanted to discuss for a while merely because after every time we get back home from traveling, parts of us have evolved. Occasionally it is tough to put into words exactly how we’ve changed but after some time, it becomes clearer. Personally I don’t think that this is a conversation that most people have but should. We all talk about where we want to go next, what we crossed off our bucket lists but we don’t discuss how we have changed because of these magnificent experiences. Whether you notice it or not, something in you changes when you are immersed in different culture and stepping outside of your comfort zone. I think that people who have left for an extended period of time can relate to this compared to those who haven’t left. [I don’t know the word for this feeling – if there even is one. I figured that there would be in Swedish because they seriously have a word for everything!] Each and every time I leave something else in me ignites and a door closes. Those who travel all share the same compassion and even though we can do it differently, we all speak the same language. Between myself and Jeff – this is our bare minimum list of how we’ve changed these past few years thanks to our travels.
We’ve seen some things on our travels… had some experiences that were tough to swallow. But there are people out there who have been through literal hell and back yet have the brightest smile on their faces each and every damn day. This is what has changed me the most. When you spend time with people who are poor and live a happier life than most people you know, it’s hard to find a new normal. [I think this is the toughest to explain without coming across as a huge bitch to everyone I know…] It’s no secret that we take for granted living in such a developed country that we literally joke about “First World Problems.” After you are exposed to poverty in third world countries or war stories or any other horrifying situations that actually happen still to this day, it takes a while to process. For example, your friend can be talking about her drama with her boyfriend and all you’re thinking about saying is “Really Becky – people are still coping with birth defects from Agent Orange and they weren’t even in the war.” I know for myself I’ve pushed myself away from my friends for a while because I kept comparing how majority of these fixable problems weren’t that important in the broad spectrum and was being disrespectful to their feelings. But once you’re shown the reality of what other people’s daily lives consist of, I’ve learnt that it only makes me human to show empathy towards these situations. I’d be more concerned about myself if it didn’t affect me.
Travel is not always the perfect Instagram shots and luxury hotels. It can be, lost baggage, delayed flights, long line ups, culture shock, language barriers, accidents, illnesses… you get the idea. But at the end of the day, that is all part of the experience. Traveling has taught me to just be patient. Every trip will highly likely not go as it was planned. You will experience frustrating, hair pulling moments, but you come to realize that is what you unintentionally signed up for. Island time is a thing and it is used in majority of places you will go. If you are a punctual person, you will learn to know that it is not the end of the world if your driver is 20 minutes late. As mentioned before, I am an OCD planner. But I have come to terms with no matter what my plan is, things will go wrong and I need to go with the flow.
Once you step into a country that is reasonably inexpensive to travel, you will never spend your money back home the same way again. Whenever we go out for a meal and spend $70, all we think about how that is a few nights at a hotel in Vietnam. It’s a vicious cycle that is hard to break! With that being said, we’ve cut back on a lot of social outings because we would rather put that money towards our next trip. That again is a vicious cycle because we are always saving up for that next trip! By limiting ourselves to nights out at the bar or dinners with friends, we’ve watched a lot of our friendships dissolve. A lot of relationships are honestly built off of going to the clubs every weekend and once you’re in a different place than that friend, sometimes you lose touch. Our priorities have changed and we’ve found which of our friends support that and we will never be able to thank them enough!
Quality over quantity
Tying in with the money section – being frugal and money conscious is something that neither of us ever did. I mean, we both knew how to stretch our money in university to be able to eat and go to the bar on the weekend… but now we have learnt that somethings are worth the cash and others aren’t. When you travel there’s nothing worse than shoes that don’t fit, hostels with bed bugs and food that you shouldn’t have ate but was convenient. Those new hikers that are like walking on air but are more expensive than the ones that will probably fall apart half way through hiking season – worth that extra money. A five star luxury private tour that gives you literally the exact same experience as a 3 star just with a little more comfort – not always worth it. Balancing out experiences/products that you know will benefit you in the long run can take some practice, but it is certainly worth finding the balance.
Religion and Politics
Now this is two subjects you never want to bring up! We both grew up going to youth programs after school but nothing to the extent where we practiced religion in our homes. As we got older, we stopped going and didn’t really look back. I’ve never been a fan of religion that is pushed upon you but after traveling to other countries and was immersed into their culture/religion, we both gained respect for other religions. While traveling we’ve sat in on Buddhist Monks afternoon prayer and Galungan in Bali which were a couple of our desired experiences. Sitting on the outside looking in at how blissful people are in their religion and sharing their beliefs with us has become one of our favorite experiences while traveling. You don’t need to be religious to understand faith. And for politics… I think the easiest way to say this, after you are in a country that went to war on itself because of their government, it becomes tough to take people seriously when they criticize our current government. Enough said.
If our bosses read this – I apologize profoundly! I’m kidding but this is what we struggle with quite often. When we talk about traveling to people who are older than us and have established a good career and family, they often tell us the same thing; “I wish I traveled more when I was young!” [If we had a dollar for every time we heard that – I’m sure we could spend a month in Thailand!] But it breaks our hearts. We’re in a society that is has a timeline that consists of, get an education, start a career, buy a house, get married, have babies and possibly live a life that you aren’t fully happy with but you wanted to do it right. And if you step outside this so called norm, people think you are nuts. Currently, we are that irrational couple that got married and don’t want to buy a house to settle down in but use that money instead to travel the world. Some people pat us on the back and wish us the best of luck while others grill us about ‘how could you put our careers on hold to pursue something so insane and unsafe?!’ This is one of those “to each their own” moments. All we know is that we aren’t promised the future so in the meantime we want to fulfil this burning desire in our souls! We intend to live by our mantra as long as we feasibly can – “You can always make money, but you can’t make time.”
There’s a lot more that I simply cannot put into words at this time. Plus I’m sure that after our next trip this list will continue to evolve. Each experience we have will help us grow and learn things that you cannot be taught in school. What have you noticed that has changed within yourself because of your travels? Anything that we share? Leave us a comment below to share your thoughts!
As long as we keep traveling, we will keep evolving and we cannot be happier.
Till next time,