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Long Term Travel

Monday, July 9th, 2012

“I felt like I was into a new routine and the constanly changing, spectacular scenery was losing it’s ‘novelty’ or ‘wow’ factor. Somehow the 500th spectacular beach had become the norm.

This said by a guy who had spent a year traveling a few years ago. It got me to thinking.

I think you have to ask yourself why travel again? You spent a year on the road so yes, you know you can do it but I get the feeling it was as a spectator.

The journalist Robert Young Pelton has been publishing a book entitled “World’s Most Dangerous Places.” In the preface he says this:

It helps to look at the big picture when understanding just what might kill you and what won’t. It is the baby boomers’ slow descent into gray hair, brand-name drugs, reading glasses, and a general sense of not quite being as fast as they used to be…. Relax: You’re gonna die. Enjoy life, don’t fear it.

To some, life is the single most precious thing they are given and it’s only natural that they would invest every ounce of their being into making sure that every moment is glorious, productive, and safe. So does “living” mean sitting strapped into our Barca Lounger, medic at hand, 911 autodialer at the ready, carefully watching for low-flying planes?

Living is (partly) about adventure and adventure is about elegantly surfing the tenuous space between lobotomized serenity and splattered-bug terror and still being in enough pieces to share the lessons learned with your grandkids.

But then there are all sorts of other intra-personal reasons that have nothing to do with our expectations of “seeing the sights.” That is the insight that those hair-in-dreads backpackers have. They are growing up. And my couchsurfers who I follow on Facebook after hosting. I don’t care if I see another old building or temple for the rest of my life. It is the lives of the local people I am interested in…people very different than me…not people I “have something in common with.” If I wanted that I would have stayed in the states. I want to “grow up” too.

As for me, the best kind of traveling for Pico Iyer, the travel writer, is when he is searching for something he never finds. “The physical aspect of travel is for me,” he says “the least interesting…what really draws me is the prospect of stepping out of the daylight of everything I know, into the shadows of what I don’t know and may never will. We travel, some of us, to slip through the curtain of the ordinary, and into the presence of whatever lies just outside our apprehension…” he goes on to say. “I fall through the gratings of the conscious mind and into a place that observes a different kind of logic.”

Alaine de Botton, the English travel writer says, If we find poetry in tattered old men weaving home on bicycles, a grateful charm in smiling young country girls… and a shared intimacy in the look of recognition in the eyes of kindred travelers we have found “an alternative to the ease, habits and confinement of the ordinary rooted world.”

introspective reflections revealed by large sublime views and new places may reveal thrilling or disappointing aspects of ourselves here-to-fore hidden from our awareness.

Another travel writer says “it is not necessarily [only] at home that we encounter our true selves. “The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we [think] we are in ordinary life…who may not be who we essentially are,” says the author.

Anyway, I retired in 2002 and traveled for about 5 years and finally moved to Mexico 6 years ago to live…having found an ideal day-to-day living situation. How long are you going to be here, people ask. Oh, until I don’t want to be here anymore, I say.

Long term travel doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Go back home for awhile when your heart tells you to. And get those medical check-ups your health ins. pays for. You don’t have to decide ahead of time whether it will be 6 months at a time or 2 years at a time.

I found that “being on the road” is exciting and full of novelty but every few months I needed “down time” to reflect and integrate my experiences. It could be 2 weeks or a month. Or 2 months depending on the need. Maybe 6 months or a year or more to really get to know the people, get your nose into another culture and try to adapt to it. That’s when you will really find out a lot about yourself.

In short, long term travel helps one to integrate the outer world with one’s inner life.

In my case I kept the house in the states…renting it out to cover mortgage, taxes and a bit more to travel on in addition to my pension…and as a back door in case of chronic health problems down the road. And remember, traveling in so-called “developing countries” will be much less expensive.

Now, I am still traveling and will be starting on another RTW at the end of October for 5 months…Hong Kong to see one son, SE Asia (including Thailand to see another son) and this time Oman before spending nearly a month in Istanbul to get to know “friends” there and as a base for overland travel from there.

I feel soooo much gratitude for having had these years while I still have the energy and physical ability.

Don’t wait…for…what? And keep a travel blog for your family and because you will forget a lot of it until you go back and read later…savoring those memories.

And peeling your onion.