My parents were bitten by a very contagious travel bug long before I was birthed into this beautiful world; I think whatever they got they passed it on to me.
I started travelling when I was five and trust me; I hated it. My mum and dad would drag me along their adventures while I, on the other hand, clung to them like a baby monkey desperate to be taken home instead. Today, at a very young *cough* age of 22, full of energy, zeal, and zest for life, I look back at how preposterous my line of thinking was back then. I question myself on how in the world I disliked travelling at one point in my life. Impossible! I would easily give one of my toes up to visit all those places all over again. This is until I remember how young I was at that time. I mean, all I wanted was a Happy meal (from a fast food joint). You can’t blame me for not wanting a long, exhausting 15 hour drive to see a church that was submerged in volcanic ash and I definitely didn’t want to be scared to death as I swam beside a humongous Whale shark (How was I supposed to know at 5 that “Shark” didn’t mean JAWS?).
When I turned 12, my mother brought me to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to study. I saw myself as a distraught adolescent who was taken away from her friends and was carelessly yanked into a foreign land. Instead of excitement for the possibility of new adventures, I experienced an early onslaught of teenage angst. I absolutely disliked the process of adjusting to all sorts of nationalities and ethnicities. If you’ve been to UAE, you’d understand how big of a melting pot of different races it is. I was also fortunate (at that time hapless) to visit Iran and Kish Island. I felt like a little Asian alien trying to put together a clear picture as to why I was even there in the first place. It was horrible, and I loathed it.
Today, I can question my parents’ sanity. C’mon, why would you spend so much on experiences I barely enjoyed? But man am I lucky to have nutty fruitcakes as parents.
At present, I reap the fruit of that seed they planted in me. The seed slowly blossomed into this beautiful flower that occupies the biggest part of my heart – Travel. “The more you hate, the more you love” is an understatement. I’m pretty sure I didn’t hate travelling that much to love it immensely today.
Travelling has been my safe house ever since I figured out I loved it. I have felt much more at home on the road than at my own house, and it is because of the very peace it provides me that I have been contemplating on the possibility of long-term travel. I can’t seem to get a concrete decision out of myself. Monday, yes. Tuesday, no. Ano ba talaga? I ask myself over and over. A horrible seesaw to be on for all of us adventure seekers. Indecisiveness is a drag. It’s like an endless battle between my heart and mind.
To finally get off that seesaw, I asked myself these six questions:
1. Am I ready to spend cold nights in airports, bus stations, and train stations?
Sometimes, we get so caught up in the excitement of long-term travel and the endless possibilities of freedom that we end up overlooking the realities that go hand in hand with it.
Long-term travelling is basically 70% hard work and sacrifice. Are you ready to bid goodbye to the warmth and comfort of your home to spend half a day or an entire night on dirty airport floors? Because you’d probably have to if ever you decide to take on long-term travelling. Travelling is beautiful but beautiful does not mean perfect.
Sacrifice. A lot of it. Are you physically and mentally ready to take on the less pleasant side of long term travelling? Are you ready to walk less desirable distances and sleep in positions and conditions you never thought was humanly possible? You need to make sure you are. It’s part of the journey.
2. Am I going to starve?
Long-term travelling requires preparation. You don’t just quit your 8-5 job and expect the Universe to generously pay for your plane tickets, bus tickets, accommodation, and food expenses. Long-term travelling requires a little bit more of being an adult to survive. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll see that those long-term travellers you’ve been admiring for the longest time have been working hard for the food on their table and the roof over their heads (It’s just a plus that they do so in a manner that they love and enjoy.)
How do you prepare? Deciding and working for your future source of income. There are tonnes of certifications and courses you can take that are globally recognised. There are also jobs that are available that can pretty much help you prepare for your next destination. If you want to get a clearer picture of what I’m trying to say, you can do so here.
This thought brings me to my next point.
3.Can I respect myself even without an impressive title or resume?
If you’re basking under the benefits of having a Corporate job, it will dawn on you that you’re going to have to say goodbye to those pretty beige stilettos you bought that match that chic handbag you got on sale the other month.
Yes, my dear. You are going to get down and dirty once you start with long term travelling. Well not really down and dirty but more of getting into less impressive resume titles. “Hotel receptionist” on your resume doesn’t turn as many heads as saying you’re a vice president of a multinational corporation. You’ll have to deal with that (and deal with it with your head up high) every single day of your long blissful term travelling life. Let me reiterate how you have to be okay with having bread and butter that is socially less impressive than other sources of income. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and still be proud of yourself. Remember that.
4. How comfortable am I with goodbyes?
Being on the road means having to say goodbye to a lot of people who are going to touch your life in many ways you won’t even be able to explain.
You have to be prepared to say goodbye to a new found love, friends, and places. It’s one of the things you’ll eventually learn to accept once you finally decide you’re ready to pack those bags and leave. Long-term travelling means accepting that some people are left as open chapters of our journey that we eventually have to close or keep open so we can go back to them.
“When you leave, you begin to understand the worth of what you walked away from. You discover that walking out is not always equivalent to closing doors. Sometimes it means leaving them half-open for the journey back. It is not a virtue possessed by the easily contented. It has always been the beaten down path of the brave.
One fine day, it will be your turn. You will leave homes, cities and countries to pursue grander ambitions. You will leave friends, lovers and possibilities for the chance to roam the world and make deeper connections. You will defy your fear of change, hold your head high and do what you once thought was unthinkable: walk away. And it will be scary. At first. But what I hope you’ll find in the end is that in leaving, you don’t just find love, adventure or freedom. More than anything, you find you.”
– Isa Garcia (c/o Infinite Satori)
5. Am I running away from any responsibilities?
Before anything else, make sure you’ve ironed out those creases in your life that you’ll potentially be leaving for long term travelling. Accept and respect any existing responsibility you have as a daughter, son, lover, friend or employee. Fix anything that can potentially chase you as you go on your journey. You don’t want to be at the climax of your journey and suddenly have to cut it short because you received a call from home regarding something you haphazardly left unfixed and unsettled.
Make sure you’ve left everything in a state of independence from you once you leave. If you feel like you still have a lot of things to sort out, put that goodbye on hold until everything is settled. We have to accept that things don’t just fix themselves and we have to be mature enough to fix things and not run away from responsibilities.
6. Am I following my goosebumps or am I just following someone else’s goosebumps?
One of my favourite lines I’ve read over the internet would be “Follow your goosebumps.” I’ve held on to this ever since I met the person behind the saying in one of the Yoga retreats I joined.
Whoever is reading this, I hope you follow your bliss. I hope you follow your goosebumps. I hope you follow your wanderlust. I hope you follow your dreams. Even if that means not having a degree to frame onto your wall, or a steady fat paycheck, or a nice big house, or pretty expensive things. Because when you’re on your deathbed you’re not going to think about the degrees you acquired, and how much money made and spent. You’re going to think about the people you love, all the beautiful places you went to, and your dreams that came alive.
Gain the courage to follow whatever makes you feel the most alive and never stop chasing your dreams.
I hope you live a life that you’re proud of.
If it doesn’t wake every single minute molecule of my being, I have to quickly rethink of how much I want it or if my environment is just influencing me to want it. Why is this important? You can’t drop everything for something temporary. If you do so, once the passion fades, you’re doomed. Assess yourself before your drop everything and decide to travel long-term. No one else will know the desires of your heart better than yourself.
I think about those six questions every time I’m on one of my adventures as a weekend warrior, and I’m always able to give myself an answer I’m never ashamed of. No, I’m not ready to leave just yet, but if ever the time comes that I can finally respond to these six questions confidently, I will run out to pack those bags, and I know, I just feel it in my gut, it’s going to be amazing.