The Home Stretch
I'm sitting in a small cafe in a Chicago neighbourhood and I thought I'd spend a few minutes reflecting on the last few months of travel, since I haven't blogged about it in a while.
We turned around after a few weeks in Mexico and made our way up the coast. As I said in my previous post, there were many reasons why we made this choice - work opportunities and education opportunities being a few of the limiting factors. However, one of the biggest reasons was our pace of travel. On our trip through the US, we realized how slowly we like to travel. In order to fully explore some of these amazing parks, you have to be willing to spend time camping, hiking, climbing... We have no problem putting time towards these things.
When we originally planned the trip, we'd given ourselves 6 weeks to get to Mexico. It took us 17 weeks.
We didn't know it while planning, but this turned out to be perfect. It was a pace of travel that worked well for all three of us, taught us to slow down and enjoy wherever we found ourselves. Being three people in a relatively small van, we had to relearn how to do everything more slowly. Want to get ready for bed? Only one person can at a time. Need something? There's probably someone in the way so you'll have to cooperate with them to get it.
We learned to be more patient in our personal lives, and this translated to being more patient in our joint life on the road.
Moving slowly means seeing less physical land, but does it mean seeing less?
I think traveling slowly pointed to the one thing we found you miss on the road: working on real connection with new people. When you travel fast, you don't meet many people.
Traveling slowly allowed us to join the culture of a given city for a few days, make friends, many of which we hope to see again someday. These connections, at least for me personally, are one of the things I cherish most from this adventure.
I don't really know where I'm going with this - usually I figure it out halfway through writing but this time I can't manage to. Maybe it's that traveling slowly has been nice. Maybe it's that meeting people is also nice. Maybe it's when you travel its hard to work on meaningful and lasting relationships - travellers minimize this aspect of travel. Maybe I don't have a point.
When you travel you trade any semblance of stability for unpredictable change. When I left, I may have said that unpredictable change was the way to live. I've learned that there is beauty in experiencing this much change, but there's also so much beauty in your daily existence at home, wherever that is.
Ah! There it is. Learn to appreciate what you're currently experiencing because it always seems better elsewhere. In your daily life, the idea of travel lights a fire inside you. But while traveling, you begin to notice areas you didn't appreciate enough, like the stability of daily life, relationships, and working towards something beyond yourself.
Change teaches appreciation. When I was at home all I wished for was travel, but eventually while traveling you miss some stability. It taught me to appreciate what I have now, what is happening to me right now, because it will all be gone soon.
We've met such amazing people, people I would love to have with me in my life for a long time moving forward, but the nature of traveling is that I may never see them again. Instead of being sad, it has helped me appreciate these moments and these people so much more.
Most importantly, however, I've come to realize that it isn't traveling itself that is amazing, it's these lessons of appreciation and impermanence. We trick ourselves into believing that it is traveling itself that we want. But eventually we normalize any situation and when we are not appreciative, we learn to find problems with everything and anything. The grass always seems greener elsewhere.
Whether you're traveling or at home, your joy comes from the way you see the world. Traveling is a great tool to push us towards appreciation, but you don't need to leave your life in order to learn.
As I wrap this up, I realized that I wrote about this before leaving. Funny how we often learn the same lessons over and over again. Travel is a great way to learn to appreciate each moment, but traveling in itself is no better than not traveling. The way we see the world is supremely important and is something we can work on whether we're on the road or not. This trip taught me to enjoy each interaction because it won't last, and this is a lesson I'm excited to bring back to my non-traveling and more stable life in Montreal.
If you've read up to here, thanks for sticking with me. In my last post I mentioned that I write in order to think better. These posts are written as a "streams of consciousness" or "flow", meaning I don't typically have a clue what I'll write about, and instead let myself write the whole thing more or less in one go without stopping. Sometimes it leads to a piece of writing that seems like it was thought out, and sometimes (like today) I'm a bit more jumbled and it takes me a while to figure out where I'm going. I do this because it shows me my mental state, as well as allows me to learn to trust myself. I see my mental state, for example at the start of this post I realized that I missed working on friendships, and that since I haven't slept well this week my consciousness is less streamlined. It is also like a form of improv where you have to accept what you just said and keep moving, trusting that it will come full circle in the end.
That said, thank you for reading and thank you to those who have messaged me to encourage me to keep writing. I don't talk about it a lot, but there is a raw and vulnerable feeling that comes from posting yourself on the web like this. I write for myself, but I share and put myself out here in hopes that we can learn together.