Travel, Without Putting Life On Hold

October 8, 2007

Cape FoulwindI saw an ad in the travel section of my newspaper the other day that begged me to “Put life on hold! Take the trip of your dreams!” I think that ad must have been written by someone who’s never really traveled, because it misses the point of travel altogether.

For me, my travels and my so called “real life” don’t exist independently of one another. It’s not like I operate under a secret identity when I get more than a hundred miles from home. At least I hope I don’t. Sure, I might relax a little more and act a little more spontaneously than usual, but when I get back I don’t forget all of the experiences I had.

And it’s not like all other aspects of my life are cryogenically frozen while I’m off traveling, only returning to normal when I’m back at my permanent mailing address. Travel shouldn’t interrupt your life, it should enhance it. Seeing the world can be a goal for your lifestyle, not something you put your life on hold to do.

I’ve taken a different post-college path than most of my friends, choosing to spend a couple of years roaming around, working, studying, and backpacking abroad instead of settling into full time work and a mortgage and a marriage. But even though they might be more settled into their adult lives than I am, I would never say that travel got in the way of what I wanted to do. If anything, it became a large part of what I want to accomplish with my life. I’ll take another five years of country-hopping over a management position and an SUV, hands down.

For an extreme example of someone who made travel a main part of his lifestyle, have you read about Jason Lewis? He’s the English guy who traveled around the world, but not the way most people do it. He and a friend set out with the goal of circumnavigating the globe using on their own power. That means they used kayaks and rollerblades and bicycles – no planes, trains, or automobiles. Along the way, Lewis’ friend dropped out to go back to England and settle down while Lewis got mugged, got malaria, picked up odd jobs to pay his bills, spent months recuperating from a car accident, and narrowly escaped several disasters.

Motorcycle DiariesHow long did this adventure last? Jason Lewis was on the road for more than 13 years. He wasn’t on vacation, he was just living his life all over the place. I’m not suggesting that we all head out on some endless voyage like his, but whether you manage a couple of weeks or a couple of months away, don’t look at your travels as a break from real life, see them as a part of who you are, who you want to become. Sure, start your travel portfolio slow if you want – three days in New York City, a week in London, a guided tour of the Grand Canyon – but then dream big, find some good deals, and take bigger leaps.

Next, I want to do the Motorcycle Diaries thing through South America. Who’s in?


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