November 30th, 2015
I started this blog so my friends and family can follow me on my newest adventure to South America. And admittedly, having told everyone that I was going to keep up with a blog helps me stay accountable and actually write. But there’s also another, more important reason.
I’m also conducting an experiment. I’m going away to challenge myself, not only physically by hiking and camping in the Andes mountains in Chile and Argentina (with little previous hiking experience and camping adventures largely restricted to Burning Man) but also, emotionally. And so, this is my attempt to open up to strangers and loved ones roaming the internet, whether looking to peak into my life or just stumbling upon this random blog post.
My question is this: what is it like to share publicly the special, private moments and reflections we have while we travel? I hope that I can learn how to answer this as I continue to write. Although right now I am nervous and unsure about the whole idea, and I don’t even know what a successful outcome looks like just yet. What I do know is that I have relinquished control of who reads this blog, and I have accepted whatever consequences result from it.
The posts I’ve written from the last year, originally for a Women’s content platform called Women’s iLab, have largely been “lifestyle” articles, documenting travel in a non-offensive, more “how-to” sort-of way. And even my about page is written in this way. As is my recent post on packing for South America. But, that doesn’t mean they will all be this way. Hence this pre-departure letter to myself, one that I at first intended to write in a journal and keep private. This is the first time a letter to myself is written on a public platform.
I write this at the eleventh hour, with my flight to Cartagena early tomorrow morning. I’ve spent the last 24 hours packing and moving out of my apartment to make room for a tenant who will be taking over my home for the next three months. I don’t have a return ticket – I will come back to New York when I am ready. Last time I did this, when I backpacked in Southeast Asia, I was not at all ready to come home. I felt totally pulled out of my experience. I won’t ever forget the feeling I had as I landed on the tarmac at JFK. It was raining and below freezing outside. I was heartbroken.
This time, I have every intention of returning when the time feels absolutely right.
Those who know me well are not surprised that I decided to leave again. They know that travel pulses through my veins. But so many people (women in particular) that I speak with at first are surprised that I relish in traveling alone, and under such strict financial conditions. Their eyes widen. They are in awe, but also fearful. There’s a hint of judgement in their voices and facial expressions. How can you just pack up and go? How can you even afford it? How do your jobs give you so much vacation time? Don’t you want to find a stable relationship? Their judgement is remarkably short lived, because their questions give way to complete understanding. They don’t need any answers. They remember being 25. They remember how they dreamed.
Some only see what I’m doing as a distant dream, one they have no idea how to make a reality. Am I a nomad? An irresponsible burner-hippie? No, I’m not. I’m a woman who’s doing things a little differently. What’s so cool is that this journey, this way of doing things, is entirely OKAY. So many people have done this before. There are many life-travelers, long-term travelers, backpackers, and career writer/travelers out there. They are amazing, and they inspire all of us to try and do what they do. More people should believe within themselves that they can incorporate this abstract idea of “travel” into their own lives.
Not everyone is going to get it. And I’m not trying to get to those people. I’m trying to reach the ones who get it but don’t think they can do it. They’re scared and they feel limited. They only dream. I want to empower people to travel. And more importantly, to do it alone – to leave their husbands, wives, partners, colleagues, family, friends, and pets. I know that’s hard to do, and it’s easier for me to say as someone who doesn’t have much to leave behind. But it’s only temporary. The traveler will change far faster than those who stay behind in their normal routine. Trust that everyone will be right there where you left them.
Leave it all behind, look straight ahead, and jump. The ocean is not always a warm wading pool. It can be quite cold – and when you jump in, it’ll hurt a little. But once you’re in the water, it gets easier. And there’s no turning back. With travel, you’ll come out of the water and back to life feeling rejuvenated, empowered, and feeling alive and ready to take on part 2 of your life. Because you’ll realize that everything until that moment was only part 1.
For those who still don’t “get it,” that is perfectly okay. But to explain how I do what I do: I’m not rich. I’m not a trust fund kid who doesn’t need to work and can frolic about indefinitely. I grew up in a middle class family with a very hard working mother and a grandmother who helped her raise me. I work very hard when I am not away. I travel on a shoestring with a very limited budget (hostels, couch-surfing, 16 hour overnight bus rides, solely eating street food) and often forgoing material possessions and luxuries in New York so that I can create this experience for myself. Because I know that for me, the time is now.
This is not a vacation. Traveling is where my heart finds its purpose. Traveling is where I feel most at home.