Most people expressed feelings of shock upon hearing about my road-trip plans. “7 weeks is a long time to be driving by yourself,” they told me. “What are you going to do?”
I didn’t give much heed to these comments, as I couldn’t see anything significantly different between this type of trip and all the other extended ones I had taken. In fact, I naively believed it would be easier as the United States is familiar territory and my car a place of comfort.
I was wrong and am not ashamed to admit that 7 weeks of driving took it out of me. Not in the way my friends were fearful, however, at no point was I bored or sick of driving. But it took it out of me for the mere reason that driving that far, while also being so engaged and stimulated, was depleting.
During the drive, I didn’t understand the extent to which fatigue was materializing. Presumably, it arose because I was so consumed by what I was seeing, hearing, experiencing and learning. I was in-the-moment and pushing myself in ways that I hadn’t had the desire to be or do in other recent trips.
This is overwhelmingly a good thing as, in many ways, the road-trip changed my life.
It was through this experience that I recalled why I had dedicated my life to travel all those years ago. The answer to the overwhelming and fear-wrenching question “why” had started to dissipate over the past year and a sense of purpose had been left behind at one of the many baggage claims I had stood waiting.
Moving had become my usual, it is just what I did and while I was always enjoying how I spent my time on a daily basis, the bigger picture had faded from view. To be fair, I don’t think this is unique to full-time travel. In fact, I think it is inevitable for any kind of lifestyle. You get so wrapped up in the day-to-day needs of survival (where to sleep, what to eat, who to speak to) that the why becomes a second, and then the third thought before it sneakily drops off your radar.
During my US road-trip, I got to use my brain. Given that I am fairly well acquainted with the US and that I strive to stay up-to-date on what is going on politically and culturally, my travel only enhanced that understanding. This put me in a position to engage with those I met on a deeper, more knowledgeable level and made it easier for me to notice the little things that demonstrate bigger things.
The presence of an anti-communist flag in the depths of Washington State gave me food for thought for at least two hours. Staying with someone who works for US Customs and Border Protection gave me an understanding of how and what is done to safeguard the country and how that has and hasn’t changed under the new President. I conversed with more Trump supporters than ever before and had conversations that prior to I had never really had access.
Unfortunately, I am not up-to-speed with the politics and culture of every country I visit. And, while I always do research before and during my time in a place, there still is never enough time to truly understand.
When I first started traveling I found myself returning to one part of the world frequently – India – and even my subsequent time in Nepal and China was chosen with the purpose of understanding more about India’s place in the world. That desire for a deep level of understanding and knowledge (or what some may call an obsession) was what spurred my love of travel. Every book I read and each movie I watched had to do with the place in question. It wasn’t just little sprinklings of insight that inescapably blurred into each other, it was education.
I miss that. I want to return to that way of traveling.
Back to the road trip. At some point, during those thousands of miles of driving, I not only decided to change the name of my blog (and the other relevant platforms) to my own name but also resolved that it was time to adjust how I travel. Both of these resolutions were connected and part of a new phase.
I no longer want to spend 365 days on the road bouncing from place to place, not knowing where I am until my third morning there. Instead, I want to plan more purposeful trips that have a start and end date and a travel schedule that grants me time to research a destination before, dive into the culture during and reflect on after. In other words, a more holistic approach to the journey.
While I wouldn’t change anything about the past two years of (basically) full-time travel, I know deep down that for the bigger picture of my life this will be a more fulfilling and challenging way of approaching travel.
I don’t intend to annul my goal of visiting every country in the world and I certainly am not stopping traveling; instead, the complete opposite. By partially reducing the time I travel, I anticipate being able to sustain wandering for many more years. I believe that by taking breaks in-between trips, the time I actually spend traveling will be of a higher quality. Similarly, the downtime will give me the chance to focus on other parts of my life (my business, my health, my relationships), while also being able to consistently produce the quality of content I seek to create.
It is my hope that this new approach will lead to a greater sense of balance in all aspects of my life and for all sides of my personality. And will make the answer to “why” just as relevant as the day-to-day answers of “where”, “what”, “who”.
I think of it this way. Generally, after two years, you look for a promotion at your job or a different position, you move apartments or something in that vein. You look for ways to enhance your position and your life because no-one wants to stay in the same spot forever.
This is my version.