May 15, 2011 was my 7th anniversary of leaving New Zealand, to go traveling “for a bit”. I haven’t been constantly on the move however, rather I’ve been nomadic. This migratory pattern has been based on a combination of access to work visas, whim and the price of local beer. So for the last 7 years, I’ve spent 6 months in USA, 2 years in UK, 1 year in Czech Republic, 2.5 years in Canada and most of the rest on ships.
It’s been fun. The great thing about slow travel is you build a base, meet people and you assimilate into the culture. It’s a bit like living a parallel universe version of yourself where you’re exotic. Cruise ships have been fun too. You also have a base and you experience a variety of travel. It’s also a bit like living in a parallel universe, where you lead a simple life, get drunk everyday and most of the women have mysteriously vanished.
Ultimately, every anniversary I seem to ask myself these same questions:
1. Am I doing the right thing?
Sometimes I’m not so sure. It’s liberating to have no roots but it’s also hard trying to stay grounded. I don’t want to end up being some weird hippy who talks to his seven cats all day and lives in a van.
2. Am I still happy?
I think I’m a pretty happy guy. Happy enough to smile at strangers but not so happy that it’s nauseating. Although when people express concern that I’m single, I get concerned that I’m not concerned. Or maybe I’m concerned but don’t know it. That’s concerning.
3. Shouldn’t future security be more important than present happiness?
There is so much emphasis within the travel community about living in the moment. But what about money for retirement? Admittedly that is a genuine consideration.
4. Shouldn’t I get a house, wife, 2.4 kids?
Family and friends tell me I need this. Maybe I do. I guess no one wants to be old and alone. But being young and stuck in cubicle sounds pretty sucky too.
5. Why can’t I just pick one place to live?
I don’t know, because it seems mediocre. Plus I get country ADD. I wish there was one place I could say with conviction that I want to live in forever. But there are too many interesting options to choose from.
6. Have I traveled for too long?
When you go traveling for 1-2 years people envy you. When you go traveling for 3-4 years people are impressed. When you go traveling longer than that people wonder what’s wrong with you. May I have traveled for too long, but I guess I just haven’t found a good enough reason to stop.
7. What am I trying to find?
This is a a question I get asked a lot. I’m not trying to find myself or love or even enlightenment. If anything, it’s to recapture that sense of wonder we had when we were children and when you see something new for the first time.
This time around, there’s a fair bit more doubt in my heart. Perhaps this will be my last year of nomadic travel. We shall see.
What questions to you ask yourself when traveling?