A lot of people have asked me what I hope to accomplish with this trip, though in varying forms:
- What are your goals for the trip?
- Why are you doing this?
- What are you looking for? / What are you running from?
- Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you? Are you suffering from a psychotic break? Do you need help? Blink twice if you need help.
So, here’s a list of assorted things that are vaguely responses to those questions. And quotes. I love quotes.
Hello, Self? It’s me, Dumbass.
Obviously, one does not embark on a trip like this and expect to come back exactly as she is now. I’d by lying if I said that I don’t see this trip as a way to “find myself,” though that’s a bit of a misnomer. I don’t really believe in “finding oneself” because it implies that there is some finite state we are striving to reach. That, one day, we will suddenly figure out who we are and that all the mysteries of life will then be revealed to us, our deepest wishes granted, happiness will abound, everyone will get salted caramels and we’ll finally figure out where those damn numbers on LOST came from.
While I love me some salted caramels, I much prefer to think that we will spend our entire lives growing and changing and that who we are in our past does not destine or doom us to a particular future. A single event (or a year of events, in this case) can’t tell us who we will always be — it’s just another stepping stone. We should spend our whole lives challenging ourselves to be better versions of who we are now. Let’s take a look at my evolution so far:
- 18-year-old Lisa was an entitled little dumbass who thought she knew everything but, in fact, knew nothing
- 21-year-old Lisa was slightly humbled and had found her voice (can you believe that I used to be super quiet and shy?), but the dumbass realized she had no interesting or coherent thoughts to express
- 23-year-old Lisa had a “quarter century crisis” when she realized that she was defining herself by her work, which she hated, the dumbass
- 25-year-old Lisa was still a corporate dumbass but finally realizing that money and “success” did not equal happiness and set out to look for it in relationships, collecting passport stamps, and chasing a plastic child’s toy around an arbitrary rectangle for an arbitrary amount of time with a bunch of women equally fanatical about flinging themselves after the disc
- 28-year-old dumbass has noticed an unfortunate pattern in her identity thus far
We rarely know how an experience will change us, but in my experience, the growth that comes is always necessary or positive. I think it’s impossible to predict just how the trip will change me, but I know that it will, and I look forward to it.
Some people have also asked why I have to travel in order to bring about self-growth. I don’t. I could continue to plug away at my boring, stable, comfortable life and still grow and challenge myself, though at a slower, more manageable rate. But being on the road, away from my friends and outside of my comfort zone, I won’t have anything to hide behind. No more safety net to fall back on when things get too intense. Travel opens up our eyes not only to the world but also ourselves. What’s dumbass like when she has to hold chickens in her lap for a 6-hour bus ride? Travel will put me in a lot of situations that will expose sides of me normally buried away and force me to learn how to handle unusual situations.
The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only a page. ~ St. Augustine
I have had a very fortunate life purely because I was born an American. I have had so many opportunities and privileges that billions of people can only ever dream of. I think it’s important to understand that, and traveling is a great reminder.
It’s also a great way to recognize that life exists outside of the bubbles we live in and that our way is only one of many. While I love being an American, I am also very interested in seeing how other countries and cultures do things, exploring life through other peoples’ eyes: what they value, how they interact, how they approach life, and so on. What do other countries do better than we do? Are they happier than we are? How can we apply that to our own lives?
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. ~ Isaac Newton
This trip would not be possible for me if it weren’t for those who had gone before. I know a handful of people who have done long-term travel or RTW trips, and simply knowing someone who did it made it much less daunting for me to do it, too. Chatting with them and hearing all about their adventures fueled the fire, and here I am.
Most of the people I talked to about this trip expressed envy, and many said that they wished they could do it, too. I hope to show them and others that a trip like this is possible and well within their reach. If I can do it, so can you! Even if all it does is inspire you to get your passport, that’s great. We all have to start somewhere.
Let’s conspire to ignite
All the souls that would die just to feel alive
~ Starlight*, Muse
I am chasing a feeling. I felt it a lot when I was younger, but it’s been very rare since then. The last time I remember the feeling, I was maybe 14 and I just happened to look up at the stars on a clear night. In the flash of a moment, I felt both infinitely insignificant and also profoundly important and connected to the universe. Looking up at the stars and realizing that despite how tiny we are, we are all also significant. I knew and was confident in my place in the grand scheme of things.
That moment is why I stare at the stars, the ocean, and mountains. Travel evokes a similar emotion — wandering to the far corners of the earth remind me of my insignificance and connectedness. Maybe if I wander long enough or far enough, I’ll feel the stars again.
*Ironically, the full lyrics:
I will be chasing the starlight
Until the end of my life