Learning from Travel
Travel is an addiction. Once you start and fall in love with it, you never want to stop. For me that meant finding a way to incorporate it into my life in any way possible. While it can be difficult, I always find a way to make it work.
It's a lifestyle that can, at times, limit my ability to settle into a routine and put down roots; but that is part of the intrigue. Instead, I am forced to completely open my mind; I am forced to learn about history, explore diverse cultures, immerse myself in unique experiences and experience new relationships. But I never travel alone, I meet people wherever I go, and I form new bonds. I find it thrilling to to think about the many friends not yet made and waiting along with my next adventure.
Beyond that, every place you travel to makes you that much more unique, enriching your life-story. Sometimes you can identify how your travels have changed you immediately; you can see it and feel it. Other experiences require a bit more self-reflection. I like to think that every country thus far has allowed me to take away a special piece of the puzzle.
The Faroe Islands taught me to love nature andtake the road (or in this case, the mountains and islands) less traveled. It was my first true solo-trip where I knew absolutely no one in the entire country. This country taught me about the preservation of history, rituals and nature itself.
Among my favorite experiences on this trip was meeting Simun Petersen in a completely deserted town (Look up: Mílu) on the coast of one of the larger islands. Abandoned by its residents in 1994, this tiny tiny village has no paved road, only a 6km single lane rocky path taking you straight there. Over a 30 minute conversation, Simun taught me about the history of the town, the purpose of the annual sheep slaughter and the process in which they use viking tradition and technique to dry, store and process the meat and wool.
However, what became apparent to me is the way in which the Faroes have an incredible relationship with nature. It isn't the town or the people that challenge nature by destroying it- nature hugs every town before a tunnel leads out of it.
Iceland taught me to appreciate the beauty of cold weather and dark, black nights.Visiting in January meant 5 hours of sunlight. That meant using those hours to see something incredible and to see as much as we could. At night I learned that, although long, these hours are great for reflection. Beyond that, these dark nights granted us the beauty of brilliant green and pink light shows overhead.
I also experienced a feeling of freedom. In Iceland, you can pull over and park nearly anywhere for a night. That means waking up next to a waterfall and listening to it over breakfast or swimming next to a hot spring before retiring to your RV for dinner and boardgames. The freedom to travel wherever and whenever we wanted within one place was an incredible opportunity.
Spain taught me to enjoy the little things in life- like long conversation over small portions of food, or wandering in the hopes of getting lost. Now, it’s a beautiful thing to look at meal times as opportunities to socialize and explore relationships. It's also an incredible feeling to know that getting lost after hours of walking only takes you closer to a more memorable experience.
Colombia changed my perspective on what family means to me. Growing up- I had a very small family, that although close, was just that, small. Arriving at the airport was my first experience ofbig families- exiting the airport with a crowd howling and laughing, holding signs and playing music, waiting for their families and friends to return home for Christmas. Everything that came after, was built upon that airport experience. From Day 1 with Juan Pablo and his family, I felt included, respected and a part of a larger extended family that I seemed to have suddenly known for years.
Just as important, I learned that not everyone will have the opportunity to venture outside their country which is why family does become such an integral part of our lives.
Seoul showed me a duality between tradition and modernity. Learning about the respect the people still share with their history and religious beliefs. Because of my severe jet lag, I was never able to sleep for the short time I was there. Instead, I would wander down to the Jogyesa Temple (the centre of Korean Buddhism) just as the morning light was rising over the buildings to watch large groups of women led in prayer. I admired the devotion these women had to their religion- experiencing prayer while the city wakes up and leaving the temple to be a part of the larger crowds, going on with their lives until the next morning.
The Middle East was an entirely unique experience to any other I have had and it is why I fell in love with the people and their history.
Dubai, most importantly, taught me how to be okay alone in a city with millions. What did I want to learn? Who did I want to meet? Where did I want to go? Always asking myself these questions, I filled my days with experiences I wanted to be a part of. One of the largest was going on a Desert Safari tour. I was able to see the desert, learn about falconry, henna, try camel milk- experiencing it all to myself as groups of family and friends were experiencing it together. I learned that it's okay to be alone and, actually, how to relish in it.
Qatar showed me diversity in a working city- Marshall McLuhan's Global Village personified. Most of the new buildings are in fact empty as expats are only in the city to do business a limited amount of time per year. It was as if the city is really looking forward to prepare for what they want their economy to be. It is an unfinished city which feels like you are growing alongside it. Although there for work, I would take those few extra hours in the morning before call time to explore my own curiosity- looking around every corner in empty areas of the city. In the evenings, I had friends take me to the older souks to learn about abayas, dama, and taste traditional food
Although there are many more of these experiences, those are the ones that are the most evident addition to my life thus far.
Nothing compares to looking out the oval airplane window, while the sun rises over the clouds. Listening to your favourite song as layers upon layers of clouds are painted by the colours of the sun- this feeling is unparalleled. Looking out you realize that you are passing over millions of people, thousands of towns, and a few continents to explore a new place. There are new memories to be made and new people to meet.
If there is any one thing to start a journey with it's your mind. Don't travel to forget what you are leaving behind; to escape. Rather, travel to remember all the memories you have had and the thousand of new ones you are about to make.