Imagine taking motorcycle rides through the countryside, exploring hidden caves, walking along pristine beaches, and wandering around temples and small quaint towns. Oh, this is just the beginning. What about meeting a bunch of interesting, like-minded people who you instantly become friends with, partying the night away in some small beach bar while capping it off by lying in the sand watching the stars.
This is what life is like on an everyday basis while traveling. No routine or mundane everyday to-do list to accomplish. I remember thinking that one of the best feelings in the world is waking up and asking myself what I wanted to do that day. With each day different, filled with excitement and spontaneity, I wondered how I could ever go back to living a ‘normal’ life with a 9-5 job.
A year and a half after my one-year backpacking stint, I find myself sitting in a coffee shop, asking myself the same question, ‘how do I go back to living the same old normal life?’ Honestly speaking, you never do. Traveling has changed me in so many ways that I cannot even begin to explain. Whether you traveled for a week, a month, or a year, you come home a completely new person compared to the one that left. You mature, you gain perspective, and you realize that there is more to experience in life.
Life After Traveling the World
Since I’ve started traveling, I started to view money differently. I find myself automatically still thinking like a backpacker, scrimping in every possible way. I would walk around malls, completely shocked at how much a bag or a pair of shoes costs when I know that could easily be a weeks worth of food and lodging somewhere. I cringe at the thought of spending for a meal or a night out when I know that could be a cheap flight or a weekend away somewhere. Experience and adventures trumps any material urges that I get. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I went shopping, happily living off the same clothes that I was traveling with (okay fine, I have more underwear now!).
The Constant Feeling of Being out of Place
Don’t get me wrong, I love being back home and being with all my friends again, but I constantly find myself with the unsettling feeling that I no longer fit in. In fact, I remember going out with some of my friends during my first few months back. We were at this bar and I was sat down, quietly people watching. Everyone looked the same, dressed the same, and talked about the same things. Suddenly, I felt so out of place with my arms and feet piled with bracelets and anklets, from each place that I went to. As they talked about work, marriage, and kids (gasp!), I became the annoying friend who started each sentence with “There was this time when I was in…” raving about each exciting memory that came to mind. While other people talk about bath time with their kids, I talk about the time I gave an elephant a bath in the Mekong River (true story).
A Life of Routine
On an everyday basis, I find myself craving for spontaneity. I hate living a life of routine doing the same things over and over again. During my first week at work, I found myself walking to our school auditorium for a meeting, completely barefoot. Everyday, I find myself secretly planning my next getaway and adventure, with sites like Skyscanner ‘magically’ popping up. I found myself struggling to come to terms with how everything seemed so mundane and ordinary.
Trips to the grocery fail in comparison to the many amazing markets that I visited in Europe. Bus rides here seem like a breeze compared to the long 30-hour rides that I took from Vietnam to Laos. Rather than eating in nice restaurants, I find myself wishing that I were in a cramped local spot by the street, eating something I can’t even pronounce.
After months of pondering and ‘trying’ to get back to my normal life, I realize that traveling does that to you. It changes your perspective and makes you rethink everything that you believe in. I once told my boyfriend (whom I met traveling and now lives in the Philippines—read more about how we met here) that traveling has ruined me because now I know that there is so much more to life than working endlessly for financial security or material possessions. It has tested my limits, humbled me, and striped me of my ego and pretentious notions. So, how do you go back? You don’t. Instead, you take a little bit of every place that you’ve been to with you. You smile at the countless memories that you’ve made, and remain grateful for the experiences that came your way.