Travel Life and the After Life – Surviving After Life on the Road

Deciding to Trade In Life for Travel Life

You know when you’re a kid and you can’t wait to grow up and have control over your own life. You envision a vast amount of freedom, the ability to do whatever you want. Now as a kid, your notions are fairly naïve, lacking the inevitable responsibilities that come with adulthood. Then, as we all do, we grow up. A world of responsibility and expectation surrounds us and ironically we just want to be kids again. This is a quintessential anecdote that we all know.

I, of course, followed the same prescription in life. After high school, I went straight into college and graduate school and then onto work. I settled into adult life just fine, owning homes, paying bills, saving for retirement… swimming well in that world of responsibility and expectation. And then, as you know, I decided to take a break to travel.  I was fortunate enough to make that dream of going back to a life of little to no responsibility a reality for a short time. I’ll never be a kid a again, but that’s about as close as it gets I guess – few responsibilities and a mind ready to soak up a world of new knowledge. And just so we’re clear, quitting your job to chill on your parent’s couch all day does not make for a beneficial re-kidding experience.

(Beautiful Madre de Dios river in Peru… I was so geared up for all the months of adventures I had lying ahead of me.)

Where Can It Take You

Many people are taking time out of their life for long-term travel these days. I was away for 14 months. All I owned was what I carried on my back. There is something so simple and refreshing about this life. It’s hard to explain to someone who’s not experienced it. Travel life is full of new and exciting adventures and beautiful things to see around every corner. But there’s so much more to it. You see the world as a whole, the privilege and peril, the ease and the hard ships. You can really gauge the value of things, with a solid well-rounded footing.

Anyone who has the ability to travel comes from some level of privilege – a wealthy family, the ability to have a lucrative job that allows you to save enough to travel, etc. I was lucky enough to do well on a real estate investment that left me with some savings. Travel is a luxury and I never lost sight of how fortunate I was to be able to take myself on my journey. But when you travel light and on a budget, inevitably you remove yourself from this life of privilege and immerse yourself into a different world. Not only do you remove your personal luxuries from your daily routine by carrying a pack with basic necessities, you typically travel to more affordable locations where life is not so easy.

(Easter Island… such a highlight.)

I thoroughly enjoyed these new experiences, I’ve slept on floors, and in the dirt, I’ve not showered for days, but that’s ok. People live this way, and there’s no shame in that. This is especially true when you find that they live happier lives than you might back home.

(Some of the best times were had in Madagascar… sweaty and gross and full of smiles. I wasn’t the most athletic, but I enjoyed my time in the forest and I miss it every day.)

When you’re on the road, you get to see, experience, understand lives and cultures that are so vastly different from your own. These places and this life start to feel like home and your original home starts to feel a little less so. The problem I find, is that your heart ends up settling somewhere in between. You’ve uprooted part of yourself from what you’ve always known and then go around replanting it wherever your journey takes you. In the end, when you return home, you’re left feeling fulfilled and satisfied while simultaneously feeling scattered and uncertain.

So What Now…

Returning home can be tough. I can’t sugar coat this. There is a theme park of emotional rollercoasters awaiting your return home and you have no choice but to buy your ticket and stand in line. Make no mistake, my dear, you are tall enough to ride this ride.

(Tennessee is always home… I’m not sure I’ll ever live here again, but it certainly holds a piece of my heart.)

I’ve spoken to several people who’ve traveled long periods overseas for various reasons, be it Peace Corps, study abroad, or like me a mix of travel and other volunteer work. A running theme of the adjustment to back home is not understanding the abundance that we have here in the US (or Canada, Australia, the UK, etc…). I remember going into the grocery store with mom soon after my return and thinking, “Why so many types of peanut butter?! Is this really so necessary… surely this can’t make life better or more peaceful or easier? It’s just peanut butter.” (There were more choice words running through my head but you get the idea.) Life back home becomes the foreign land, and it leaves you wondering.

You’re wondering if you made a difference in your life or in the lives of others. You’re wondering how long until you get to go back, or where the next place you can or will go. But mostly you’re left wondering why you would prefer a life of less over a life of abundance. There’s a lot to learn about your self in the months following a long trip. And it’s very important to pay close attention as you experience each emotion and answer each question that comes up. These notions will tell you a lot about where to steer your future.

For me, I took things day by day, as cliché as that is. I essentially came back to the life I had before – same location, similar job, etc. At times, it almost seems like my travels were a dream. All of my friends have, thankfully, welcomed me back with huge open arms, but, I’m not the same. I’m definitely left wanting so much more in my day-to-day. I’m still adjusting and trying to live the beautiful duality of responsibility and wanderlust.

(Having this sweet boy back makes things brighter. I’m so lucky he didn’t completely write me off for leaving him to globe trot for 14 months!)

But for now, I’ll just simply take ground up peanuts and call it a day on the peanut butter front.