If I Had Never Jumped Off That Cliff – Reflecting on the Past Year of Travel

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

Looking back on my experience so far.

I’ve been traveling since January 31, 2018, apart from a few months I had to spend back in New York. I’ve been thinking about my journey and what if I had never dared to take it in the first place, and has it been worth it, so far? Here are some thoughts.

Enjoying a waterfall in Costa Rica last year.

Had I waited and done “what normal people do,” I’d be touring each country I’ve visited, not seeing them.  These are two very different things; touring a place and seeing it.

“This is the most amazing experience of my life, so far.”

I get to understand the visceral depths of a country and it’s people. I see the places tourists don’t go, and the life that happens beyond the landmarks and popular destinations. I get to understand how food and drink integrate into a culture, and how history and politics lead to various behaviors. I see the bad stuff and the good stuff. As a tourist, you can only see tourist sites and check off items on a bucket list. This kind of travel is so far beyond a bucket list I can’t even compare it. This kind of travel is so much more enriching than most things I’ve done in my life, even though the decisions and actions to do it were scary as hell.

Standing in front of Santiago de Compostella.

Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2018

Immersing myself in time, space, and country, I get to know what I love about each one, and what I don’t. It’s like developing a relationship with each place. Instead of saying “I’ve been there,” I can say, “I know there.” I am witnessing so many different ways of life and coming up with a million business ideas I’d never have thought of if not for this journey.
I’ve become an ambassador for everywhere I travel. Strangely I used to want to be an ambassador but the politics être never of interest. Now I’m a cultural ambassador. I can share my experiences, learn to adapt to different people and ways of life. I think of Colombia, in particular, which was nothing like all the unfortunate sterotypes we have in mind. I get to see that reputations are often not what you’re told, I get to go past fear and into understanding. I kiss strangers on the cheek, and share local drinks and food and be part of something rather than watch from afar.

Having spent so long in certain cities, I have surprised Argentinian tourists a few times, by knowing more than they do about the city and advising them where to go, and what to do. I’ve made some wonderful friends just because I’m here.
So, has it been worth it? I now find that question kind of too shallow. This is my LIFE. I’m actually living it instead of making plans I might get to one day. I’m making conscious choices instead of letting life happen to me and feeling victim to what I’m supposed to do. I’ve gotten to confront tons of deep personal issues more quickly and more head on than I could ever have done otherwise. Even therapy doesn’t compare! I’ve had the courage to have my heart broken and more courage to let it be healed. This has been so much more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. Not only am I glad I started my journey, I’m looking forward to continuing it. I’ve never before felt so alive and inspired. Even if I still don’t have all the answers, I’m seeing that this is about so much more anyway. My soul will treasure this experience for eternity.

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