This is the sixth year I’ve been traveling full time, and I’m not sure where the time went! As I make my way around Malaysia, I’m thinking about what’s changed, what’s the same, and what it’s like to have been on the road for so long!
I still have that zest to see new places, to discover things I’ve never seen, meet new people, and try new foods! But, I’m also noticing a lot more craving for community. I’ve been traveling solo, for six years, and I’m ready to travel with someone, and find my way into more consistent groups. I think being marooned in New Zealand for two years, where I created new community and friendships created more desire for that as I travel.
Last year, I lost my stepdad, and I’m aware of my parents aging, and it is also shifting how I travel. Whereas before I’d go for 10 months at a time (apart from the pandemic) now I feel I need to check on my parents more frequently.
I’ve mentioned before that each year carries a theme for me. This year started with the theme of “foundations.” I’ve been focused on only going to places I’ve never been, but I’m starting to want to return to some of the places I’ve already explored. These are places with wonderful friends I’d love to see again, as well as landscapes I dream of returning to. So, in the next year, rather than expanding my number of countries, I may start returning to ones already visited. I’m especially thinking of South America which I want to return to, though I also want to see places like Guatemala and Mexico.
I’m noticing a great desire to slow down. I started this journey changing locations roughly every 3 days. Even in the same country, I’d change cities quickly, trying to see as much as possible. Now I’m wanting to spend at least a month in each country, and try to stay in a city for around a week. I’m thinking this may become 2 – 4 weeks in the near future. This way, I don’t feel the constant pressure to unpack and repack. I also get to know more than just touristy locations, and meet people as I go. In fact, now in Malaysia, I could go to Eastern Malaysia, but doing so, for me, feels like a foray into a whole new world. I know I’ll want to explore ALL of it, and already have my sites on South Korea for this trip, so will leave the Eastern part of Malaysia for the next return trip to Asia!
One of the parts you might not see, looking in from the outside, is how much time I spend working while traveling. There’s keeping up my blog, there’s videoing my travels, editing the videos, posting them on YouTube, pitching articles, writing said articles, taking photos for said articles, working with clients, being a guest on podcats, speaking…I’ve been so focused on the work side that I’ve started neglecting my ability to just be. So, this year, I want to spend more conscious time just enjoying present moments instead of always recording them for later consumption. It’s hard to dial it back, especially running a large Facebook group, but I’m working on it!
Another theme that’s been making itself stronger is the desire to learn more about the history of places I go. At the start of my travels, I had a very introspective experience. That blossomed into a joyous external one where the world suddenly had rich colors and feelings and I was enthralled just witnessing it. Now, however, I want to know more depth. It’s as if I started my journey by cleaning my blank canvas. Then I gathered the tools and the colors I loved so I could spend time dropping color on that canvas, but now the colors are ready to be turned into a detailed painting. What before was amorphous is ready to take on shape. I used to be content simply experiencing the places I went, whereas now I want to know more facts and what transpired there beyond the details I can read in books. In fact, I prefer to learn through conversations with locals and free walking tours over brochures and history books.
Finally, the joy of talking to strangers everyplace I go always lights me up. I met a wonderful Dutch woman in Penang, almost got to see another Dutch friend I made in Zagreb last year, and keep meeting wonderful people everyplace I go.