On this day last year, I was boarding a plane in Delhi bound for New Jersey. It was the very last day of our RTW trip, and it blew my mind that the end was right there at the airport gate. Eaman and I parted ways — he was continuing on to Iran, where he would be backpacking for six weeks — while I was headed home. He kept me company at the gate, and then boarding began. Once they called my section, I started crying. And then Eaman started crying. It felt devastating to walk away from each other after everything we had been through. That said, flying home solo and having six weeks to myself gave me some perspective on what I had learned and what the trip meant to me.
Since coming back we always randomly reminisce — about that time we hitchhiked in Patagonia with a very shady Argentinian man or when our Vietnamese local bus left us behind at the border between Vietnam and Laos or every other crazy memory that inspires us to do this kind of trip again sometime soon. (When? I don’t know. For how long? Maybe six months. Where? Central Asia and Africa sound exciting.)
But the trip really wasn’t about those isolated adventures; it was about how they all came together to teach us a few lessons. I figure today, exactly one year later, is the perfect time to look back on those lessons and to see how/if I’ve taken them to heart:
Live with Passion. I met so many travelers who live the life they want because it excites and inspires them. A Thai woman loved traveling so she became a stewardess. A Burmese man wanted to learn Spanish for the hell of it so he did. I loved that they dreamed big but didn’t let those goals stay as just dreams. They went for it, no matter what the obstacle was. I think I achieved this on a few levels: I moved to San Diego without any security net, got a dog without the know-how or financial stability and started a blog that allows me to write about all of my favorite things even though the market is so saturated. I just did it, and it feels so good to know that I didn’t stand in the way of my own dreams.
At the same time, I’m working a couple jobs that I really don’t like and if my income were stable, I’d happily ditch them. But rent, groceries and a dog don’t pay for themselves, so getting to where I want to be career-wise is a work in process. I never want to be one of those people who’s stuck in a dead-end gig that makes them unhappy, but for right now, I have to stick it out until I get some financial ability.
Chill Out. I grew up on the East Coast, went to a competitive university and worked in Manhattan — obviously I was Type A! When we traveled, though, everything just sloowweedd ddoowwnn. We didn’t move around as much as some travelers, and it taught us to live in the moment. But traveling also taught me not to sweat the small stuff. As I would tell myself when I thought I had it bad and then I’d see someone who had it worse, “Nothing is ever that big of a deal.” There are solutions, and when there aren’t solutions, there is time. Minus a meltdown here and there, I’ve been pretty good about being relaxed. Living in Southern California obviously helps immensely.
Be Confident. Every day of our trip we met, ate with and slept in close proximity to total strangers. It was no time to be shy. Since we traveled as a couple, we could’ve easily coasted along on our own, but if we wanted to get anything out of our trip, we had to put ourselves out there — and prove that we were a cool, non-clingy couple. I needed that same sort of confidence to start fresh in a new city. Since moving here, my life can be boiled down to: “Hi, my name is Archana and I just moved here. What’s your name?” It’s exhausting to constantly be the new girl but necessary to make friends, get work and grow a blog. That said, just because you’re outgoing doesn’t mean you can’t ever be lonely, but as long as I can say hey, there was nothing else I could’ve done, then I can rest easy.
Be Kind, Understanding and Helpful. I think I’m less judgmental, less critical and more willing to go out of my way to help — whether it’s hosting an out-of-town guest or helping a stranger on the street, but one major fail has been my lack of volunteering. Each week I say I’ll research opportunities, but I let life, my sleepiness or my motherly duties to a dog get in the way. It’s pretty embarrassing, especially after being so touched by our experience teaching English to Burmese students, but hopefully putting my confession on paper — or in this case, on blog — will hold me accountable. I’d love to know if any of you San Diego locals have recs for organizations that serve women, children, education or the arts.