This past weekend I took a small road trip to upstate New York. I had spent the majority of time by myself, which allowed time for a lot of reflection. I started thinking of past trips I had taken and the travel companions I had along each way. When I look back on my travels, there were some adventures that really only took a day, and others that lasted weeks. There are still many journeys that I went on when I was alone. While I pride myself on being so independent, I have come to realize something: although the journey will always continue, it's nice to share the road with someone else.
Every trip I take allows me to experience something new, but my eyes are often opened in a different way when I'm alongside a close friend. I think back to when I really first started traveling. I was fifteen and boarded a plane with forty other high school students from around the county to head across the Atlantic Ocean. I basically knew none of those other students. We had met a handful of times before our trip, really maybe just three or four times. I was completely outside of my element. It was the first time I had ever gone somewhere without my family and here I was traveling across the ocean away from them. I must admit, I was scared. I'm someone who thrives around other people, and I suddenly found myself in the middle of London alone. I quickly realized that I needed to make friends. And so I did. The group that started as strangers quickly became my fellow companions of the road. Together we experienced new cultures. We explored history with curious minds; we ate new and bizarre foods; we danced Scottish jigs; we herded sheep in Irish pastures; we rappelled from castle walls; we lived and breathed together. Twenty-one days later, we boarded back on a plane and landed in our hometown, which somehow appeared to be different now. I didn't realize until I got older that home isn't any different; it always stays the same. But it's me who's different; it's me who is being shaped by the experiences I've lived. When I think back as to why I first felt so scared and so nervous on that plane to Heathrow, I think it is because I didn't know my companions. As a traveler, you learn that everyone you meet will present the world to you in a different way. When I was fifteen, I was hesitant of being shown a way I hadn't known. At the end of those twenty-one days I spent in Europe, I came home with a group of new friends, and a new perspective on life.
The years to follow after that first trip, my love of traveling only grew stronger. Each trip came with new companions, some of old friends and some of the new. What I've come to learn is that while the road continues and while the journeys propel us further, I truly appreciate experiencing these moments more with a friend by my side.
While I was living last year in Arizona, a dear friend of mine shared a South African word with me. Ubuntu. The word itself literally means "human-ness." But it is most often used in the phrase Ubuntu ngumtu ngabanye abantu which is commonly translated to "I am because of you." This word alone has opened a new perspective for me. This is what I intend to say: I am because of all the people I've met and experienced.
You see, when I travel I have this odd habit of trying to imagine the people that have come before me and people that will come after me. I try to close my eyes and imagine explorers wandering about the west or great architects building new monuments at which I now stand before. I try to dream of people ahead of me, coming and walking on the same ground I've walked on, and the same ground so many generations before me have journeyed through. When I go and see new places or experience new things, I think of all the people that suddenly I feel apart of, and soon someone else will feel a small part of me. For a few moments, time fails to exist and I'm imagining all time pushed together: happening at once.
In these moments, I ironically feel so small and so insignificant in this universe that I wonder why I'm even here. Until I turn and see my friend beside me. I realize I don't have to be here, but something, perhaps all other journeys before this one, led me here to experience this and to stand beside you. And for a moment, I know I am only because of you.
This post is for so many people that have explored a part of the world with me. This post is for all the people that have come before me and will come after me. You encourage me daily. This is for you. I only am because you are.
Just within the past few days I've noticed people on Facebook posting an article titled "Don't date a girl who travels." I have linked the original article here.
Although it knew it would frustrate me, I read the article anyhow. I should have known better. Only after I finished did I realize how much my frustration fueled me to write a response. So here it is: Date a girl who travels.
"She’s the one with the messy unkempt hair colored by the sun. Her skin is now far from fair like it once was. Not even sun kissed. It’s burnt with multiple tan lines, wounds and bites here and there. But for every flaw on her skin, she has an interesting story to tell."
Date a girl who travels. She may seem hard to please. Her soul desires new experiences and adventures, but there's something sweetly solemn about finding the norm in every day things. A date to the movies with you will allow her to feel the comforts of escaping, without all of the woes that travel can bring. She'll still want to hear about your own feats and she'll probably challenge you to another round of that rock climbing experience you once had.
Date a girl who travels. She might bug you to book a flight every time the airline has discount seats. Her constant willingness and spontaneity will keep you on your toes. One time you'll agree and you'll both get to experience an unforeseen adventure. Spur-of-the-moment, last-minute-decision trips can remind you to feel alive. Feel alive.
Chances are, she has a steady job. She may be busy daydreaming about her future; maybe even how she'll be able to cash in her retirement. She doesn't have to work her ass off for someone else's dream because she has her own. She probably doesn't have a standard "desk job" because she's probably earning her way with a creative career that constantly demands more of her. And don't be afraid to talk about your boring job. She won't care if it's a job that she wouldn't do as long as you're happy doing it.
Date a girl who travels. She might have switched careers after graduating with a degree in a different field. This doesn't mean she's lost; she's just learning how to be successful for herself. She realized that in her original career path, it wasn't something that was satisfying for her. She's changed careers because she's taken chances and isn't afraid to face new challenges, and she'll encourage you to do the same.
Date a girl who travels for she has chosen a life of uncertainty. She may not have a long-term plan yet. She probably goes with the flow and makes decisions based off of what her heart tells her to. She has her own rhythm of life. Her motivation is made anew with each day. She finds inspiration in small things.
Date a girl who travels. She isn't afraid to speak her mind. She'll be humble about her journeys, awaiting to hear what your parents or friends have to share first. She knows respect and isn't fearful of feeling passionate towards social inequalities and responsibilities.
She will need you. Although she may know how to pitch her own tent or hoist her own sails, she will still appreciate you offering the help to do so. She may be able to cook well and she loves when you take the opportunity to cook with her. She is independent enough that you don't need to travel with her, but she wants your companionship on the road. She's busy living in the present, but she might find her mind drifting towards a future with you. She will meet many interesting people that share her same thoughts and morals. She will love learning and sharing yours too.
So date a girl who travels. Don't let the fear of not being able to keep up with her stop you from being with her. She'll push you to be a better man and a better human being. You'll grow and you'll learn together. You'll explore the world with shared eyes. You'll live in the present while preparing a lifetime of memories to share in the future. And if you fall in love with one, tell her.
Since the new year has begun, I have found myself with a few consuming thoughts. I've been aching to get back into the business of writing a blog, and while I must I admit I tried a few times, only now does it appear to be the right time.
It seems that since I've had my last birthday this past November, I've been yet again realizing just how far I've travelled since the last birthday I celebrated. (I do mean travel both literally and figuratively.) Birthdays always make me nostalgic for the past and typically encourage me to look forward to the future. All birthdays before my last, my twenty-fourth, I've been anxiously awaiting the new year's adventures. And while I do of course await those in this upcoming year, something is dauntingly hanging ahead of me as I'll celebrate my twenty-fifth birthday in ten months time. I think the future both excites and frightens me because it is something I have yet to figure out. (Again, consider this both literally and figuratively.)
This past month, I've spent a lot of personal time in reflection remembering the past and dreaming of what the future may hold. Remembering the past has made me realize how many lessons in life that people could never prepare you for as an adult. When I think about my childhood, I can vividly remember wanting to be an adult just so I could make my own choices and make my own life decisions. Now as I sometimes look at my students, who are on the brink of entering high school and beginning a new chapter in their lives, I so preciously want to tell them to enjoy it while it lasts.
Here are ten life lessons that I wish I would have known about ten years ago: