A few months ago, I quit the corporate world to travel the world. Make no mistake, deciding to leave everything behind and travel is no easy feat. My farewell to the corporate world appeared doubly fascinating. Not so much because I had quit a job, but more so because I had done so for the seemingly precarious goal of traveling. As you can imagine, since embarking on this adventure, several people have asked what it has been like. So, as I wrap up my first quarter as a world traveler, I should like to share my response to this question, expound on my initial thesis, and share my impressions thus far.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness… Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime” – Mark Twain
I do not know if traveling has changed me, but I also do not know how I can be the same after what I’ve experienced – like, the day I almost got caught by rangers whilst illegally climbing an active volcano in Costa Rica; the night I got lost in Panama City with a dead cell phone at my disposal; the day that a lake in Guatemala almost took me; the moment I almost got mugged in Salvador, Brazil; the night I almost got shot in a favela in Rio; nights where I fell badly sick in Peru; days where there was no running water in my camp or hostel; nights in the mountains which were so cold, I thought I would contract some sort of long term illness; the list goes on.
What I do know, is that part of me was left out there. I also know that the law of nature is a true phenomenon. If you doubt me, check out my serendipitous encounters.
Backpacking through Central and South America taught me a few things. The first of which is, patience! Things will happen when they happen, not necessarily when you think they are supposed to happen. And if I were to think philosophically, I would say this is in direct correlation to the belief that things happen on their own time, not yours.
God and/or the universe will always get around to doing things at the appropriate time, so worrying about something not happening when you expect it to happen is a waste of time and energy. This was a big adjustment for me (particularly as a New Yorker!) In some respects, it still is; but I have learned to be markedly more patient than I previously was.
I’m not saying that you should abdicate all responsibility and wait for providence, no. What I am saying is that you should make plans and execute those plans to the best of your ability, but recognise when you have done your part. Do not waste efforts worrying about things beyond your control.
I also learned that the mind has a deeply embedded and highly functional defensive mechanism whose first instinct is to stop us from taking risks. This “fight or flight” response is undoubtedly useful in some situations (see: my favela experience); on the other hand, this same mind is capable of doing so many things once we are able to conquer the initial fear. I think this means that we should learn to control our minds, because having control over the mind will unlock it’s greatest potential. I truly believe that if you master your mind, you master your life. That old adage is true – the mind is a powerful thing!
Another lesson: traveling in and of itself won’t do much for you. Like Wolfgang Mozart said, “a man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary whether he travels or not…”, but traveling with an open mind is the game-changer. Eat where and what the locals eat, be receptive of the culture and customs, and above all, mix with the people. If you are going to avoid all of these things, then you should just stay home.
What else did I learn? Oh yeah, solitude is a double-edged sword. Hiking through and sleeping on mountains and volcanoes presented me the best opportunities to not only think, but also appreciate life. On the other hand however, those were some of the loneliest periods. I was so lonely and cold sometimes; I thought it would break me.
Before I set out on my journey three months ago, I hypothesized that although we may look different and come from various corners of the world, we are fundamentally the same. From the dance and music, to the way children are raised, to the clothing, the food, spices and even forms of expression. I am happy to report that, based on where I have been and what I have seen, this holds true. The music heard in Brazil could easily be mistaken for African music.
The way Colombian women move their hips while dancing is comparable to the way South African women move theirs. Peruvian women interact with their children similarly to the way my mum raised me, and the food I tasted throughout The Americas can easily be found in Senegal or The Caribbean. And the list goes on.
Now, back to the original question – what has it been like so far? Well, I have experienced the highest highs and the lowest lows, which I believe have and continue to build my character. I wouldn’t change this experience for anything. I know nothing more enriching and enlightening than traveling the world, and I surely hope that more people get out and see the wonderful world we have.
Thanks to all who joined me along the way – you made the experience even more satisfying. And to those that I am yet to meet…can’t wait!