All this time the Guard was looking at her, first through a telescope, then through a microscope, and then through an opera-glass. At last he said, ‘You’re traveling the wrong way,’ and shut up the window and went away.
Alice Through the Looking Glass
Bonus blog post! Back in the States for three weeks, I have had lots of time with friends and lots of time to reflect on my first few months of travel. Everyone asks what my favorite thing was (don’t have only one but I really dug camping in the desert), where I liked visiting the most (everywhere- but liked Egypt way more than expected) and how well did I pack (not too bad if I do say so myself- but I cut a few things for Part Two). So I put together a few thoughts on my travels so far.
Time becomes much more of an abstract concept. The first thing you lose is the day of the week. You literally have no idea what day it is. Thank goodness for airlines that send emails 24 hours before your flight! At this point, I find the months are even slipping away.
Some days take forever and some the blink of an eye. Certain events become slow motion memories and some travel days feel like a lifetime. You wish some of these events could have been recorded as no storyteller could completely recreate the moment. Retell your stories often, even if only to yourself, to help record them in your mind.
Your friends live all over the world- some online conversations will start in your middle of the night. Go with it. Those are some of the funniest chats you will have. And you always have an old friend wherever you land with a new one to be made any minute.
The general populace is the same everywhere. The individual is so very unique. My favorite days are always those spent hanging out in cafes or taking lunch outside offices and meeting people that live there. My favorite nights are those that take me out of my normal environment, like camping in the desert or climbing a mountain.
Collect people, not souvenirs. I am so happy with the friendships I have made with people all of the world. Love or hate social media- when used for good, it is the perfect way to stay in touch with all of these people. It knows few borders, never closes and allows for as much or as little contact as you desire.
People that travel are amazing. They have a curiosity and appreciation for the world outside of their life. They are always up for adventures, tasting and trying new things. These are the ones that will be participants in some of your best memories. And reappear many times throughout your life.
There are really only a few must have items- passport, ATM card, cell phone and lots of ear plugs. Everything else is a luxury item. My indulgence items are really good shampoo and conditioner (ironic since my hair and I have never formed a strong relationship) and Alaskan glacial silt soap. And Band-Aid brand bandages.
I don’t take too many clothes, although I am certain I could take less. I wish I could take fewer shoes. A good sundress is key. A sarong can be a skirt for impromptu visits to religious institutions, a swim coverup, a dress, a blanket, a head covering and on and on. A portable power strip will allow you to make lots of friends during airport delays. And a drain cover for sink washing beats stuffing the drain with a plastic bag any day.
Learning how to pack is important. I have been called “Mary Poppins” and “Hermione” for my ability to always have everything you might need. As I type this, I fully recognize that I will not be in possession of the very next item someone needs. Karma.
I can’t overestimate the need to pack your imagination as well. Traveling alone leaves you plenty of time in your head. Traveling on tours leaves you plenty of time trapped in cars/planes/trains/boats/buses. A healthy imagination helps through the tedium and some of these crazy thoughts can turn into crazy stories that take on a life of their own.
Know where you are going and how to get there before you land in a new airport. People generally lose their minds in airports so if you can keep your wits about you, you are way ahead in the game. Some countries want you to use taxis, others discourage. Know this before you arrive.
Learn a few things about local customs. I make it a point to know tipping and dining etiquette, seat belt laws, how to greet people and a few key words.
I left on this adventure a total hotel snob. Not long into my travels, I lost it. I have slept on the sand surrounded by camel dung, on top of train beds and on sailboat decks inches from my fellow travelers. Turns out, you don’t need a fancy bed to dream. You just need the stars, exhausting, fun-filled days and a sleep sack.
English is a good language to know, nearly everyone speaks a little of it. But learning bits of local language is fascinating, the similarities and the differences. A few words, such as the Arabic ‘yalla’ and Italian ‘prego’ are fantastic words that I have incorporated into my daily speak.
You will miss some things. Embrace them rather than dwell. I found I missed Mexican food (I don’t even really love Mexican food), Morningstar chickn patties and rinsing out my toothbrush in the sink.
Take lots of pictures, but also stop to make memories. You can look back on the photo and see the beauty, but the memory will bring back the moment. Four thousand photos without feeling are only pictures. One story will stay with you forever.
You can travel the world, but home will have the germs that give you the flu.
Next stop, Dubai. See you there.