I have a magazine subscription to National Geographic Traveler, and while eating my morning oatmeal I was flipping through an edition that highlights 50 Epic Adventures to Change Your Life. I was earmarking pages of interest, and after folding down almost every other page of the magazine (like…36 of those epic adventures are now on my bucket list), I sat back to think about how travel has changed my life.
Though I’m not a world nomad and I sometimes feel like I live in a world of cubicles, travel is definitely a defining piece of who I am. I spend a huge amount of my time thinking about it, saving for it, planning for it, writing about it, reading about it and making vision boards about it (just to name a few things).
I spend every moment that I can actually doing it.
Keeping my 8-5 job has meant that I only have a few weeks each year to pursue travel, but it has also given me the financial resources to experience a hell of a lot throughout my 20’s.
If I didn’t travel, how would I be different? If someone asked me which trip changed my life the most, what would I say?
I don’t think I could answer.
When I was 18, my family went on a cruise to Key West, Florida and Cozumel, Mexico. This was a BIG deal because we didn’t travel much. It was the first time I’d see palm tree outside of a greenhouse and my first trip on an airplane in almost ten years. I was beyond pumped. During this trip, I began to discover that the things that drove my interest in travel weren’t lounging in the sun and drinking expensive beverages. What was I most excited about? Seeing the foundation ruins of a Mayan lighthouse, about the square footage of my current living room. I’d thought it was the coolest freaking thing! The history represented by that stack of stones and mortar amazed me.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but that small Mayan lighthouse definitely planted a seed within me about what I’d come to value in my travels as an adult.
Fast forward a few years to my early twenties, and my shift to traveler truly began to integrate into my life. My husband and I began to plan as many trips as we could.
Each year, we began traveling more.
Thinking about the major trips in my life, each of them has set some new, special piece of my personality in place. Each has built upon the last, encouraging some new growth or learning.
Traveling to Italy empowered me. It ignited within me with my first true love of traveling overseas. It expanded my mind to see just how different our world is from country to country, landscape to landscape. I was like – constant jaw drop, take a million photos, try to speak Italian to everyone, feed all the chubby Venetian pigeons, eat gelato for breakfast level of absolutely unabashed TOURIST. And holy crap, it was fun. Italy was the perfect country to start with, because it is very easy to travel in (…transportation strikes aside). Luke and I could make it as simple or complicated as we wanted. In short? It showed me that I had it in me. I could wander back alleys and find my way, I could eat unfamiliar food and not be too freaked out by it, I could figure out the airport logistics and be just fine.
When I realized this, it was like something bubbled to the surface that I’d been ignoring for a really long time. I came back with confidence and a sense of true, RAW wonder at the diversity of experiences available to us in this life.
All my next trips built on this seeking of wonder.
Northern California took me deep into the wilderness for my first overnight backpacking trip. It scared the shit out of me, I won’t lie. Hiking off into wilderness without a soul around but Luke, I felt totally inexperienced and out of my comfort zone. After a very restless night, we finally finished the climb and emerged over the tree line to the most amazing views. All the fear dissipated. I stood overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. I came back with a passion for hiking and back country camping. Since then, we’ve hiked hundreds of miles.
Peru inspired a love of traveling in developing countries. Language, culture and the feel of the community were a huge shift. I finally honored my interest in ancient ruins and history. We explored Sacsayhuaman, walked on the Inca Trail and wandered Machu Picchu for two whole days. (After reading how jazzed I was about that Mayan lighthouse, you can only imagine how excited I was about this.) When we climbed to the top of Huayna Picchu and looked out over the ruins of the old city that I’d read so much about, I had a moment of lightness from the core of my being. I decided I didn’t just want to be a traveler – I wanted to be an adventurer. I came back with a hunger to experience as many different cultures as I could. I wanted to explore UNESCO World Heritage sights and travel to places where I could feel a part of something historically magnificent.
The Amazon rainforest reminded me just how much life there is on this Earth. As humans, we are just one species of millions of sentient beings in a variety of climates and environments. I came back and noticed more about the natural world that exists around me. There are so many sounds we tune out, but the natural acoustics of our Earth are always buzzing with life. If I ever feel lonely, I just step outside and listen. I know I am never alone.
Indonesia blew my mind open in a million different ways, the largest was on the island of Java, where I experienced how it feels to be a part of the extreme “minority” when I grew up in communities where I have always been a part of the extreme “majority.” I think this is something everyone should experience in life. I came back with a new perspective and respect for the people who move to the States, not knowing a word of English and so far away from the familiar. It is so incredibly brave.
Yoga teacher training in Costa Rica was the first time I traveled out of the United States alone. It ignited a deep, deep inspiration that I cannot begin to describe adequately. I came back understanding my inner fear, but also understanding the fulfillment available to me if I let it go. I came home and I tattooed it on my skin.
The list goes on… backpacking in the depths of the canyons in Arizona I experienced how beautiful and diverse the land in the United States is. I came back understanding that I don’t need to travel halfway across the world and spend a bunch of money to see and experience something new. Spain and France brought old lessons back to me in a funny, full circle realization from when I first began to travel. I was reminded to embrace softness and to not hold so tightly to the image of world traveler. I was reminded not to lose my sense of wonder. Enjoy every moment – take the photos – speak very imperfect Spanish – fumble through it and don’t worry about looking like a tourist. There is so much beauty in the experience of the unfamiliar, and being in the unfamiliar means that you will not know everything. What a relief!
There are historic books that describe how people used to feel after seeing the ocean for the first time. I’m talking – way, way back when travel was far more complicated than a half a day on an airplane, and the image of the ocean was less accessible than a quick Google search. These books describe people falling to their knees with a sense of wonder and awe at the vast and magnificent expanse of water, as far as the eyes could see. As humans, we are built to feel this sense of wonder. I think this is where it all starts — the manifestation of a beautiful life. Seeking experiences that reignite our passion for being on this planet, pulling us from the monotony we tend to create and showing us the vast magnificence of it all.
Epic adventures to change your life?
Ignite your sense of wonder and you’ll come back different every time.
Adventure on friends.