Looking Back and Moving Forward

I meant to do a one-year anniversary post awhile back, but as with most things in India, it’s a little late. So here I am, celebrating 400 days since I left home. It’s odd to be on this side of one year of travel. I can recall my first night in Thailand when I shared a dorm room with a woman who had been on the road for 14 months. I was in awe. I couldn’t even imagine 14 weeks, let alone 14 months. But here I am, approaching that benchmark and my imagination still swirls with possibilities. Don’t get me wrong, there have been many times when I’ve wondered “What am I doing out here, anyways? I miss cold milk and hot showers. Take me home!” Those doubts have been met by words of encouragement from family and friends, ranging from kind advice (“We love you, Larry, take your time and decide what’s best for you”) to borderline abuse(“Stop your whining, you big baby. You haven’t worked for a whole year. Jesus.”). Ahhh the loving support of family can’t be beat!

So, 400 days of travel. 400 days filled with elephants, hiking, scuba diving, safaris, lava lakes, ancient churches, helicopters, amazing kids, motorbike rides, pristine beaches, new friends, falling in love, volunteering, yoga, late night adventures, trains, festivals, reading, temples and mouth watering food. 400 days of getting lost, struggling with languages and customs, feeling lonely, cramped bus rides, food sickness, distrust, boredom, heartache, misplaced items and being robbed. 400 days with new loved ones but without so many of those I hold dear.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, or in some cases, re-learned, as a wise new friend recently told me. I’ve learned I have strengths I never knew I possessed, but also have weaknesses in areas I once thought I never would. I’ve learned to wait. I’ve learned to forgive and let go of hatred that had soiled me for years. I’ve learned that food tastes better when you eat with your hands. I’ve re-learned that it’s ok to make mistakes and to stop worrying about making the perfect choices. I’ve learned that things change, so embrace it.  I’ve learned that I don’t want to be alone, but I like being left alone. I’ve learned that there is an endless amount of ways to live life and not to be boxed in by expectations. I’ve learned that it’s normal to be afraid. I’ve learned that everything will be okay.

What I don’t know is where I will end up after this journey (Ugh, I hate that word. Journey. It feels a bit pretentious and self-important. I’m traveling around Asia, not around Mars). When this is all done and good, will I be back in California with a work desk close enough to yell over my cubicle walls at Shilpa and Duy; spending Saturdays watching my nephews play soccer? In London, taking the train into work with my cousins Emma and Mary and sharing dinners with Jayme and Danny? In the Netherlands, butchering the Dutch language with Loes, Yvonne and Karin? In Colombia? Mongolia?

I don’t know, and frankly, I’m not too worried about it. Check back with me in another 400 days or so.