Monday, July 28, 2014

How Traveling Didn't Change My Life

As you all know my summer has been jammed packed with travel and new experiences. In the last two months I have spent a month in Costa Rica surfing and learning spanish and then traveled to Peru, climbed a mountain and saw Machu Picchu. Since coming back to the states I have been in Nashville, Pittsburgh and spending the past few weeks in Maine.

Since I have been home so many people have commented that my CR/Peru trip was a "trip of a life time" and wanted to know what life-changing epiphany I had on top of that mountain? I am sorry to disappoint everyone but I didn't climb the mountain and find myself because... I was never missing! I guess if I had an epiphany it was about 8 months ago when I decided to quit my job and go to school full time and then in the meantime take a well-earned vacation. But I didn't run off to Central and South America because I was searching for something or hoping to find clarity in my life. It's true, that trip was a major challenge for me. It pushed me outside of my comfort zone and I learned a lot about how others live outside of the U.S.  I am not saying that I came back the exact same person - obviously an experience like that had an impact on me but I didn't come home with this profound new outlook on life. So here are some of the takeaways from my trip:

... Spending time in third world countries made me have a great appreciation for all the opportunities and luxuries (big and small) that we have in America. While I want to continue to travel, I can't image calling any other country "home."

... In the two months I was gone, not once did I purchase any clothes, nor did I peruse any shopping sites that I previously spent so much time on. This is a good thing since I am about to be a grad student with limited funds and don't need to be shopping like I was. I have always known that my obsession with clothes is a little ridiculous but I also didn't really care - you like what you like. But after going 2 months without really even thinking about shopping it made me realize that it is not the be all, end all to life. Granted, I still love cute clothes and spend time planning my outfits but I would say it is just ever so slightly less important than it was 2 months ago.

... Particularly in Costa Rica, they were very mindful of waste and sustainable living. Living in the South, recycling is not exactly abundant nor convenient. Since I have been back I have tried to be better about saving electricity, conserving water and recycling. Probably not as well as some of my crazy Maine hippie friends but I am working on it!

... People are good. In the last few years I have kind of lost my way with having faith in people. The people of Peru are so kind and truly care about others. Rather than looking over their shoulder at what others may have, they seemed to celebrate the success of their neighbors because their success meant greater success for their country. They all had such positive outlooks on life - I often think about my Peruvian guides and try to channel their positivity each day.

... I am still type A. I joked with my friends before leaving that I would come back this laid back, surfer chic. Well, not exactly. While in Costa Rica I tried really hard to calm the heck down. Not everything needs to be on a schedule. Not everything has to go the way that I imagined it. But... that wasn't easy. I can't help it. I don't know how to truly relax (except naps - I did learn how to do that while I was there). Since I have been back you would think I would try to take it easy while I was in Maine and just enjoy the time off. Nope! Instead I decided to take a business statistics class online. And not only that, I made myself finish a 5 week course in 3 weeks. Why? I think I just thrive under pressure. If I don't have stress in my life, it stresses me out!

... I'm not done traveling! I was so ready to get home by the end of the 2 months but now that I have been back for a month I am already deciding what my next big adventure will be. Climbing the mountain and seeing MP made me realize that I really need to take advantage of my "youth" if you can call nearly mid-30s that, and go on the vacations that require a more endurance and stamina. I can save Europe for my 50s when you just walk around everywhere. Surfing 20 hours a week and climbing almost 16,000 ft was hard enough for my 32 year old body!

So, as you can see, nothing life altering happened to me on my trip. Don't get me wrong, it was awesome and I saw a lot and learned a lot but I can't say it changed my life. I also don't like to think of it as a "trip of a lifetime" because I hope that there will many more like that! I think what I walked away with or the thing I am most proud of is that I actually did it. So many people talk about going on a trip like that but don't. I was scared to death to go but I made myself do, and I did it all on my own. Especially women, sometimes we don't realize how strong we are - sometimes you just have to put yourself out there in order to figure it out!