It's a little hard to believe that a year has passed. Exactly one year ago, I'd officially declared my independence from the 9-5 grind and was on a plane headed for Costa Rica to start 10 weeks of solo travel through Central America. OK, so I had a great trip, full of volcano hikes, scuba, meeting other travelers, and the usual adventures... but a year later, what's really changed? On the surface, it would seem not much. I'm back at the same job, still in the house, still cranking through the same basic daily grind. But this life-changing trip did cause a few permanent shifts, some minor, some major:
I've lost my tolerance for air conditioning.
Yes, I know, DC in the summer requires AC. It's tropical. But I've noticed myself getting really irritated at the frigid temperatures at the office, at home, on the Metro. Do we really need to expend so much energy controlling our environment? A little sweat, a bit of discomfort, it's not the end of the world! Plus I think all the moving around from hot to cold is making us sick.
I have a new appreciation for public transport.
It'll never be as cool as the Guatemalan chickenbus system, but getting around on the Metro (and more recently on New York's subway) is not a bad way to go. It takes a bit of patience, especially at the end of a long day at work. And we do still have one car in our household, so I haven't gone completely cold turkey. But I've learned to enjoy the sport and adventure involved in getting from point A to point B with nothing but my trusty SmartCard.
People are out there living the dream... more than you'd think.
Certainly being out & about among other travelers, I met many people who were breaking out of the mold and living their travel dreams. But even since I've been back, I've met lots of folks who are making big changes. Some, like my Couchsurfing cohort Dave Lee, are taking a year off to travel. Some, like Christine Gilbert of almostfearless.com, are moving overseas and making a career change to try something they've always wanted to do. Some, like my sister Laura, are opting for a change of scenery, just because they can. It's inspiring and empowering to hear their stories, and once I got tapped into the alterna-travel scene, I realized it's not as uncommon as I'd thought.
Declare it, set a date, do it.
This one's not new... it's a lesson I've been continually re-learning my entire life. It's so easy to get bogged down in the reasons not to do something, or the mind-boggling number of steps necessary to get started. Setting a date, and doing something irreversible like quitting your job or buying a plane ticket, is a sure-fire way to turn the dream into reality. I would've thought that doing it once before would make it easier to pack everything up into a backpack and leave behind the comforts of home for the adventures of travel. But I have to admit that the daily routine sucks me back into an entropic state more often than not. Keeping an eye on the prize is tough, even as we get closer to our proposed departure date! I think it may be time for something radical, like buying those tickets for the first leg of our trip to Perth, even though there's a seemingly endless To-Do List standing between us and sailing off into the sunset.
Time to shrug off the silky, seductive tendrils of routine and make a new Declaration of Independence! Freedom of the open road, here we come.