Life Changing

Reflections on Long-Term Travelling

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted my last article. As the name I picked for my blog reveals Travel is all Write, my belief is that, whenever one travels, one should document it, tell it to others.

That’s what I always do. And, as I wrote and shared before, «travelling is more than buying a ticket and fly somewhere. Travelling is a way of living, part of our personality, the approach characterized by an incessant will of seeing things from different perspectives, of finding a new peace of the puzzle, each and every day». But it was due to not being on the road anymore that I didn’t find the motivation inside of myself to write/ share. And this is mainly because of the intense period of re-adaptation and the transformation that has occurred during my travels, too. 

If you have traveled for a long period of time or if you are hankering after an experience like that, I challenge you to think on the pros and cons that come with it. Of course the travel approach can be very different from traveler to traveler. If you have a partner or if you travel on your own, if you planned it in advance or just go with the flow, if you are more into sightseeing or if you prefer to randomly meet people and go for what they suggest, if you stay in 5 stars hotels or if you choose to delve into local culture, it really says a lot about the way of travelling.

The inspiration for this post came from the date of today. One year ago, I drove from Lagos (in the Southern Portugal) to the Lisbon airport and got on that plane with final destination in Mumbai, India. I am still trying to figure out what my emotions and thoughts in that moment were like. I didn’t have anything booked or anyone waiting for me. I had in mind a place where I could maybe do some volunteering in one of the southern beaches of Goa, but it didn’t happen so I was thrown on the streets of Arambol, at night, on my own, with my backpack and feeling immensely vulnerable. 

I never had a plan or a very clear idea of where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do or which kind of people would I like to be surrounded by. I only knew I wanted to challenge myself to the point that I could know more deeply about myself, and this would only be possible through the immersion in a reality like India, with its particularities, its people, its smell, its culture, its turmoil, its goodness, its badness, its everything all at once, like a big fair displaying all products, with all different colors.

I had no return ticket and I didn’t have a fixed plan for the possible return to the origin point. I ended up travelling for eight months, nothing when compared to the friends I met along the way (3 and 4 years, sometimes), but the intensity of it was such that I am still processing it all. After 5 months in India, I went to Nepal, then I flew to Thailand and, finally, landed in Sri Lanka. From Sri Lanka, I went straight home, for the surprise of all my friends and family (I didn’t say a word to anyone), and here I am, experiencing a big transformation. There is lots of uncertainty and inner turmoil coming from that, I can tell but it’s very powerful and positive.

To sum up what I allowed myself to experience: I lived in community, journeyed inside an Indian train for 36 hours, wandered the streets of Varanasi, experienced a deprivation sensorial tank, studied one month of Ayurveda (the ancient medicine), studied Buddhism in the North region of Dharamsala led in silence for ten days, completed a 10 days Vipassana by Goenke meditation, lived immersed with the nuns on a monastery, got stuck on a guest house with a water poisoning, traveled through the majestic Nepalese hills in the peak of the monsoon, tried all kinds of Thai food and massage and lived with a Sri Lanka family for a month, by Mirissa beach.

Here and now, four months after the day I got back, I would like to share some of my thoughts on travelling for a long time.

PROS:

  • We get to know about ourselves deeply and we learn how to be disembarrassed no matter what

  • We have the opportunity to do a reset of the life situations we left behind

  • We get use to live with a backpack with only a few items inside

  • We give value to the comfort of our lives left behind

  • We only nurture positive feelings for the ones we thought we had issues with

  • We experiment an immense, unconditional love for our family and friends

  • We face death as a natural consequence of life

  • We get to know our limitations and major needs

  • We forget about things that just doesn’t matter anymore

  • We learn how to speak different languages

  • Our sense of orientation gets better and better

  • Our sensitiveness becomes sharper

  • We know part of the real story behind the movies and books

 

CONS:

  • We loose contact with our own environment

  • We quit things that could maybe be good possibilities

  • We create a gap between our life ‘before’ and our life ‘after’

  • We are no longer the same person and it’s hard for people to understand that

  • Our interests might change and our priorities are different

  • We force ourselves too much, trying to adapt to the challenges

  • We loose weight, get dehydrated and in some cases we get sick

  • People get use to our absence and they organize their lives according to that

  • We feel empty and confused

  • We become so honest with ourselves that we cannot pretend things anymore or do things that doesn’t fill us 

  • We keep on thinking that travelling is what makes us alive and so is always hard to commit and to live a ‘conventional’ life.

By Margarida Pimenta

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