3 Things I Have Learned About On the Road

After six months on the road, there are a few big things that I have realized about myself. There is nothing too profound here but these were the ones that quickly jumped to mind.

1. I’m still intense – I always chalked up my intensity to living in New York or working in high pressure jobs. But really its just a part of who I am. And that’s not necessarily such a bad thing.

On the road, it has helped me to focus on staying safe, finding places to stay and above all, making the most of my experiences. Despite taking more time to see all the countries I have visited than I have on previous trips, I will never be the type to linger in one place with no concrete Plan. I understand that it helps people to dig deeper into a place but its just not me.

So if anything, the trip has taught me how to better channel my intensity, largely by developing certain habits. Working out almost every day has helped a lot. Regularly updating my blog has been therapeutic. Finally, to maintan some semblance of order, I journaled every day while tracking all my expenses on a country-by-country basis (a bit Type A I know).

Ultimately though, I realized that no matter what I do, my intensity will create energy and focus, which I look forward to unleashing in my next endeavor.

2. I can deal with anything…at least for a short while – whether its sleeping on a bus or dirty bed for a night, showering with a bucket, eating something that would normally make my skin crawl, or even (gasp) going a day or two without internet, I realized I can handle almost anything. In fact, I can look back on many of these experiences with a smile.

Couchsurfing is an example of this. Staying with a stranger for a few days, in essence trusting your life and experience to them, is undoubtedly scary. But I learned to embrace it, knowing each stay was only for a few days and realizing that so much of the positive things I experience on the road come down to trust. And I was rewarded with terrific hosts who are now newfound friends.

Outside of the US, you need to be prepared to be patient and deal with conditions that are not as hospitable or don’t make as much as sense as they do back home. The test of a longer term trip is at what point do all the frustrations boil over and drive you crazy.

So whether it has been enduring the blazing heat and Ramadan in Tunisia, the touts in Egypt, the rain in the Philippines, a 26 hour bus journey from Vietnam to Laos, the jungle in Borneo or the lack of ATMs in Myanmar, I’d like to think I have handled it all relatively well.

Of course if I had to do it for longer periods that might be a different story. Especially sleeping in some of the places I stayed for more than a night or two.

3. I will always be a vagabond – no matter what I do once I settle down again, the itch to do another trip like this will always remain. That’s not o say I don’t like to work. Heavily related to #1 above is my yearning to throw myself into something I care deeply about. On the other hand, I love traveling and this trip has reinforced that.

There are so many places to see in this world and while I will never be able to see them all I now know for certain that having a larger block of time to travel will always beat a one or two week vacation.

If I am to do more big trips in the future, I think I would like them to be more focused, and shorter in duration. For example, spending the fall traveling across the US to watch big time college games. Or bicycling across New Zealand. Because as much as I have enjoyed the lack of structure on this trip I would like my next trip to be more planned and goal oriented.

I think my vagabond spirit is a good thing. It allows me to recharge after periods of intense work and keeps me in touch with the wide world. I just hope that I have the courage to keep it going.

As I’m unavailable to access my blog from within China, if you have any feedback or questions feel free to email me atmatt.sussman@gmail.com. Thanks again to my good friend Dan for posting this for me.

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