Six months. Time and travel have a way of combining to create what feels like a time warp. Think about when you go on vacation. You are so concerned with making the most of what limited time you managed to get off of work, while simultaneously dreading the return that the trip is usually over before you know it and you wonder how time could have moved so fast. I’m sure this is how I will feel the last few weeks before our return home (in another six, or so, months).
For now though, looking back at the last six months fills me with a mixture of gratitude and amazement bordering on disbelief that this is my life. I may not know what is happening at home in terms of national and local news, what happened to the island’s inhabitants in the current season of Lost, or who won the NBA finals, but there is also so much more I do know. One of my goals of travel was to learn-about the world and people and perceptions and myself. I will spare all a complete list, but here are a few random travel lessons I’ve picked up in the first six months of our journey around the world.
Travel Lesson #1: There is no substitute for common sense, gut feelings, and being appropriately cautious and wary. There is a fine line between being overly cautious and appropriately so, which I am learning to navigate.
Travel Lesson #2 (Lesson one aside): Remembering the selfless generosity and acts of kindness that we have been shown in all countries by friends and strangers alike. This fact is to be recalled during all the other times I start to lose faith in humanity.
Travel Lesson #3: While we may have most of the best and the brightest (people, schools, gadgets, infrastructure, etc.), the United States is not either of these adjectives. We are simply an infant country, albeit one with power and riches, that has, is, and will make mistakes that will need fixing. What happens in the US truly affects every country in the world and their opinions of us as Americans vary from one end of the spectrum to the other. In some countries, learning I was American has garnered marriage proposals (two, to be exact), while in another country caused a police officer to refuse to help us with the simple task of directions.
Travel Lesson #4: I don’t have to love it, but I CAN live with only what I can carry on my back. Read: It is possible, although maybe not attractive, to go without make-up and hair product, wearing the same clothes for days.
Travel Lesson #4.1: Do not pack an ounce more than you can comfortably carry.
Travel Lesson #5: When bargaining, show no weakness (although a little humor can go a long way). Also, do not attempt to have a side conversation in another language that you are not yet fluent in, especially since everyone else speaks more languages than your average American.
Travel Lesson #6: Carry toilet paper and small change at all times-both worth their weight in gold. Keep ziplock bags and duct-tape handy-ziplocks for storage of liquids and leftovers; duct tape for fixing pretty much everything.
Travel Lesson #7: Climate change is real. There is no doubt about it. It is sad and scary to know that many of the places we’ve seen will be diminished or non-existent in the not too distant future. The fact that people can either turn a blind eye, or worse, claim it’s not happening is unbelievable.
Travel Lesson #8: While it is not necessary nor practical to eat as I do back home, I get irritated if I don’t eat for a long period of time. Snacks and the occasional ice cream have prevented many an outburst.
Travel Lesson #9: Always ask and be sure of the price before agreeing to anything (cab rides, rooms, entrance fees, food, etc) and always appear sure of yourself even if you have no clue where you are.
Travel Lesson #10: Despite the whole purpose of getting away, having frequent internet access is a must, not only in terms of planning and uploading photos, but for keeping in touch and staying connected. Honestly, I do miss home-some days more or less than others, but what keeps me going on the tougher days are updates from friends and family.