Travel will test you. It will push you outside your comfort zone and into the unknown. It will put a mirror dead in front of you and not let you look away. But it will also give you strength you never knew you had and cunning that will even surprise you sometimes. But mostly, it will give you the confidence to know you can handle anything that comes your way. I once ended up at a train station -better described as a shack and a bench- in the middle of nowhere Germany at 11pm at night, with no cell phone service and no idea where I was. And I got through that. (But that’s a story for another time!) So, to this undetermined and unsettling time of lockdown and crazy unknowns, I say, bring it on. We got this.
Now, it’s totally fair if your thoughts are still overwhelmed with wtaf is happening in the world right now? Don’t worry, mine often are still too. And it’s also fair if you’re thinking okay how does this girl think she can relate adventuring across the islands of Thailand or stargazing in the caves of New Zealand to sitting on her couch every day during quarantine? Well, in every one my travel experiences I’ve picked up some invaluable tricks and lessons, and, as I’m trying every day to find things to be grateful for during this time, a few have come to mind!
An ability to adapt.
As a traveler, you’ll come across situations all the time that require you to think on your feet and adapt to the situation at hand. Sometimes flights will get cancelled, sometimes you’ll be walking around for what feels like hours looking for your accommodation, or sometimes you’ll get so taken in by something on your walking tour that you lose the rest of the group with no idea what direction they went…definitely not a real-life example.
But no matter what, in those situations, I’ve found I have two options. I can adapt. Or I can panic. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve found panic rarely helps solve problems effectively, and is even less helpful when you have to solve them in a foreign country, by yourself.
Now I’ve spent that last few weeks in panic mode, until it occurred to me that I have that other option. I need to adapt. And I know I can, because I have spent majority of the last 8 years adapting to my surroundings and the situations I’ve been in. As soon as I remembered that, all of this seemed to be a less stressful. I could go on forever about how the ability to adapt has helped improve my mental state over the past few weeks, but since that’s not the main topic of this point, check out my blog, Dear Clothes, I miss you…and that’s okay, to read more about it!
The value of family time.
Spending time away from family comes with the lifestyle of being a long-term traveler. For me personally, it’s one of the hardest parts. Feeling like I needed to spend time with family is what motivated me to come back home and temporarily settle for the last year and a bit. So, the irony is not lost on me that when I realized quarantine meant I was going to be spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with my parents for the next 2, 3 maybe 4 months, that my first thought was “Oh my god. How will we do this…” I should caveat, in general, I love spending time with my parents. They’re absolutely the two most amazing people I know. But still, I chose the panic route at first.
But then as the days went on I started to remember that there were some times during my travels I would have killed to get to spend a week straight with them. And I remembered how bummed I would get seeing birthday photos and Christmas posts on Facebook while I was away. So now is the time to be grateful, because before too long, I will graduate and be off on my next adventure, gone for who knows how long this time. So, for now, I will make the most of every minute of this time with my family, because who knows when we will get this chance again!
I’m a FaceTiming Wizard.
And Skype. And Whatsapp. And Facebook Video. And Google Hangouts. Basically, you name it, I’ve tried it. It also comes with the territory of being a traveler. You either have (or will!) try every single one of these, sometimes even in the same single phone call in a desperate attempt to get a video clear enough that the people on the other end somewhat remotely resemble the faces you remember. (Okay, okay, I’m being a little dramatic, it’s not always like that). But thanks to travel, I’m a near pro in all of these different forms of video chatting, from knowing what qualities are better in some than others to what features might be more applicable to type of chat I’m trying to have. I never thought I’d be using online chatting so much, but when my range of conversations is anywhere from friends, to classmates, to colleagues, to my bosses, I have to say I’ve been pretty grateful to have that bit of knowledge in my back pocket.
Slow internet? Oh yes, we’re old friends.
There’s a reason why those videos were so blurry we have to try fifteen thousand types of video chats before getting one that works. Slow internet! There’s a lot of countries where the internet can be very slow and unreliable. Even in Western, technologically advanced countries, hostel Wifi is still notoriously slow. Why? Because there are so many people trying to use it at once…hits a little close to home at the moment! I’ll admit though, after being home for a year and a bit, I’m not as accustomed to slow internet as I was after a month in Thailand. But, I’m still content to live in a world where my webpages take a just a little bit longer to load than normal, and I promise you it gets easier to deal with over time!
I’m okay keeping myself company. Solo travel taught me how to enjoy alone time.
This could honestly be its whole own post, so I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. Most of my friends would laugh hearing me say I enjoy alone time. As a self-proclaimed extrovert (backed by pretty much every personality test I’ve ever taken), it took me a long time to appreciate alone time. But once I started to understand the value of it, the more I really embraced it. And I’m grateful for that during this time, because no matter if you’re quarantined with parents, with roommates, your spouse, whoever it may be, don’t forget the value in taking time out to take care of yourself. Run a bath and open a book, go on a walk by yourself, revisit your angsty teen years and put a do not disturb sign on your bedroom door. No matter what you choose to do, just make sure you’re taking time out for a little solo you time.
Living on budget.
Travel taught me how to be frugal. It taught me how to make the most out of any adventure just with what I have. And some of the best memories I have come from times when I skipped out on doing a touristy thing that cost a bit more than I wanted to spend, and instead wandered around and ended up in beautiful parks or stumbled upon botanical gardens or free walking tours. So, no matter what your budget looks like right now, remember, it doesn’t cost a thing to go exploring outside, and you never know what gems you may find hidden in your very own backyard!
Finally, travel has given me a love, understanding and respect for other cultures and countries.
You might be thinking, how does this help her through what we’re experiencing right now? Well, in a couple of ways. First, my heart reaches out to my friends all over the world, and caring about them and sending positive thoughts their way helps me feel like at the very least I am doing something for them, even though I can’t be there in person to help them through this time. Travel has also connected me with people who are currently located all over the world, and that means that I am not just hearing in the news about what is going on in countries like Croatia or England, I am hearing firsthand from my friends what their country is experiencing right now.
And lastly, it’s given me hope that when this is all over, maybe everyone will carry a deeper love, understanding and respect for other countries and cultures, because this time is showing us all that we are all human, and though we come from different places and backgrounds, we’re not that different from each other. And though what we’re going through is a tragedy, it is connecting us in a way we’ve never had before. There are people all over America, who a month ago would have never given a second thought to the people in Italy, who are now genuinely worried and concerned for complete strangers who are thousands of miles away. These people are praying for these strangers and watching them sing from balconies, and realizing that we’re experiencing this all side by side. What is going on right now crosses those border lines, and from that, my hope is that this care and concern we’re creating for each other now, regardless of where in the world we call home, will carry on long after this is over.
Okay, I got off on a little tangent there…but I really am grateful that travel has opened my eyes in that way, and if I could, I would share that with every single person on this planet. Can you imagine the love that would exist you guys?? *cue Imagine by John Lennon*
Maybe that’s just me, but I have the funniest feeling if you’re taking the time to read this, you want to be a part of something bigger as well. But for now, I’m going to be grateful for what life has already taught me and how I can apply that right now. Take some time today to think of what you’re grateful for that’s helping you get through all of this. I bet even you will surprise yourself with what (or who) it is. And if it is who, give them a hug and tell them thank you! Or maybe actually an air hug…social distancing people, c’mon ;).
To you all, please accept my virtual hugs and thanks to you for keeping on through this journey.
Until next time searchers.