Six Months on the Road: A Serious Reflection
These past 6 months, I’ve felt a bit like I’ve been riding a wild chicken bus of emotions. This began on day one when I waved a bittersweet goodbye to my loved ones. With each stop, each new day, I’ve felt a bit more calm, a bit more comfortable. However, like with any trip, the road has taken me places I’ve never expected.
I’ve felt overcome with the most amazing sense of privilege when reaching farfetched locations few foreigners visit. One moment I’ll experience love and appreciation for the amazing wonders of our planet, and the next disgust and anger toward the destruction. A deep and calm relaxation will sink into my bones at each sunset I know I would have been too busy to notice back home.
Unfortunately sometimes I forget that the path I’m on isn’t the norm, and may become a bit jaded. That waterfall is not as beautiful after I’ve passed 20 others–neither is the cathedral or beach. Sometimes I inevitably find myself feeling anxious or unsatisfied, or worried about my future; then incredibly guilty for feeling this way.
From time to time we all have to remind ourselves to enjoy the journey.
Shortly after, I’ll see something so beautiful or perfect I’ll think life couldn’t get any better, and me any happier.
It quickly becomes evident that in travel, the highs are higher and the lows lower.
Looking back, I’ve felt more energized than I ever have; while at other times far more exhausted. Many times I’ve felt lucky and proud to be American–but many times I’ve felt embarrassed and ashamed. I’ve pushed my body near its physical limit; and also let my mind slip into a state of relaxation I’d never experienced before.
I’ve had salty hair, unkempt brows, a bare face and bug bitten legs, yet never felt more confident or attractive.
There have been moments where I feel like catching the next bus home, followed by days where I can’t imagine ever leaving the road.
Some days or weeks are jam packed with activities and action, new people and places; while others the most exciting part of my day may be starting a new book, or finding the perfect spot to read it.
There are plenty of moments of internal conflict: when I may fret over my future life plans. There are moments of exhausting chaos; when I’m alone in another hectic Latin American city. And times where I feel an overpowering sort of lonely confusion; when I say goodbye to yet another new friend, and find myself alone once again.
Because, inevitably, at some point it becomes clear it’s not so much which amazing location, but with which interesting people I’m sharing the ride.
But then there are the days where I can’t keep from smiling or giggling. Where I can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be in this situation or in that incredible location. And countless moments, where my heart swells with an intense joy I may have previously felt only a few times a year.
As the days, weeks and months swirl around me in the way they do in this strange alternate universe–I’ve started to sense that while I don’t quite belong in whichever place I find myself, at this time, I also don’t quite belong in the world I left behind. I’m living in a constant state of transit.
This isn’t necessarily a bad feeling; I have, after all, chosen this path. It’s just a strange and confusing one. And to remedy it, I’ve learned to slow down, get off the bus and stay awhile. I’ve started trying to find my home in the moment: because wherever you are and whatever you do, periods of normalcy and calm must compliment sensory overload. I’ve tried to incorporate comfort and routine into my weekly schedules. I’ve cooked meals in my hostels, and elected other travelers as my friends and family. I’ve tried to balance fun with more meaningful experiences.
Traveling is just a more intense version of “normal” life. A version where you are once again a child, relearning communication and encountering things for the first time. In this way, it becomes less like a chicken bus and more like The Magic School Bus. Except that you aren’t a child, and you carry with you the lessons you´ve already learned. This allows you to come to conclusions and learn important lessons much faster than if you had stayed on the marked trail. And for these reasons and many more, you’ll realize that your decision to leave behind the safer more conventional path may be one of your most important yet—one which you´ll never regret: one that will change how you see yourself and the world around you. One that will prepare you to make far bigger, much scarier decisions farther down the road.
It’s all of these conflicting emotions that keep me on the road. I have no doubt these past six months have been some of the best, most confusing, most enlightening, and fullest of my life. It’s hard for me to imagine the journey ahead can get any better—however I’m feeling pretty optimistic.
I am, after all, getting the hang of riding on chicken buses.