Travel Deeply: The Soulful Escape Artist
September 2, 2015
I’ve been to nearly 50 countries in the past 10 years and spend most of my waking days dreaming of visiting 50 more. I’ve never been an “expert” on anything, but I must admit that I am quite confident riding on top of an overflowing Indian train, hair blowing wildly into Rasta dreadlocks while gazing over fields of rice paddies and towering palm trees. I use my backpack as a pillow on a regular basis and am rarely found wearing an outfit without holes and wrinkles. I got Malaria once in Africa and Giardiasis more times than I would like to admit. I am a modern-day wanderlusting gypsy nomad.
Some say I am running, and the truth is I am.
I am running from the mundane, the predictable, the controlled. I am running from the orthodox, scheduled, conventional way of life that we so often live in the Western world. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of the must-read book Women Who Run With The Wolves says, “While the instinct about exactly where to go may not be fully developed, the instinct to move until one finds what one needs is well intact.”
I believe instinct is guidance from our soul. So I run, wild and free, just as my soul tells me to do.
Some say I am living “the dream.” My Facebook page sure looks like it, spilling photos of white sand beaches with turquoise seas, ancient UNESCO World heritage sites and frequent lunch dates with orange-robed laughing monks. I live one incredible life. The world is beautiful, that is easy to see. Traveling is glorious, I would never choose another life for myself, but this life on the road isn’t all rainbows and pineapples.
“The dream” involves getting lost, missing flights, losing luggage, parasite bellies, motorcycle accidents and stolen passports. As I navigate through dark roads in unknown cities and dead-end paths winding through the countryside, I find myself in that uncomfortable place that all travelers do, uncontrollably lost. As modern-day small budget explorers, we put up with many uncomfortable aspects in order to experience the magnificent.
We can not control much along our journey, despite a fully penciled in a calendar with a rigorous sightseeing agenda. Simple things like entry visas, language mishaps, ATM meltdowns, mangy stray dogs, rats for roommates, and the never-ending battle with Bali belly are just as much a part of this dream life as the blissed out photos so easily found on a desktop screen. We tirelessly guide ourselves through a planet of unchartered confusion. This life of travel has taught me to be adaptable, to change, to alter my plans in an instant, and to find an open door when all appear closed. I believe there is no other option but to float downriver, flowing over rocks and blindly drifting around bends in a river whose path is uncertain. The river eventually leads us to the ocean of accomplishment, to the beach or the temple or the city we have always dreamed to see. The journey is a learning experience, the destination is our reward.
To experience our beautiful planet, the good, the bad and everything else comes at a cost. But if this is your dream, the cost is small compared to the rewards. We travelers become addicted to the journey more than the destination. Travelers love to roam, constantly searching for new experiences, new friends and hells bells adventures. The unorthodox ways that other cultures function and the taboo animals we might find on the dinner table keep life lively.
In the end it is the most harrowing stories full of stress and sickness are the ones we chose to tell. As a traveler, this is what gives us confidence. It is the adventure, the journey full of struggles and hardships, and our incessant determination to keep moving when going home seems to be the easiest choice. This is what turns a worldly wander into a spiritual pilgrimage.
There is no doubt about it, travel makes us more understanding and compassionate human beings. Traveling gives us fulfillment, courage, and a fearlessness that only my fellow travelers (not tourists) can understand. I am certain that it has made me a much better human.
I believe instinct is our soul’s guidance and dreams are our heart’s command. The only way to have a happy heart and soul is to be inspired, motivated, and to actually get out there and do whatever it is that we were put on this earth to do. So off we go, down a dirt road, beneath a different sky, with fresh ground beneath our feet for one purpose, to satisfy the yearnings of our heart and soul, to find our own contentment.
“The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown.” – Paul Theroux
Photo Cred: Andy Beal