Learning from Long-term Travel

For the month of November, I’ll be participating in BootsnAll‘s Indie Travel Challenge.  Click here to go to the beginning.

I grew up in suburban America, descended from immigrants who came to this country to escape persecution and try their hand at the American Dream.  My great-grandmother came from Latvia, alone, with two silver spoons.  Sometimes I wonder about what that experience must have been like – she carried no possessions, came alone on a ship full of immigrants from around the world, to a place she had never been and couldn’t possibly imagine.

When traveling, or even living abroad, you realize you can get by with much less than you had ever realized.  A large part of the American Dream is ownership – a big house with a white picket fence, a new car, a flatscreen TV, etc.  I have no problems with that lifestyle – if that’s your dream, go for it! As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my personal life philosophy prioritizes experiences over possessions.  Human beings are all different, so it’s fitting that we dream in different ways.  (Although I’m not immune from starting down this path again, after being back in the U.S. for two years.)

Dining as the locals do - a fresh fish market on Geoje Island, South Korea.
Dining as the locals do – a fresh fish market on Geoje Island, South Korea.

What do you hope to learn from a long-term or an Around the World trip?

A long-term trip has so much to teach travelers.  You learn what you need (hint: not much!) to get by and make you happy.  You learn to let go of caring about having clothing options, of having the latest and greatest technology, of having a souvenir from every place you visit.  I hope to continue to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, and see what I can get by without, and learn to be happy with less.

I also hope to learn more about different cultures and ways of life.  There’s nothing greater than exploring a foreign grocery store or market, navigating a non-romanized menu, speaking to local residents about their favorite places or experiences.  Some of my greatest travel memories involve diving deep into the local culture – learning to cook that country’s best recipes, dancing at a local dive bar, having a hilarious but incomprehensible conversation with a tuk-tuk driver.

My personal travel goal is to try to integrate myself more into daily life, and ask people I meet for their personal recommendations.  I want to get off the beaten track a little more, and experience the nitty-gritty.  This doesn’t mean I’m going to be putting the guidebook down entirely (I’m very type A — not great for long-term travel!), but I won’t be looking at it as often.

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