I made Chicken Soup and I’m happy to be home … some thoughts on long term travel

After the last couple of years of working and travelling, I’ve met a lot of people on the road. Typically, once I’ve told them about where and how much I’ve travelled, I get responses and questions in the following ilk

  • “Man, that is fantastic, I wish I could do that”
  • “You’re so lucky to be able to do that”
  • “You must have the best job in the world”
  • “Does work pay for your travelling? How can I get a job like that?”

To most people, they think that I have the best job in the world. Essentially, I get paid to travel and I happen to work on the side (Well this is the way I tend to look at things, even though the reality of 70hr work weeks with three day weekend trips is much closer to the truth). Of course, who wouldn’t want to get paid to travel the world? Right?

That being said, most people with those response above, also only think about the good side. To most non consultants, I’ve stopped trying to explain what I do for a living and I’ve also basically stopped explaining why I travel. Now, I rarely ever mention it when I meet people unless I know the person is extremely interested in travelling. My lifestyle isn’t all roses and I hate the gushing. The grass is always greener on the other side.

When I first started really travelling a couple years ago, I did it with selfish and rather shallow desires in mind:

  • I wanted to meet tons of girls
  • Have fantastic adventures, while tango-ing and salsa-ing to the next location
  • Have tons of useless stuff to talk even more about
  • Did I mention meet crazy travelling girls on the road??

Then it evolved into trying to be a travel writer. I wanted my name in guidebooks … to be an expert at something … for people to say that I was an expert at “XYZ Pigeon Shooting” or something else. Of course, after speaking and chatting with guidebook authors and travel writers, I quickly realized that for the vast majority of them, it was a life of penury and considerable struggle. It dawned on me that their jobs weren’t these phenomenal jet setting adventures that I visualized but instead it was a melange of long hours, tight deadlines, last minute travelling and demanding micro managers aka Editors. That vision quickly changed to say the least.

There is a great quote by Susan Sontag that goes like this :

Boredom is just the reverse side of fascination: both depend on being outside rather than inside a situation, and one leads to the other.

I think when you travel for a long time, the same can be said about long-term travel. There are many wonderful things I’ve learned while travelling but it does provide a paradox of sorts. Nowhere else will you learn as much about yourself as when you’re in a tiny cafe in Morocco or any country, surrounded by laughter and strangers, completely alone yet with everyone. Long term travel is a very lonely existence in many ways.

Being on the road offers you the chance to see new places, experience new cultures, make new friends, and learn about yourself. However being on the road also means that your relationships will suffer … whether it’s with your BFF, partner, parents or just regular day to day friends.

These days when I’m on the road, I really have no inclination on meeting people anymore. There was a time where I was excited to meet as many people as I could … listen and learn from their stories and experiences. I’m done with the general phase now. I’ve learned that every hello comes with a goodbye. You meet new people and they can be friends with you for a day, week, month or years … but as a traveller, you will naturally have to say goodbye, because you’ll be on to your next destination, as will they.

One becomes numb to new people, since it’s just another useless entry into your Facebook friend list … someone who might be a great contact, if you ever cross paths again. Despite the best intentions and Facebook, you know that 95% of the people you say goodbye to, you’ll never see again. Your life is filled with 24-hour friends who made that brief stop over great, but are soon gone. Who wants a life filled with that?

I’m also tired of a lot of things … which is sad. So many things have become yet another “one of those ..”. I’ve gotten

  • Waterfalled Out in Iceland
  • Templed out in Thailand, Cambodia, Italy … blah blah
  • Churched out in Mexico
  • Hiked out in Morocco
  • Island-ed out in the Caribbean
  • Fished out in the Maldives …

Yes!!! I know these are #FIRSTWORLDPROBLEMS!!

That 100th church, 100th waterfall, 40th hostel, 800th bus ride, 600th bar… it’s not the same after a while. It loses its charm and luster. Travel becomes unexciting. Ask any traveler – at some point, they hit that point where they are sick of traveling. They just need a few days or weeks to recharge their batteries. After all these years, I move a lot slower than I used to. I’m in no rush now. If I want to spend 12 hours out sightseeing, I can, but I tend to be out for a few hours and just relax the rest of the time. After all, I’ll be wherever I am for a while. Slow travel is better travel, and it fights the “just another” syndrome. But even still, travel can become exhausting, and there are times you never want to see anything with the word “historic” in front of it ever again. Some days I just want to spend a week in front of my computer watching moves and TV.

Long-term travel takes a certain type of person to enjoy. You need to be independent, you need to be able to spend lots of time alone, you need to be flexible, and you need to be able to deal with constant change. Eventually, I’ll find the answers. I don’t think people can move forever unless they are trying to escape something.

For now, I’ll just continue enjoying the process of making my Chicken Soup at home.

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at rishi@rishiray.com

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