Happy one-month travel anniversary to us! After this first month of traveling, we’ve somewhat predictably started to notice changes in our behavior and in our outlook. In no particular order, here’s a first analysis of what happens (to us, anyway) when traveling:
1. You learn to do math quickly
I’m not a particularly math-minded person, which is why I brought along a tiny calculator to have a reference point of what we’re paying in the different currencies. But after the first few days of digging around in my day pack, I’ve all but abandoned it. Approximate USD or Euro equivalents of Hong Kong dollars, yen, dong and riel now only takes a few seconds. And almost everything seems like a really good deal.
2. Your sense of time changes completely
I’m planning a longer post on this important change in our rhythm, but basically with no timelines or fixed agenda, we are the masters of our time. This can be very liberating but also overwhelming: “what do you want to do today/tomorrow/next week?” is an open-ended question we ask ourselves every day. We can stay in a place for a few hours, or a few days and it won’t fundamentally change our plans that much. We can pack a full day of sightseeing and working, or we can do nothing all day long. Learning to appreciate this once-in-a-lifetime period of freedom and not feeling stressed out if I don’t have a ‘productive’ afternoon has taken some adjustment.
3. Patience becomes more than a virtue
It is a necessity, and something we try to work on every day. Patience in the long train or bus rides. Patience when I would like to take a shower after a long dirty day. Patience with the frustrations of miscommunications. Patience with the freezing cold or stiflingly hot weather. Patience when we feel we’re getting ripped off. Patience with the curious people who keep staring at us. And patience with each other, including our bad moods, boredom, dirty clothes and fatigue crankiness.
4. You wake up confused
In 28 days, we’ve slept in no less than 19 different locations with varying levels of comfort and cleanliness including several night trains and buses. I’m amazed that we’ve both slept so well despite the constant changes, but restless nights or insomnia have been a non-issue. Every time I wake up though, I have to play a quick but confusing game of “where the heck am I?”
5. Mornings are magical
True to our travel rules, we have maintained a regular rhythm of waking up at dawn and going to bed early. And we are loving it! Whereas in Paris, I had to drag myself out of bed at 8am, now we naturally get up at 5:30 or 6 in order to have the villages or city streets to ourselves. It also allows us to avoid being out during the hot afternoon sun. The place we’ve most enjoyed our morning walks is Hoi An, which is typically charming at day break but overrun with tourists by midday.
6. You need weekends
Travel is fun and freeing. But it’s also taxing and tiring. To be out of your comfort zone all day, every day, trying to communicate in different languages, attempting to take in and remember all the unknown sights and smells, being far from familiar friends and family, and dealing with some of the less-than-immaculate conditions can be hard work physically and emotionally. We’ve recognized that every week or so, taking a day or two in a calm and clean environment is a necessary way to recharge our batteries and get us excited about our next adventure. Much like our conventional lives back home, our “weekends” consist of doing laundry, catching up on our budget, watching TV or movies in pajamas and getting a little exercise. And it feels great.
More in the What Happens When You Travel series to come!