One year ago, we spent the last of 400 days of travel by treating ourselves to a Hilton Hotel and a steak dinner. What awaited me back home was totally unknown, and wasn’t even contemplated in my head. Travel had taught, or forced me, to live in the moment. And I mean really live in the moment. I didn’t know it was possible to live in the moment like that until I was on the road, and the only thing I could really think about was my next meal, or my next bed for the night. Plans and worries about the future simply didn’t exist in my thought process anymore. That all changed when travel was replaced with home and a 9-5 job.
I was really excited to come home. The 13 months spent vagabonding around the globe were the best days of my life, no doubt, but living out of a backpack and constantly moving was starting to get tiring. I was looking forward to seeing friends and family, meeting my nephew, consistent hot showers and a bacon, egg and cheese on an everything bagel. The highs of those first couple of weeks, along with constantly reliving moments of my travels with everyone back home, kept my spirits of the trip alive. Then came the inevitable wall.
I really didn’t see it coming, but I guess it had to happen. When you spend 400 days experiencing new everything…food, people, traditions, cultures, countries, languages, activities, animals, laws… and come back home to a place where you kind of know everything that’s going to happen before it does, it was bound to happen.
I hit the wall.
Who would’ve thought the toughest part about quitting a job and traveling the world would be the reverse culture shock of returning home? I didn’t know what to do with myself. There were no excited backpackers ready to strike up a conversation. There were no locals giving me tips about what beer I should try or what food I needed to taste. I was living in the suburbs of Long Island in my childhood home and I didn’t own a car. After 19 days, I was bored out of my mind. I asked my mother if I could help out and work at her office, simply to give me something to do and to get out of the house.
For the next 10 months or so, I was in a funk. I felt alone, disconnected, misunderstood, you name it. I was so happy when I was traveling. Nick would often comment that I was always so positive, never letting anything get me down. I lost touch of that when I came home. It was bizarre how quickly it got away from me. I was surrounded by negativity and different vibes that I didn’t see a lot of on the road. First off, riding the train everyday back and forth from Long Island to Manhattan really will do a number on you. Not a lot of happy smiling people during those rush hour commutes. People in all walks of life would complain or place importance on things that I could not relate to anymore. I’ve seen people in different parts of the world live truly happy lives with less things, less money and less wants. After my experiences, my perspective had shifted greatly.
Thank god my best friend went on this journey with me and could relate to me. It took a very long time to get adjusted back to being back in New York and working in NYC. I had to come to terms with the fact that it was okay to feel this way. I went through a life changing experience so of course, I feel different. I’ve changed, grown and opened my mind. It’s something I will embrace and hold onto for the rest of my life.
I had to take action to get out of the funk. I needed to start challenging and pushing myself again. I decided it was time to stop slacking and start learning. I’ve always wanted to be fluent in another language. I began to work on my Spanish every day. I started exercising and eating better. I started growing a beard, just because. You don’t need a reason for a beard, beards are badass. And since it’s been growing since my starting point of living healthier and learning Spanish, it has become symbolic. The longer the beard got, it has become a reminder of how much progress I’ve made from the start of my endeavors.
I really credit these decisions for getting me over the hump. I have more energy. I think more clearly. I have more ambition and confidence, and feel like I can take on whatever I want in life again, just as I felt on the road. Travel taught me that it’s never about the destination, it’s ALWAYS about the journey. The best and most memorable moments weren’t the Amalfi coast, or Ha Long Bay, or Machu Picchu, or even the Milford Sound…it was the winding bus ride along the cliffs to Amalfi with old Italian ladies getting into fights on the bus. It was the experience of strangers sharing their beers, cigarettes and food with us in the streets of Vietnam, just because they were being nice! It was the two months of exploring Peru & Bolivia, absorbing so much about the Inca culture before finally culminating in the trek up to Machu Picchu. And it was the experience of tipping our campervan into a ditch full sideways in New Zealand, having a Kiwi pull it out and us driving it away like nothing happened. Those are the real moments I cherish.