Destinations, Planning, Spirit, USA, Why travel?

A year-long adventure

May 27, 2010

‘Are you on your year long adventure?’

Apparently my gungy attire, dirty and heavy backpack and my Australian accent gave me away. I nodded at the guy from Salt Lake City beside me in the dining car of the California Zephyr, the train that was drawing us slowly across California and said, ‘Yep, five days in!’

He seemed to understand. He explained to the surprised woman and her son sharing the table across from us that it’s not uncommon for young Australians to take a year out to travel. I sat beside him and nodded furiously at everything he said while the woman looked dubious.

‘Well,’ she said finally. ‘Good for you!’ And she changed the subject.

Getting Long-Term Travel

In my (pretty limited) experience, most Americans just don’t get long-term travel. It started before I’d even arrived in the country while I stood at the mercy of a US Customs officer at San Francisco airport. He wasn’t convinced that I was traveling alone, and was suspicious of my one-way ticket (despite a series of onwards tickets that proved I would indeed be leaving the USA in fifteen days). The fact that I was what he called “in-between jobs” worried him. I myself prefer to say I am “currently at liberty” (with kudos to Vicky Cristina Barcelona)

Finally it twigged or he grew fed up with questioning me. ‘So, you’re on like a round the world trip or something?’ he asked, as he stamped my passport and slid it back to me across the counter.

My cordial welcome continued when I picked up my pack from the luggage carousel. The lock on the smaller compartment (which I usually don’t bother with) had been smashed off somewhere during the nineteen hour journey between Sydney, Auckland and San Francisco. This has happened to me many times, but I’ve never had anyone look in my pencil case. Seriously. They’d gone through my highlighters, my pens and some pacer leads. Alrighty then.

Thankfully, for every few people who look at me confused when I tell them how long I’m traveling for, or that I left my job to travel, there are those who just get it. Like the guy on the train who knew what I was doing without even asking. My friends Jamie and Nik, who were nice enough to take me out for coffee during my time in San Francisco. And ironically, most of the travel blogs that inspired my own trip are written by Americans.

So for all those of you who want to do it but think it’s an unrealistic dream, get a passport. Take a career break. I might not be American, and there might be a long tradition of young Australians just like me getting the hell out of Dodge as soon as they can for as long as they can, but I’m living proof that it’s possible. That you don’t need to be wealthy. Just driven. And maybe a little bit gutsy.

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  • Reply A Girl in Asia May 27, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Megan – Congrats on leaving for a RTW trip – very exciting!! Hope you have a great time in NYC and everywhere else you end up!

  • Reply Amanda May 28, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Megan, Just discovered your website. Love it! Good for you. Doing it on your own does take guts. All the very best, 6outofoz (currently in Cairo..)

  • Reply MeganRTW May 28, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Thanks Liz and Amanda! Liz, I’ll be hitting you up for Southeast Asia tips, and Amanda I’ve been reading about your adventures in India – can’t wait to get back there!

  • Reply Brian May 29, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    You're right about us Americans. The concept of taking a year off to travel is not something most of us would think about. My RTW trip was much shorter and I found most people were confused but envious. Alot of factors contribute to that. The big one is that most Americans get 2-3 weeks of vacation MAX. I hope this changes soon for many.

    • Reply MeganRTW May 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm

      I think a lot of people also worry about falling behind in their job if they take too much time off, too? I hope it changes soon, too! Happily, in Australia (in my experience) most employers value travel experience quite highly.

  • Reply NotNecessarilyLost July 14, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Hi Megan!… Just landed in Mexico City for the start of a year of travel of my own. Wanted to drop by and say that your journey, your writing and your photos have all been a real inspiration while the clock was ticking down. No idea whether it will happen, but very much hope our paths should cross over the next few months… Happy traveling!…

  • Reply Giselle November 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Hi Megan! Just wanted to say how much I absolutely love your website. It’s been great reading your posts, really feels like I’m there with you! I’m setting off on my trip in 2 weeks, that started off as just 1 year in New Zealand, but now extended to travelling indefinitely thanks to you. It’s been really inspirational reading this! Thank u so much! I’m not sure if your still travelling but if you are, hope you are still having a wonderful time!!

    • Reply MeganRTW December 10, 2011 at 11:42 am

      Hi Giselle! Wow, thanks for such a lovely comment! I’m really glad I could inspire to keep travelling. I’m back in Sydney for the moment but I am by no means finished.

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