Bolivia, Spirit

Has travel changed me?

December 10, 2011

‘So has it changed you? Travelling for so long?’

I was at the bus station in sky-high Potosi, Bolivia. It was about a month before I was due to return to Australia. A fellow traveller, who I’d just met in the taxi to the bus station, and I, were waiting in line to purchase snacks for the journey to nearby Sucre. And she was the first person to ask me the question I’d spent several weeks mulling over myself.

How had a year and a half of travel changed me?

The answer is: I’m not too sure.

I know what new skills I’ve developed. I know that it’s propelled me forward in life and given me opportunities I would never had otherwise. But have I experienced some kind of intrinsic shift in the direction of my life or the way I live it?

Over the last eighteen months there are most definitely several standout moments. Moments where I experienced something – where something in me clicked, shifted, turned over.

When I first left Sydney in May 2010 and I spent my flight to Los Angeles struggling to fathom what I’d just done.

At the train station in Beijing, getting ready to board the train to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the one place I’d been dreaming of visiting for so long.

The three emotionally and physically shattering days I spent on the Kailash kora in Tibet.

The evening of the day I crossed Dead Woman’s Pass on the Inca Trail in Peru.

But what is it that’s changed? 

I take better photographs. I can pack my backpack in three minutes flat. I drink tea instead of coffee. And green vegetables no longer terrify me but strange dogs do.

I’m more adaptable. New and potentially stressful situations don’t bother me so much anymore. I’m more resourceful and independent. I’m more tolerant of difference.

And, perhaps most importantly, my restlessness has…well, been given a rest. 

For a good five or six years before I left, travel consumed me. I thought about it, read about it, worked in the industry and hopped on a plane as often as my job and my bank balance would allow. I spent most of my evenings and weekends researching my eventual Epic Adventure.

By the time I arrived in Buenos Aires this October, I knew that I was ready to go home. I felt done.

I was ready for a break from travelling long term. I was beginning to crave routine and consistency. I no longer had a fiercely burning desire to stay away from Australia. I’ve been home in Sydney for a month now. I’m living with my best friend in a place we’ve christened the PP (Party Pad) and I have my own kitchen. I have a wardrobe full of pretty things. I see my friends and family frequently.

And I haven’t worn my hiking boots in weeks. 

And it feels pretty damn good.

So am I finished with travel?

Not by a long shot. It will always be a priority for me and I’m already thinking about next year’s short trips. I’ll give you a hint…the destination features in my brand new header image.

And what about long-term travel?

It’s in my not-so-distant future. I guarantee it.

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  • Reply Romana December 10, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    I’m trying to write a post about the same topic… and I just can’t get it done. It’s just too hard to put in words what has changed. I’ll finish it eventually 🙂
    I haven’t traveled for as long as you did, but after this trip I realized I enjoyed long term travel, but I also realized I enjoy having a home, a solid ground. For me, the perfect situation would be to be able to travel a couple of months each year in the winter months in Europe (the 22 days holidays I was getting before are not enough!) and then spend the rest of the time close to friends, family, having a sort of routine, having a place I can call home 🙂
    Hopefully we will be able to achieve this as we are looking forward to hitting the road again in the future with our little Siracusa 🙂
    Enjoy Sydney! A big hug from the Siracusas

    • Reply MeganRTW December 23, 2011 at 9:16 am

      Hey Romana – I agree. This post might come across as a little vague but that’s because it’s really difficult to articulate what exactly has changed. I have to say that I didn’t realise quite how much I had missed my friends and family until I got home (funny, huh!) and I think that your perfect situation would also be mine. I don’t know how I will ever manage to again just go away for two weeks here and there – it’s just not enough time to do anything!

  • Reply Gloria Barry December 11, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Hi Megan.
    We are seniors and live in the Bahamas
    We are contemplating going to Mongolia next year and of course China and Tibet
    I just read that we might be able to get the visa to Mongolia in Beijing one we are there
    like you did. Thanks for the information
    We also love to travel and husband just retired. We would love to hear more of your travels
    God bless

    • Reply MeganRTW December 23, 2011 at 9:14 am

      Hi Gloria, thanks for your comment! It’s fantastic that you and your husband will be travelling next year and to such ‘off the beaten track’ destinations. Mongolia is simply incredible, although the travel can be rough going sometimes. It’s very easy to get your Mongolian visa at the embassy in Beijing and just takes a few days. Make sure your Chinese visa covers you for the time you’ll be in Tibet – you’ll need a valid Chinese visa as well as a permit from the Chinese government to enter the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). If you need any tips or advice please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

  • Reply Claire December 13, 2011 at 12:16 am

    I suspect that it has changed you, in ways that you may not have even identified yet. You realize it when you least expect it, when you find yourself responding to a situation differently, treating someone better, having more patience, and being more tolerant. All good things! Welcome home!

    • Reply MeganRTW December 23, 2011 at 9:10 am

      I’ve definitely started to notice these things already, Claire! I just hope that they (the tolerance and patience especially) stay with me and don’t start to fade the longer I’m back in Sydney and living life here.

  • Reply Kyle December 16, 2011 at 4:19 am

    I bet that the longer you are in one spot and start feeling that itch to go again, the more you’ll realize has changed about you.

    • Reply MeganRTW December 23, 2011 at 9:10 am

      I think you’re right, Kyle. I have tried to ban myself from thinking about travel at least until the new year but unfortunately it doesn’t really work 🙂

  • Reply Gerard ~ GQ trippin December 24, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    I hear it’s really easy to get anxious about thinking about another trip after you’ve returned from long-term travel. My GF & I are taking off on our RTW next week for about 8 months (maybe more). Can’t wait to see how it changes us. One thing for sure is that I can’t even guess what the answer will be.

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