September 12, 2008

Maturing As We Travel

Since my most recent blog entry, I've realised how I've moved into a whole new chapter in my life recently, and it got my synapses firing once again about maintaining a regular blog. Reading back over the posts of my last two years' worth of travel, it struck how much more reflective and even serious I have become about this love of mine. It's no longer a hobby, it has become a way of life. When I left Ireland on my first major adventure, I had no real plan, lots of ideas and bundles of nerves. My blog entries over the duration of that entire trip really reflect the highs and lows of someone on their first major solo expedition. Everything was an assault on the senses - new and wonderful, exciting and scary. I was putting my toe in some unchartered water and feeling my way often in the dark. The achievement and sense of accomplishment that brings can do wonders in terms of your personal development, and this is the reason so many of us continue to feed the addiction. Travel is an opiate, but what a wonderful one it is! As the years go by and I live and work in various countries around the world, I find my outlook broadening, my senses becoming keener and my thoughts deepening. As I move along the path of my life, cutting and carving out my own way, I have come to view my existence now not as a series of random events and planned trips, but as one single journey. I may not always love exactly where I am along the way, but wherever I find myself I take the view that I am there for a reason and try to use my experiences during that time to further my progress and lend memory and significance to everything I do.

It's easy in your 20s and 30s to have a mini freak-out about your choices to keep travelling. Work colleagues, friends, and even family on occasions can rekindle in you that Fear that you've tried so far to quench. It's easy sometimes to lose faith in your choices, to lose sight of your dream. But then I think about the older travellers that I had the privilege to know on my own travels. I remember a wonderful couple in their 70s with whom I spent a whole day sitting in a cafe in La Paz swapping stories. On the days when my resolve is shaken I call them to mind and my faith is fully restored in where I am going and what I am trying to achieve in my life. In the short time I spent with these two people, they seemed to me to be the most content, balanced, well travelled individuals with no visible axes to grind or chips on their shoulders. They were rich with memories and the texture of their combined lives was something really tangible. They were in the autumn of their years and yet they were as footloose and happy as I, a third of their age, was. They had simply gotten better and better with age - why? Because they had really lived. A quick comparison to any of their contemporaries in age that I knew back home revealed them to be much happier, healthier and forward-looking individuals. They had long passed the stage where the idea of "success" mattered. She was a photographer, he a saxophone player, and they had travelled the world seperately and together. Like any of us, they were not without their mishaps and misfotunes along the way, but they took the philosophical approach. The depth of understanding and love between them was immediately obvious, and I found myself almost looking forward to that time in my life. Oh to be that travelled, that fulfilled and that mature!

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