Travel is like dieting. How many of us have tried the cabbage soup diet, going carb-free or the ‘I won’t eat till the dress fits’ system? Each has its merits, I imagine, if only for the short-term, but according to specialists, the only one that ever truly seems to work is the full life-change. Not only a diet for a purpose, but a change of mind-set and choices is what tends to do the trick.
For me, travel has had the same effect. For years I tried to grab any second that I could to go on an adventure. Driving to Maine (from NY) for lunch one day, jetting to California for a weekend or spending a long Thanksgiving weekend in London. As a teacher for the past 16 years, I traveled on those long-awaited yet most expensive holiday breaks leaving as close to the ringing of the last bell and returning a few short hours prior to seeing my students at 7 am on that first Monday morning back. No matter the distance, I squeezed in as much as I could to get the most time out of that holiday. The most insane of them all was going from NY to New Zealand for eight days one December break-but ridiculous as it may have been; I met my husband on that trip.
Each trip had a purpose whether I knew it then or not. Each trip made an impression and each person I met along the way or traveled with had something to teach. It was my husband (who at one point in his life made that difficult decision to change his food choices and change his body) who made the biggest impact on my travel choices. Like a life coach’s encouragement or nutritionist’s enthusiasm, the Aussie spirit of travel is contagious and has continued to affect my choices ever since my first visit to Australia ten years ago.
I remember each trip that I have taken. Some were to see a new place or experience a new culture; to try new foods or just lay on a sunny beach, but all seemed to leave me wanting more. Never did I want to leave and return home even if I already had the next journey planned. There seemed to always be something more out there that I wanted to taste. Just like dieting; a little never seemed to be enough and after I had been home for a few days I would fall right back into the old ways. For many (like myself), chocolate was the biggest vice in my life until travel flew in. And then it happened.
When we met, Mathew lived in Australia and I in NY. Four years of international continent hopping ‘dating’ ensued and when we got engaged in Melbourne in December of 2008 we knew we had some big decisions to make. Planning a wedding was just one very small piece of planning a life together. We both had travel in our blood and were constantly itching for the next adventure. What we decided on changed my life, my outlook & how I felt I fit into the world. We were going to ditch that ‘cabbage soup’ travel method for one whole year.
After getting married in New York in August of 2009, we took a year to follow the sun and traveled around the world (while living in Australia for awhile). Finally, after all of that time of having to leave the holiday to go back to work while so many I had met extended their travels for weeks on end; we were lucky enough to do just that. We went to Europe (both west and east), then over a month in Africa where we jumped into the edge of Victoria Falls and were chased by an outraged hippo in Botswana’s Okavanga Delta and then headed to Oz. After some time we traveled to Southeast Asia for Vietnamese pho and to a stay in a long dreamed of over-water bungalow in the South Pacific. Throughout our travels we were able to determine where, when and how we traveled without that ever-present end date in mind. It was a game changer!
The transformation happened. Just like dieting, it’s never an overnight fix. That quick fix diet for a college formal did drop me an entire dress size, but I put the few pounds right back on with one bite of a bagel the next morning. That change of diet that takes shape on a daily basis for months or years on end is the all encompassing one. It’s not only about the pounds or inches; it’s a mindset and an outlook on life that changes you from the inside out. That’s what happened to me.
When we came back from that year abroad, I may have looked the same on the outside, but I was forever different. Experience and life had altered my perspective. My approach to the world as seen through those same brown eyes was now completely different. Fitting into the molds I had held for so long was stifling. The image people saw on the outside was no different but I could no longer act accordingly. I was changed and I wanted more from life and of course, more travel.
Like my husband said about his ‘team evolution’ experience, travel has been my ‘life change’ and it has been for the better. I see the world with new and even more open eyes. I profoundly grew as a person and travel (and my husband) helped me do that. Like exercise, travel is now a permanent part of our being. Not only do we look for the next adventure around every corner, but also, we want them to be a part of our everyday lives. We want to feel that same freedom, exuberance and curiosity that travel brings on a more regular, everyday basis. We enjoy spending time around those with a similar attitude about world travel. We itch to go on longer adventures and immerse ourselves in the diverse cultures of the world. We yearn to try new foods, see new sights and cherish experiences that are not part of the every day yet we wish for them to become the ‘everyday’.
Travel has become a fixture in our life. Those we meet who are kindred spirits share a similar story. Work to have enough money for the next adventure, or better yet, journey to a new place and find work enough to keep you there. Dream about maps, globes, people and places that through unspoken words have so much to teach. Your list keeps growing the more you see. Never is it something to ‘get out of your system’, instead; it provides perspective and drives us daily to know that we are part of such a bigger world and there’s so much more out there to see and explore.
No more short term ‘diets’ for us. Travel has changed us both, and I know for myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way.