The past few weeks have been a huge struggle for me. I know many people struggle on their round the world trips, so I kept trying to push through. I kept trying to figure out what was bothering me so much, why I felt so paralyzed, why I just wasn’t enjoying this trip. I started writing a post about some of the things I don’t like about being on the road. Things like constantly being on the move, having to repack every few days, the constant decisions that need to be made for the next part of the trip, the flip-flop-required showers that soak the whole bathroom, staying in disgusting rooms. Even how solo travel can be lonely, despite the fact that I truly do like traveling on my own. But writing it didn’t make me feel better like it normally would, and I slowly started to realize a few things about myself.
Travel, especially solo travel, has taught me a lot about myself over the years. I took my first solo trip in July 2008 to Greece, inspired by a break up with a guy who wasn’t too interested in traveling. Though the relationship didn’t work out, it did improve my self esteem. After we broke up, I realized I hadn’t been out of the country since my study abroad trip in 2000. I think I had been waiting around for someone to go with me, but I realized I was fully capable of going by myself. So I started planning and booked 10 days between Athens and Santorini. It was an amazing trip, my love of travel was reawakened, and it exploded into a full-blown addiction.
I followed that trip with a journey to Antarctica with my friend Amanda, and then as many solo trips as I could manage with my limited vacation time, eventually making it to each of the seven continents a few months before my 30th birthday. Each trip reconfirmed that I was stronger than I thought I was, a great boost to my self esteem. I think it also made me feel better about being single. But a trip to Australia changed the path my life was on.
I came back from Australia determined to change things in my life. It started as a vague idea, I wanted to travel more, I wanted a completely different type of job. Eventually I had the idea to take a round the world trip, and then maybe settle down somewhere in Europe or South America to teach English, one of the top things people do to earn money while traveling and living abroad. I finally reached a point where I truly enjoyed being single, finally felt comfortable in my own skin, finally felt like I was figuring things out, and I didn’t want to meet a guy for fear that it would ruin my grand ideas.
Last July I started talking to Andy on Twitter, and you can read about My Twitter Love Story for all the details on that. I didn’t want a guy to get in the way of my plans, and I somehow met a wonderful guy who fit so well with me and my plans. As we got to know each other, I let him know how important this round the world trip was to me, so while finalizing plans to get married and move to Germany, I planned a big trip as well. I knew I’d always regret it if I didn’t take this trip. On September 28, 2011, I hopped on a train to the Frankfurt airport and started my five month journey. But a few weeks in, it just didn’t feel right.
Looking back at when I was single, it’s possible I wanted to take a round the world trip to prove that I’m an interesting person without a man by my side. But when I met Andy, I pushed forward with the trip because I wanted to believe that it was my dream for the pure travel enjoyment. Traveling for months at a time sounded amazing to me. I read so many other blogs written by people who loved their round the world trips, and I wanted to be one of them.
But it turns out, this isn’t for me. I love having a home base, and while I’d like to be able to travel for more than two weeks at a time, living out of a backpack for months can be exhausting. I had completely accepted myself (ok I still have a few minor insecurities, but who doesn’t?) before I met Andy, but being on this trip set me back a couple steps. I’m glad I recognized it and remembered I don’t need anyone’s approval.
I’m proud of my solo travel experiences, and I’m happy to have finally found my partner in travel and in life. I don’t need to be a hardcore backpacker and stay in dorms all the time and take the horribly bumpy 12 hour overnight buses to prove anything to anyone. If I want to spend a little more money to fly, that’s ok because I know my comfort levels are different from other people’s. I don’t have to trek up a mountain or go camping or even ride a bicycle for a few hours if I don’t feel like it or if I know my out of shape body just can’t handle it.
I like my comforts, so while there are plenty of places I want to see in Southeast Asia, South America, and other not-so-developed places, Europe is still one of my favorite places to travel. But mostly I know that I don’t have to travel to make myself a better person or to impress people or feel more accepted.
I’ve also decided I need a break. Being away from Andy for the past seven weeks has been torture, and now it seems like such a waste since I’m not even enjoying the trip. So a few days ago, I found a flight back to Germany for just a few hundred dollars more than I’d spend if I stayed in Vietnam for the next two weeks. (My blog is a few weeks behind my geographical location. More Southeast Asia posts coming soon!)
So on Friday, November 18th I’m flying from Hanoi to Bangkok to Abu Dhabi to Frankfurt, landing in Frankfurt the morning of November 19th. Then I’ll leave Friday, December 2nd from Frankfurt to Abu Dhabi to Bangkok to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, arriving on December 3rd. I’ll have an eight hour layover before boarding my flight to Melbourne, Australia, landing on December 4th. Yes, that day will be hell. But the two weeks with Andy will be totally worth it.
No worries, my travel addiction is still alive and breathing, but some of the urgency is gone and it’s kind of a relief. I’m glad I’m on this trip because I really think I always would wonder what it would’ve been like. I’m also glad I have a wonderful, supportive husband to go home to. I still have a million places I want to see, and I can’t wait to take my next trip. With Andy.