Life changes constantly, we changed constantly. So it is no surprise that traveling to a distant place for a longer time will change you. This phrase has been used and re-used so often these days that it almost begin to lose meaning. Sure, travel changes you, but so does starting a new job or finding new friends or partners.
I changed drastically between my first trip to New Zealand in 2009 and my second trip in 2016. Some of these changes I was already aware of, others I understood once I set foot on New Zealand again. Don’t get me wrong it was not New Zealand in particular that set me on a self-awareness trip. The inner change was already in full swing, it just took a sudden change in location, temporal and spatial distance, between myself and my usual surroundings entangled the chaos inside my head.
What have I learned?
Well, I have no tolerance for staying in hostel anymore. I can temporarily live with a terribly uncomfortable bed or not-so-clean kitchens and bathrooms. However, I will no longer tolerate certain behaviors of other hotel guests. And while in NZ, I didn’t. Maybe it’s an age thing, but I’m tired of drunk hostel guests crashing a dorm-room. I’m tired of making people understand that yes, even in NZ and among the travel community, thieves exist. I value my belongings because I worked hard to being able to afford them and because I know what it mean to get robbed or a person destroy your belongings. So no, I don’t care that you want to keep the dorm-room door open so your friends can get in easily or because you’re too lazy to take your keys with you. I payed for a bed in this dorm room as much as you did, and I want to feel safe whether you want to respect that or not. In short, I guess I’m just tired of the power struggle that takes place inside each dorm room. Instead of trying to get along with the stranger next to you in your bunk bed, too many ridicule those that don’t indulge in the stereotypical hostel behavior as “prudes” or “negative nancies”. During my time in NZ, I promised myself that from my next trip onward, I’ll stay away from dorm-rooms.
I’ve also learned that I no longer need to travel jut for the sake of it. In the last five or six years, I’ve went abroad once a year on average. It felt great and I certainly wouldn’t change that part of my life. In NZ, and upon returning home, I realized that I’m at a point where I’m no longer interested in visiting certain places just so I can say that I’ve been there. Again, I no longer see the appeal in traveling just for the sake of it. Travel still remains a great passion to me, and I’ve already started looking at the cost of flights of future destinations. Also, as implied earlier, I don’t want to stay in dorm-rooms (& to some extend in hostels in general) anymore. This means that travel in itself will become a luxury to me, one I need safe money for in advance (in contrast to my previous spontaneous “let’s get away”). I guess my passions and priorities in life changed.
You can’t run away from yourself. While travel changes you, there are certain things about yourself you cannot outrun. No matter how far you go, unless you address your suppressed self, it will always follow you (Greeting from Freud). This may also sound like a very stereotypical esoteric life advice, but let this 30-something tell you: you can’t change by hiding your self. Before each travel, I’ve always daydreamed how this time, I will make friends among my dorm-roommates. That this time, I will be more outgoing. I kept telling myself that somehow the place itself will change me and I will become who I ever wanted to be. Yet, none of my self-delusions became reality because I made no effort to change.
Throughout 2017, I’ve had the urge to “get away”. I got so used to traveling at least once a year that I thought “I ought to leave”. Every couple of weeks or so, I’d search for cheap last minute flights or I’d book a bed in a hostel at a random location only to cancel my booking shortly after. These three lessons I’ve written about, resurfaced again and again I finally decided to start changing. I’m not sure when I’ll go traveling again or what my next destination will be, but I don’t regret my decision. I’m content with where I’m in life right now and where I’m headed towards.