Before I left on a trip, I had been told that coming back would be an adjustment.  I had heard stories of travelers coming home only to break down and cry while staring at numerous options for one item in the grocery store, seized by an inability to make a decision between all the available choices.

Yet, I’ve had friends come back from long adventures only to restart up their old jobs and move forward with their lives like nothing is different.  At least I’ve made that assumption.  When I returned from my trip, I admit that I felt fine for the most part.  The first time I went to the grocery store, I didn’t have any issues selecting food.  Obviously, I’ve had a much more laid back lifestyle since I’ve returned.  I’ve taken my time looking for a job that will better suit me and hopefully provide me with the ability to lead my life in a more leisurely way.  I’ve been going to the gym and for the most part, I feel like I’m in good health.  So it has led me to believe that I’ve adjusted fine.

That was until this week.  I’ve finally started to notice that I’m having difficulty dealing with some things.  For example, the first month, I didn’t have a car.  Before that, I hadn’t been driving for 4 months.  I’ve since bought an old ’99 Toyota Corolla from a friend of mine and started to drive.  Now, after 5 months of no driving combined with a more leisurely approach to life, I’ve noticed that I drive like my grandmother.  The interstate speed limit around Minneapolis is 60 mph with a minimum limit of 40 mph.  Before my trip, I would typically drive between 65 and 70 mph.  Now, my speed is usually around 45, and sometimes drops below 40.  People on the highway scare the crap out me when they drive up my ass.  Most speed around me, and I’ve caught a couple glances from people like “Who let grandpa have a license to drive.”.  Of course it’s then followed by a shocked expression when they see me driving.

I’m somewhat nervous and anxious lately.  While spending time looking for work has it’s benefits, the thought of going back to a corporate, structured work environment has me feeling a bit dreadful.  The big smile I had plastered to my face after arriving home has been replaced with the numb expression I think I had most of the time before I left on my trip.  I feel tired and overstimulated, even more than before.  I’m not quite sure where to go from here or what to do with my life.  In an effort to give my life some momentum, I’ve started looking into volunteer opportunities.  For the most part, those interviews have left me feeling somewhat excited.

I thought after 2 months back home, that I’d be settled and comfortable, but I’m the opposite.  I left hoping to clear my head, and have found that after my return, my head is full of new options.  Some are exciting and others leave me fearful for my future.  There’s a new found pressure that I sense coming from myself.  A pressure that this time around, I need to do things better, and with more intention to what I really care about in life.  Yet, I know better now that I need to loosen that grip on life as well.

I worry about transitioning the theme of my blog from one that has mostly been exclusively about travel to my original purpose: my adventures and journey on my way to finding myself.  I want to write about the things that are important to me, and the other adventures that I have (not related to travel) that I hope will open up new doors for me.  My blog has lately taken a more serious tone, one that I hope to lighten over the next couple of weeks.

It’s the growing pains of growth, I guess.  Exciting and Scary.  I’m not settled nor am I content, yet.  I fear that I may never be.

Getting there

compass on map artisticWhenever I’ve talked about my recent trip with others, I’ve encountered many responses including:

“Wow.  That’s incredible.  I wish I could do something like that.”
How are you able to do this?”

I feel like my explanation has become somewhat of a mantra where each verse indicates a sacrifice or life choice I’ve made to make my dream a reality.  I’ve stated over and over again that this decision and plan did not come about overnight.

If you haven’t read my earlier posts, I’ve mentioned that one of my prime areas of inspiration came from reading the book Vagabonding by Rolf Potts.  I suggest anyone that has a desire for long term world travel to pick up a copy and read this book.  But the question still remains.  How did I get here?

I started by taking stock of my possessions and expenses.  To perform any trip of considerable length, I knew that I would not want to be shouldering the cost of my mortgage while away.  I was in the middle of finishing off the basement of my house and knew that I would need to complete that before renting it out.  So, I prioritized many of my resources for the next year into finishing the basement and making some upgrades to my house to prep it for rental.

During that time, I also started looking at everything that I owned that was not getting used often enough.  Starting with a major spring clean, I donated most of my things in storage.  After clearing out my storage area, I started going through the rest of the items in my house.

I changed my lifestyle and stopped using my desktop computer.  I found that I preferred the mobility of a laptop computer.  Getting rid of my desktop computer allowed for me to get rid of the desk I used for my computer.  Also realizing that I rarely went back and re-read any of my books, I decided to get rid of most of my paperback and hardback books.  Other books, I stored in boxes and then got rid of my book case.  At the time, I started to get my books exclusively from the library.  Being an avid reader that bought books on a regular basis, this decision helped me to eliminate a monthly or bi-monthly expenditure.

I should mention that I do not watch TV.  Many years prior, around 8 years I believe, I had decided to get rid of cable television.  This saved me at least $50 a month.  But now, I started to realize that I could watch movies on my laptop and really didn’t need the television at all.  So, I sold the television and the entertainment unit associated with it.  With each item that I removed from my premises, I started to see how little of my house was getting used.

My house is a modest 1300 square foot house in a twin-home setting.  It has 3 stories, and I started to see that I really only utilized 1 floor.  It was at this time that I discovered that I no longer wanted to maintain a house that I didn’t utilize and wanted a smaller living arrangement.  Any desire that I might move back into my house after returning from my trip disappeared.  It made more economical sense for a couple or family to live in my house.  Selling was not and option for me.  Renting my house, legally, required me to take a class with the city and have my house inspected so that I might obtain a renter’s license.  I also found a very reasonable property manager to manage my house while I was in another country.  I soon moved out after finding renters and lived among friends before setting off.

As lifestyles go, I want to also mention that I love to cook.  I’ve nurtured this interest and cook for myself as often as I can.  I’ve spent years cultivating skills that allow me to cook well enough that I don’t feel it necessary to go out and pay at a restaurant often.  I do allow myself the luxury of eating out once or twice a week.  However, I make it point to cook myself many of my meals during the week.  Typically, I cook myself a big meal every Sunday and then package the leftovers into meal-size portions.  On Mondays, I cook another good meal which also gets divided into meal-portions.  These two meals typically carry me through the week for dinner and lunches and keeps me from eating out all the time.  This eliminates a huge expenditure from my food bill.  And don’t be surprised if your co-workers look at your leftovers in envy while they’re heating up their cup of instant Ramen noodles in the microwave.

The interesting thing about all these choices is that after returning, I’ve continued to carry these choices into my current lifestyle.  I have no desire to obtain back all the things that I’ve gotten rid of.  Traveling is truly a lifestyle choice, one that I think is very positive to the overall growth of the individual as well as the collective impact to our society and culture.

While I know these points don’t allow for everyone to travel for lengthy amounts of time, I hope that it does prompt readers out there to evaluate their own lives to determine what they really need to survive and eliminate the excess so that you may find more time and money to do the things that you love.  I’ve read inspiring stories of other individuals that have done the same, or families that have traveled extensively together.  I’ve had the good fortune to meet people challenged by some handicap or problem and found a way to overcome it to do what they love.  For almost anything you desire, I believe you can achieve it.  It really comes down to our choices in life and the sacrifices you’re willing to make for them.