The hot June sky was swiftly filling with clouds. I was grateful for the shade but I worried it would start to pour before we arrived. A few drops began to fall as we parked and started our short hike. An elderly white man in loose marigold colored clothes had set up a booth on the sidewalk handing out informational booklets about Hindu deities. I was in a hurry but Sophie, my friend and traveling companion, was interested, so we stopped and chatted for a while. I am glad we did. We had a short but lovely conversation about openness and spirituality. It was truly an experience of human connection. Is there anything more beautiful?
There might be. As we resumed our hike the wind picked up. The sky was almost completely overcast now. Wisps of golden afternoon sun peeked through the towering windswept thunderheads to bless small patches of land with light. The wind blew us back down the hill as we struggled upward, but soon we managed to reach the cusp of the hill and finally we could see her, the Grand Canyon. Standing on the rim, almost within the storm, buffeted by wind and pelted by rain, looking across a massive shrine to the power of nature, Sydni began to cry. I began to sing. Weirdly the song that burst from my soul at the pure majesty of the experience was “Hello” by Lionel Richie. I just couldn't keep it in! Something about the experience, maybe it was the universe, maybe it was God, maybe it was just the pure beauty of this planet, poured into me so generously that I had to let some spill out.
It is in search of experiences like these that I travel. To connect and learn, both from my fellow human beings and from the rest of the world. I love both equally, and I learn from both equally. There is truly no teacher like travel because new experiences require us to grow. When we are thrust into an unfamiliar situation we must change and adapt to thrive. Change isn’t necessarily uncomfortable, although sometimes it will be, but it is possible to prepare oneself to be flexible and willing to adapt, which will help make the process easier.
I have taken three long international journeys in the past, each about 4 months long, and each one has taught me so much. I have also taken a number of shorter trips, both international and domestic, but I prefer longer journeys because they give more time to truly absorb my surroundings. They are also cheaper, at least per day. When traveling internationally I try to take advantage of work/stay programs like WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and Workaway. I like WWOOF especially because it provides me with the opportunity to get to know a group of people while also spending a lot of time in nature learning about native plants and agricultural practices. Both of these things help me gain a deeper understanding of the area I am visiting while saving a lot of money on room and board.
Currently I am planning a four month long road trip around the Western United States. I’m very excited about the trip, but I’m also very excited about the planning! Planning is almost half of the fun of going on a journey. It is so invigorating to research things to do and organizations to contact, to reach out to people I want to connect with, and do all the math to make sure I’ll stay on budget. Preparation makes the ensuing journey feel more tangible, while also ensuring a deeper and less stressful trip.
I would love to share my travels with other people so that they can live and learn vicariously. I enjoy travel stories quite a bit and I would like to provide that sort of material for others. Additionally, I would like to share the more tangible skills and resources that I have learned through my travels. Using either a blog or podcast I plan to alternate between sharing the narrative of my next trip and outlining helpful preparation procedures. That way my blog/podcast would have both practical information and personal connection. Many existing resources for trip planning don’t touch on the mental health aspects of travel. Physical preparation is very important, but so is mental and emotional preparation. Any travel, but especially long term, will require adaptation and therefore it’s vital to acknowledge and prepare oneself.
I hope that these three facets of information, narrative travel, mental preparation, and physical planning, will build on and enrich each other creating a cohesive and engaging whole. We can’t all travel all the time, and this is the sort of media I look for when I am stuck at home. My desire to create this outlet is similar to my singing of Lionel Richie at the Grand Canyon in that it is an outpouring of experience. Hopefully it will be one that facilitates connection and openness that then leads to a continual flow of experience and connection, eventually creating a self-supporting community of travelers. In other words, a network of wandering friends.