After returning home I’ve had about 3 months to reflect on our year long trip. Here are some things I’ve come to realize. They are in no particular order.
Life is short, we are all going to die, so why not take a year off and travel the world? This is how I have summed up my thoughts about why we decided to travel in the first place. It’s a subject that bothers a lot of people but I’ve found that embracing it makes life a lot sweeter. Life is short but we never know how short it’s going to be. Many of us hope to live a long life, but the fact is it can end at any moment. Quickly. Just like that. This is why some people make bucket lists. Things they want to do before they die. The save and plan and hope that one day they’ll be able to cross those things off their list. It’s a gamble. Lot’s of folks die with bucket lists with nothing crossed off them. We’re all going to die and since we don’t know when that will happen why not get to work on the bucket list now? Right now while we can still walk and talk and breathe and eat and see and enjoy things fully? Enjoy life fully. It doesn’t neccesarily mean travelling the world for a year like I did, but it might be a good place to start. What’s on your bucket list that you could cross off sooner rather than later?
People around the world are happier even though they have a lot less. This was apparent the first time I visited India. People there are very, very poor, but they were really happy. This made an impression on me and I’ve never forgotten it. It’s not just India. After travelling to over a dozen countries on 3 continents it’s something I’ve seen over and over. There’s a lesson there. Money and possessions do not equal happiness. Happiness is a mindset, an attitude, a way of life. I remember a cycle rickshaw driver in India, who earns about $4 a day, invited us into his home. His small single space sat on a polluted river bank, with some wooden sides and a tin roof. His wife and 3 kids were inside, dirt floor, a single burner gas stove. No windows, doors or heat. They were all smiling and were happy that we stopped for a few minutes to visit. I’ve had similar experiences all around India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and other places. The poorest of the poor, happier than most of us. What defines your happiness? Can you develop a mindset, an attitude, a way of life where you would be smiling all the time?
We have way too much stuff and we can get by just fine with a lot less. A year on the road brings the perspective of what you really need on a day to day basis, and why you can do without. Before we left we sold and donated a lot of our stuff. I parted with my Martin D-18 guitar. I sold it to a guy about my age who had it on his bucket list 🙂 We both won. We got rid of clothes, furniture, books, and tons of other stuff. We sold our cars. We stuffed what clothes we thought we might need for the trip into 2 large backpacks along with our laptops, passports, and wallets. The remainder of our stuff, which was not a lot, we packed up in boxes in our cellar. We got along just fine with a backpack of clothes and other items for a year. We shipped 3 boxes of stuff home. We purchased a few clothing items along the way as the climate changed. Living out of a backpack was life changing, but I didn’t notice it at first. It took being at home for a month or 2 so to realize that even after we unpacked all our other stuff, I was so accustomed to using the same small collection of things from my backpack for a year, that I haven’t used hardly any of the stuff I unpacked from storage. The truth is we really don’t need a lot. How much do we really need, and what possesions could we let go of, in order to simplify?
I can’t wait to go back. Some folks go to Florida or Arizona for the winter to escape the cold. My plan is to escape the cold and head back to Asia next winter. India is like a second home for us and we have made friends and contacts there other the past 12 years. We have a couple of great opportunities to volunteer there and really make a difference in the lives of those way less fortunate than us. Our first visit to Rishikesh in 2007, after spending 3 hectic weeks travelling around India, seemed like a respite. It reminded me of New Hampshire – rivers, mountains, trees. I’ve never forgot that and have been back there 3 more times. Granted it’s still India but it’s a special place, the yoga capital of the world. I think we’ll start there. Malaysia also grabbed my attention and turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises of our trip. Clean modern cities, affordable accommodations, excellent food, English speaking population, super modern public transportation systems, friendly and welcoming people, beaches, mountains, islands, and a free 90 day invitation waiting for us. Maybe we’ll spilt our time between the 2, India and Malaysia.