Here’s one for all the people who see travel as a whimsically self-indulgent waste of time; send it to your conservative grandparents and your boyfriend’s snobby cousins. Sure, sometimes travel can make people do irresponsible things they wouldn’t dream of doing in their home countries (sorry for riding on the roof of a Nepali bus, mom, but it was really fun). But really, those are small things. In some ways, traveling all the time has given me some kickass skills. Here’s what the road’s taught me:
Rolling with punches
Once you’ve hiked barefoot through the snow for 2 hours, with only some aluminum foil to blanket your frostbitten feet, a 24 hour airport delay will not faze you. If you’ve swam in the high Arctic and hitchhiked in pouring rain on a dirt (mud) road, cold bucket showers will be no big deal. And, honestly, if you’ve ever spent the night sleeping on a composting toilet (and I really, really hope you haven’t) then every night after that for the rest of your life will be amazing.
Making friends (and leaving friends)
I’ve made some of the best friends of my life on the road, then never spoken to many of them again. I’m really exceptional at saying hello and saying goodbye.
Afraid of spiders? Call me! I’ve killed suckers bigger than my face. Likewise, I’ve camped in enough sketchy places that I no longer really fear black bears or tigers or any other scary animal thing that could have killed me in my sleep. Though maybe I should.
When you need to make $100 stretch for two weeks, you get pretty good at keeping track of these things. I met a guy on the road who kept track of every penny he spent in his journal – and he’d been doing this for two years. It was the only way he could afford to travel the world for so long. Just remember not to be a total cheapskate – sometimes it makes you a jerk, and sometimes you need to splurge.
Living with little
I can wear the same thing for a weekend, and then again on Monday and Tuesday. There are tricks to get around the smell. I’m okay sleeping on hard, dirty surfaces and know how to whip up a sweet survival kit with little more than some tin cans and string. When your life has to fit in a 50 liter bag, you figure out how to make do.
Trying new things
I was raised devoutly vegetarian, but that didn’t prevent me from trying rotten shark and whale. And who’s always the first person to try the deadly chili pepper and the weird jelly thing with potential eyeballs in it? Pick me! I only occasionally regret it (century eggs are best left buried deep underground).
Learning New Languages
I speak about 15 languages just well enough to get myself in a lot of trouble, but not well enough to get myself out of it. This might not be something to brag about, but the more you travel, the better you get at it.
If you told me you had tickets to Madagascar for me, I’d be all packed and ready to go in 15 minutes. You learn this on the road. I don’t hesitate about these things, and while I might one day regret the giant face tattoo I just got,* this is still one of my favorite things about myself.
Doing things that scare me
If you’re scared to make the leap, just give me your credit card and I’ll buy the damn flights for you.
Obvious, but it deserves an entry anyways. Some people think “I could never live without this other person/thing.” That will never be me. You know those people who complain about how lonely they are because their significant other has been gone for a week? Not me. I know that sometimes I’m all I got, and I’m okay with that. Also? When you’re traveling alone all the time, you have to learn to love your own company, because nobody else is gonna. I promise that’s not nearly as depressing as it sounds.
*just kidding grandma. Please don’t have a heart attack.