There are a few things that I discovered (and rediscovered) about myself, important lessons that I’ve learned and wisdom that I will take away from the time we spent on the road. Most of these are things are easily forgetten in our opulent society and were (re)learned from those we would consider “less fortunate”. These people that we are quick to judge and look down on, pity even, often have much better value systems than we have and are much happier. In our quest for more of everything, we have lost our ways and forgotten what is really important in life.
+ Family, community, people: they matter. They are important and one of your greatest resource, and should be kept close. By helping one another and sharing you will have so much more.
+ We don’t need so much stuff. Stuff is an all-consuming black hole that sucks away your soul and confuses your values. You are not defined by your big house or your iPhone. You are more than that. Learn to make a differentiation between wants and needs and consider your purchases carefully. Do you really need that? Do you even really want it? Or do you just think that you do? There are much better things that you could be doing with your money. Stuff does not bring you lasting happiness and only ties you down.
+ Just as we don’t need so much stuff, we also don’t need so much space. What’s the point of having a big giant house where you never use half the rooms? Some of our favourite hotel rooms on our trip were tiny, cozy spaces.
+ It’s amazing how quickly one can adapt to new environments.
+ Self-image and body issues are not everywhere. Travel to Eastern Europe or South America and you will see women wearing scandalous outfits that we would never dare to wear here because we would feel too self-conscious. Watch them own their curves earned through childbearing and eating: they walk proud, confident, and act as though they know they are incredibly sexy and desirable. It’s an unforgettable lesson that will make you feel silly for ever feeling bad about the way you look, because let’s face it, you look darn good.
+ Be good to the environment. Recycle, reuse, invent, redesign, do it yourself. Understand the value of things.
+ Know where your food comes from. Understand what meat is. Respect farmers.
+ Help yourself and the planet and try to be greener and more self-reliant when possible.
I know that what I wrote above is (a bit) preachy, but I think it’s important that it be said. To offset this, here are a few things that I learned on a more personal level.
+ I am not 20 anymore. Traveling in your 30’s is really not like traveling in your 20’s. I expected that I would have the stamina, energy, wants and experiences of my younger self on my first trip around the world. This second trip was much different. I gained weight instead of loosing some. I wanted nicer accommodations. I ate better. I walked less. I roughed it less. I got tired faster. I drank less. Little things like cold water showers bothered me more this time around. I didn’t go dancing every night – actually, I didn’t go dancing or out at bars at all. Making friends was harder because most travelers were younger or older than us: not too many travelers are in their 30’s and backpacking.
+ I value my privacy. We always chose private rooms when we could and were fine paying more for it. A better night’s sleep is worth the investment.
+ Our trip was too long for me. When I was in my 20’s, I didn’t want my trip to end after 8 months. On this trip, I was about done at 8 months – that means that I spent a year longer on the road than I really felt happy with. I’m not saying that I hated it or was miserable: I’m just being honest about being tired. I now know that future long trips should be kept at under 5 months in length to be ideal for me.
+ On future trips I would like to spend more time in fewer places.
+ I really do love Canada and British Columbia as my home. It feels right.
And you, what have you learned about yourself or about the world from your travels?