Everyone wants to travel. Everyone says they want to do it but very few people do. We, all, want to travel for different reasons. Whether it is to escape the world around us, visit the sights we see on Google maps & Buzzfeed, or to depart on a journey of self-discovery.
For me, traveling is very personal. I travel because I’m able to unplug from my routined world and escape in every aspect. I get to shed my persona, reset and have a clean slate with every new person I meet…
I am free and limitless. I venture out as little or as much as I like. I tend to be very reserved and observant of the people around me, only sparking conversations with people if I see a real opportunity to build a connection.
Who I am when I travel is someone that’s quiet but loud in her mind. My internal dialogue keeps me company on my long bus rides from city to city and it keeps me up at night, telling me off all the wonderful things she noticed during our tours. I share as much as I can through my pictures and journal entries, not only to show everyone back home, but, to permanently imprint the memories for myself.
When I travel, I am an artist. Not just with the pictures I take of the sights I am able to see and the food I am able to enjoy, but with myself. I am able to sculpt myself to best fit every situation. I can reveal as much or as little of my identity as I desire (and being that I like to backpack by myself, I can’t be my honest self and reveal that I am in fact, alone). By manipulating my identity, I am able to be whoever I wish to be.
The funny thing about traveling is that you’re able to meet so many great people, you don’t have to hide who you are. And normally, I don’t like to. Sure, the option is nice and it adds to the trill have being able to recreate yourself but the people you will be able to meet on your journeys don’t judge you. To them, your past doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter how much money you make (although it might vary depending on their country’s economic status), what your troubles were, why you decide to run away from your life back at home… All that matters is that you’re there now and you two, three, six even, are able to enjoy this moment together!
The people you meet become your family for the day. They somehow always understand what you’re feeling and/or going through because they’ve been through something similar before.
Some of my fondest memories are my conversations with the locals and other travelers. The stories we were able to share were so special. They were like little treasures I got to bring home with me, weightless but at the same time, heavy in richness. I was able to learn so much about the world and seeing it through their eyes, made it so much more personal. I imprinted each story and stored them away in a special part of my heart, only to be brought out on special occasions. They still move me every time I think about them and the feelings I felt, hearing it for the first time, comes rushing back each time I relive the memory.
I remember the sadness I felt when my Moroccan hostel host told me of how rare it is for him to see his wife. He told me how he works hard to make enough money to meet his wife halfway since he works in Morocco and she works India. I also remember the serendipity that was watching my group and our hosts singing songs after a delicious meal of chicken tajine (that I help made, by the way) in Marrakesh, Morocco.
I remember the ever-growing group I was apart during my business turned backpacking adventure, two years ago in Vietnam. The time I met a pair of twins from California in Nha Trang, Vietnam during an Island tour and their local friend! We later introduced ourself to another group of travelers, one from Switzerland, Denmark, England, and Canada, and went out for dinner and some local bar hopping. That group only grew went I met up with the twins and our Vietnamese local in the next city, Saigon, and was introduced to the cutest (and probably most fabulous) Vietnamese couple and a group of guys traveling from Australia over dinner!
I hold the stories they shared with me very dear to my heart. Like the one about how the lovely Vietnamese couple finally got married after dating internationally for several years (him being from Vietnam and she from Australia). I also remember another Vietnamese couple on their honeymoon that my travel partner and I met on our trip to Ha Long Bay, and the story of the local ship mate on our boat that day.
His story was a sad one. One that made me appreciate the opportunities I had growing up and my freedom to choose what it was I wanted to do, career wise. He told me how he had to leave home and get a job on a boat that sails six days out of the week. He revealed how lonely he was since he couldn’t seem to maintain a relationship or friendship even, seeing that he’s away for so long. I remember asking him if he thought of trying to find another job and his disappointed answer revealed how little choices he had.
It’s meeting people like him, the twins from California, the couples from Vietnam, the locals and the travelers that changes you. By hearing their stories, by feeling their warm embrace as they welcome you, a fellow traveler, into their lives and join you on your journey that opens up your whole world. It shows you that we all feel the same way, no matter how different our stories were. But at the same time, it reminds you of how privileged you are to live the life that you do because others would give up everything for the freedom of choice. It reminds you of how similar you are with others by showing you the differences.
By opening your heart and soul to these people, you’re able to learn so much about yourself and the world you live in. It reminds you of how big and small your world is at the same time and there are so many wonderful people out there. You just have to open yourself up to let them come in. And that’s, the beauty of traveling.
Stay inspired and travel more,
Inspired by catching up with an old friend from my trip to Vietnam & all of the special people I met on my adventures around the world