What I’ve learned in eight weeks of full-time travel: Part two
More musings about life and the experience in general
Eight weeks of full-time travel has brought lots of fun, moments, memories and challenges. But more than any of that, it’s brought lots and lots of learning – so I decided to write about what it is that I’ve learned in these eight weeks. I wrote part one of this article based mostly on what I’ve learned about the travelling lifestyle. As well as learning about travel, I’ve learned loads about myself and about life in general. Again, some of these might bleed into learnings from part one, but that’s okay. Here are some things that I’ve learned about life.
Nature is the one
Okay, so this one kind of is travel-related. But it fits in with real life too, so I’m sticking it in here. I love a city break, and I love being in a busy environment; but actually, the most enjoyable moments for us have mostly all been when we’ve been surrounded by nature. Lake Bohinj, Lake Bled, Garden Village Bled, Tivoli Park in Ljubljana, Margaret Island in Budapest – these all stick out as some of our favourite destinations so far. And they are all immersed in nature.
Seeking out natural beauty was a priority for me before we left on this trip, and I think we’ve had a nice balance of beautiful nature and buzzing cities. The beauty is that you can have both. Places like Rovinj, Croatia, and Piran, Slovenia – they are great little towns with plenty of life about them, but even being by the sea there makes you feel a bit more at peace. Water has been a big thing for us, and I genuinely think just being around it or in it or on it is good for you. I bloody love a good waterfall too. Send me all of your waterfall recommendations, please!
Don’t get me wrong, we have visited some amazing cities, seen some amazing things, and made amazing memories there. But being surrounded by nature just stands out a bit more for me. I think a big part of it is the peacefulness, the quiet and the feeling of just getting back to basics. It’s really, really good for the soul. And that shouldn’t be undervalued.
I still find myself looking forward to things
Back in the ‘real world,’ I always had things that I was looking forward to. I had to for my own sanity – and often they were travel related. I always liked having at least one upcoming trip booked ‘so that I had something to look forward to.’ Not that I was miserable the rest of the time, but I always enjoyed having something to look towards, do a bit of planning for, and get excited about. And I’m still doing that.
I sort of thought when we started this journey, that because I would always be on a trip, or a journey, or an adventure, that the looking forward to things bit would die down a bit. It hasn’t really.
I still find myself looking forward to things. I suppose there are places that I was looking forward to visiting a bit more than others. There hasn’t been anywhere that I haven’t been fussed about visiting, but there are still places I’m looking forward to a bit more. I’m looking forward to Kotor more than Belgrade. That doesn’t mean it will be better. Some places surprise you, some aren’t as good as you imagined. But I think it’s still okay to get excited about things. I can’t bloody wait to go to Canada.
I think it’s just a part of my personality, and I’m okay with that. It means I’m always looking for different things to do. That I’m not just settling for the everyday grind. I’m sure there’s a downside to this. Maybe I should try to live in the present a bit more. But I like looking forward to things, as long as it’s not to the detriment of the thing or things that I’m currently doing. I hope I can bring that back into my real life when I eventually make it back.
Here’s the kicker: I’m looking forward to going home. And I think that’s okay too. It doesn’t mean that I want to go home right now or that I’m done with this journey or that I’m not enjoying myself. It means precisely none of those things. It just means that I’m looking forward to going home. And I like that about myself.
There are enough hours in the day after all
When I was working full time and trying to juggle work, life, socialising, looking after myself etc – there were so many times when I found myself complaining that ‘there aren’t enough hours in the day.’ We’ve all been there. It’s just about what you make of the hours in the day that you do have.
You do end up with a lot of time on your hands when you take on something like this. And that can be difficult if you’re unsure of what to do with it. Or if you’re not good in your own company. I think we’re doing okay, but there are days where we’re super productive and other days when we don’t accomplish an awful lot. Don’t get me wrong – that’s fine in our circumstance, but we do still want to be achieving things and being productive while we’re on the road. It might be seeing or experiencing things, learning something new, finishing a book or whatever. The point is that you have to consciously set out to do those things, rather than just assume that they’ll happen because you have some time on your hands.
I’m trying to get into the habit of starting each day with intentions. Not so much planning the day to the minute, but more having certain things that you want to achieve and being flexible about how you go about achieving them. Just so that I don’t end up wasting a lot of this time that I have. Again, this is something that I can hopefully bring home with me and adapt it to my life there.
You’re pretty much always in each other’s company
Travelling as a couple, we knew before we left that we would probably end up doing each other’s heads in from time to time, simply because of the sheer amount of time we would be spending together. Actually, we’ve been pretty good at just asking for space when we need it and not taking that personally when the other person asks for space. Sometimes you do just want a wee hour to yourself; there’s nothing wrong with that. But even when we have been spending time ‘apart,’ we’re still at least sharing a space, even if we aren’t interacting with each other.
It also means that we’re both doing more or less the same things, going to the same places, meeting the same people. It’s fine, but it even takes away small things like asking how your wife’s day was. I mean, you can still ask, but you more than likely really already know the answer.
I’ve found that it’s really important to still talk, still ask questions, and don’t assume that you know how the other person is feeling just because you’ve spent all day around them. This whole experience has also been a huge life lesson in just letting little things go. When you’re spending every minute of every day with the person you know the most in the world, it’s really easy to let really small things irritate you a lot. But when you take a step back and look at it objectively, the other person has done absolutely nothing wrong. So you just let it go, or share it and laugh about it. Hopefully this makes our lives better going forward; I feel like it’s a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m very lucky to be sharing this amazing experience with my favourite person. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with its own set of challenges.
Oh, and remember that date night should still be a thing. Just because we’re with each other all the time, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make a bit of an effort with each other every now and then. That’s a nice thing to do.
You will have down moments
This is a big one for me. Usually when I’m on holiday, I’m always go, go, go all the time. And always loving life for the whole time, because it only is a short time. On an extended trip like this, you can’t really be on top of the world all the time. I don’t know why this surprised me a bit, but it did. This has been a dream of ours for a long time, so I kind of thought it would be all fun all the time. We are having a fantastic time, but there are moments where your mood is up and down. Just like in real life.
It takes a bit of getting used to, which sounds a bit mad. But whenever you’ve been looking forward to something for so long, it’s easy to believe that it will just be brilliant moment after brilliant moment. And sometimes it is. But it can’t be that all the time, which is the bit that takes some getting used to. I’m getting there, but the truth is, the whole journey is about adjusting and re-adjusting as you go along. I don’t think that will stop, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It’s helped to iron out some life priorities
Maybe it’s living out a long-held dream. Maybe it’s going on a long adventure. Maybe it’s taking an extended break from the ‘real world.’ Maybe it’s all of those things, but this journey so far has definitely helped in firming up some priorities for us.
I always said that I didn’t know what would happen after this trip because I had no idea what the experience would do to me. Obviously, we’re only part-way through, so that’s still up in the air. But it has helped to affirm some priorities, and I imagine that it will continue to do so.
I always knew that I wouldn’t come home and be ‘done’ with travel. But I didn’t know if I would want to save up again and do another similar ‘mega-trip,’ or if I would want to do the more ‘regular’ thing of taking a few holidays a year and seeing the world that way. It’s easy to say this as somebody who has no income, but I think I’ll enjoy going back to the world of having a regular income and being able to plan a couple of trips at a time without worrying about dwindling funds. It’s only one example, but having the time and space to think about these things, as well as actually living a dream that you’ve had for ages really does help you identify some of the things that you really want to achieve.
We do coffee all wrong
I’ve always thought coffee in central Europe was excellent, even back when I wasn’t massively into coffee. I still do think it’s great, and it’s always something that I look forward to on a trip. But after an extended period of having really excellent coffee every day for relative pennies compared to the cost of a coffee at home, it really has made me dismay a bit about how we do coffee in Ireland and the UK. Turkish (or rather Bosnian) coffee was a new thing for me on this trip, and it was good – although I do prefer espresso coffee if given the choice. But even the quality of espresso coffee has seemed a lot higher than most coffee places at home. And it genuinely has been at a fraction of the price.
I’m not sure if it’s an issue with ‘coffee culture’ at home – I mean, people are paying good money for the coffee they’re being served, so why would the coffee companies change something that isn’t broken? I guess I just really wish I could get really great coffee on the go for less than a pound at home like I’m now used to. Oh well. Might just have to go on more holidays then…
A few honourable mentions then – mostly about things that I’m missing. After family & friends, the thing that I miss the most is food. Followed by food and food. Don’t get me wrong, I love trying local dishes when I’m on the road, and we’ve eaten really well so far. But there’s a lot to be said about enjoying some good home comforts when it comes to food. After a long day, a bad day, a great day, a nap, whatever – celebrate with a good meal. We’ve still been able to do that. But there are times when all you want is a gravy chip. I’m not even going to list the other things that I want. It’ll only put me in a mood. And I’m getting hungry already, so no.
The other thing I’ve really learned not to take for granted is a washing machine. I was all ‘sure we’ll just hand wash things if we need to’ before we left. And we have done. But there really is something to be said for the convenience of a washing machine and a proper place to dry your clothes. We’re managing perfectly fine, but it’ll be nice to get back to a life where I’m not thinking about whether or not the place that I’m staying will have a washing machine or not.
Finally, it’s all well and good missing home, feeling homesick, yearning for friends and family. But you end up convincing yourself that everything at home is probably upside down. What on earth have I missed over the last eight weeks? Well, not much apparently. Every time we call home, it’s mostly just an update that things are more or less the same. Which is nice to know sometimes, but it also wrecks your head. Sometimes I’ll be wondering how certain people are or what’s going on somewhere, and when I find out, it’s a bit underwhelming. Just because it’s the same. Note to self: not everybody’s life changes significantly when yours does. And that’s fine.
So there you have it. Loads of things that I’ve learned, thought, felt, or somewhere in between all three. I’m sure there’ll be loads more learning before we’re done with this journey. And I’m glad there will be. That’s a big part of why we’re doing it, and a big part of what keeps me happy and healthy.
If you missed part one of this article, you can read it here.
What have you learned about yourself or your life while you’ve been travelling?