The Heart of Traveling

How the words of Walt Whitman resonate as the year closes:

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

“Healthy” and “free”, descriptive words to evoke what traveling symbolized to Walt.  The further I delve into a gypsy existence, traveling is a mental, emotional or spiritual awakening.  Oh, but let’s not forget the physical benefits.

  • Blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of epinephrine – a stress hormone – decline on holidays after only one or two days.
  • An annual vacation can cut a person’s risk of heart attack by 50%.
  • Travelers rate their overall health one full point higher (on a scale of 1 to 5) while on vacation. They also get three times more deep sleep after their vacation.

Interesting.  I had always measured travel by how it makes me feel.  Good.  Ecstatic.  Never how it affects me physically.  Clearly, travel is a holistic venture.  It can garner several meanings for many people.  Almost Fearless or Nomadic Matt view it as freedom.  A guidebook writer might treat it as a systematic job with added perks.

Freedom is about 50% of it for me.  The other 50% is devoted to the concept of change.

It was a Monday, I sat at my cubicle station, clicking my mouse, my wrist supported by a special mouse pad to combat wrist strain.  I hadn’t seen the top of my desk in weeks, piles of paper sneered at me in silent judgment.  Recirculated air hit my nostrils causing me to cough.  A steady lump of emptiness sat in my heart.  Always there, never altering or ending.  It started in my belly, traveling towards my throat, when the words touched my lips, I croaked to stop them.  For all I wanted to do was push away the desk and scream, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way!!!”

TRAVEL.  To get out of my head and into sensation and instinct.  TRAVEL.  Because the number of countries I visit should equal my age.  TRAVEL.  When I do, new ideas spring forth and my bravery meter shatters the dial.

After reading Gretchen Rubin’s article on pursuing happiness, I also see this adventure as my happiness project.  Whatever metaphor you wish to apply to traveling, grab the opportunity and go.  It may just change your life.

Source: TIA
Photo Source: Mattox

By |December 31st, 2009 |Categories: Life |9 Comments

Isn’t 6 Months Kinda Early?

Yes, it is.  I debated the wisdom in starting this blog so soon.  Most blogs I’ve read begin at the first travel point.  Methinks I’m similar to many folks, the ones willing to jump ahead, but still require hand-holding.  Preparing to abandon my current life is a process in itself, and are the building blocks to the actual trip.

You’ll read my moments of perfect clarity or borderline cowardice.  Luckily tonight, the sky is blue with full steam ahead.  Lately I’ve gained insight through these methods:

  1. Books, books, books.
  2. Blogs.
  3. Twitter.  I’m humbled by the massive community.
  4. Starting this site.  Publishing my words across the web renders my plans concrete — intensely real.
  5. Shopping for gear.
  6. Sharing my story with supportive people.  Close friends or even your dog would do.
  7. Fantasizing about the day I quit my job.

Finally, a friend suggested I tack a world map to my bedroom wall.  Genius!

I’ll stare at it in wonderment.  To fathom that many destinations exist in the world and I’ll get to experience a few?  Inspiration can arrive from anywhere, always be on the lookout. Oh, don’t forget to answer when it knocks.

By |December 30th, 2009 |Categories: Life |7 Comments

10 Ways North America Prevents You From Traveling

1.  Student loans.  Back in my day, student loans were an anomaly, now it’s normal protocol.  Unless being a doctor, lawyer or engineer is your goal, save the liberal arts degree by experiencing art and culture firsthand –  by traveling.  A $30,000 loan equates to $45,000 with interest.

2.  Credit cards are money.  No, credit cards are an electronic figment of our imagination.  Essentially you are purchasing products with ghost money and the added bonus is 18.5% interest per year. Credit cards aren’t useless, but too often they are factored into a person’s income.

3.  You must buy real estate in order to be whole and solvent. Many of my friends purchased real estate.  I suspect it’s the nesting instinct to procreate and plant on one spot.  Nothing wrong with that, but if traveling is your desire, pouring money into square footage you probably don’t need, on top of $10,000 in renovations won’t get you any closer to Shanghai.  Renting a swanky apartment is just as fulfilling and frees up money to save towards a trip. 

4.  You don’t own a BMW? Due to slick car commercials, the right kind of car melded with status eons ago.  Maintenance costs $300 to $400 a year, gas ranges from $60 to $80 per month, and a car payment is well, not cheap.  With the advent of carbon impact, car cooperatives are growing in numbers.  Many employers offer discounted monthly bus passes.  Furthermore, architects are building mixed use (live and shop) developments in droves, eliminating the need for a vehicle.

5.  Live large. A few years ago I was laid off from a job and managed to collect unemployment insurance.  I’m not trying to illustrate that I was a lazy malcontent on the dole, but simply pointing out the difference in my income.  I was forced to live on less money, yet as the months went by my contentment level spiked.  I lost weight, started writing again, and felt happier overall.  Consuming more to maintain a standard doesn’t mean automatic happiness.  If you live at your means, traveling frequently might become reality.

6.  Any job is better than no job.  I use to follow this motto to the letter, until one day I woke up with shooting pain in my right hip.  After surmising it was all psychosomatic, it was time to tweak that philosophy.  In North America, a person’s livelihood is tied to real estate, a car, material goods – you see where this is going.  How about selecting a career that offers satisfaction and then build a lifestyle around it?  If traveling is your passion, devise career choices that involve trotting the globe.

7.  The 40-hour work week, and here’s your 2 weeks vacation.  I’m being conservative, many people work 50 or 60 hours per week.  When France shifted to the 35-hour work week studies showed no decrease in productivity.  By law, at least 15 nations in the European Union must grant a minimum of 4 weeks vacation time.  Not accrued or obtained through bloodletting, but routine.  Don’t know about you, but I received a measly 3 weeks after 5 years of service.  My peers relay a common story, working long hours is expected, even rewarded.  There goes my sanity and 4 weeks in Spain.

8.  Have kids early. A very sensitive subject.  I included this because of the numerous comments I read from parents on other travel blogs who want to travel, yet feel trapped.  I adore kids to the tenth degree, but mommy culture is prominent in North America.  In that vein, it’s clearly a personal choice when to have children.  I think it comes down to priorities, if being parents and traveling is paramount to your life, don’t fret.  Check out The Wide Wide World or From Here to Uncertainty.  Families do travel together; it can be done.

9.  Work like a dog until retirement. In North America, retirement is a panicked situation.  We must be productive in the earning years in order to have enough funds for old age.  Who has time to enjoy traveling?  I introduce International Living, a website devoted to overseas properties and an alternative option for retirement.  They offer a free daily postcard e-letter aimed at retirees seeking desirable and affordable properties.

10.  Buying stuff is good for the economy. This I can relate to 100%.  Sometimes a weekend isn’t complete unless I’ve purchased something.  If I haven’t bought anything, it feels odd.  Think of it this way, buying stuff may boost the economy, but it’s bad for the individual.  Christine Gilbert’s post on the unexpected costs of owning things conveys this articulately.  The impact of the consumerist lifestyle adds up.  Increased debt, societal pressure to keep with the Joneses, decreased value of the goods purchased, the stress of maintaining your stuff, are a few factors to consider.  What you don’t spend on stuff could be added to a travel fund.

Source: Interesting Thing of the Day

By |December 29th, 2009 |Categories: Travel Tips |17 Comments

The Countdown Begins

A Little Reflection

2009 is almost done, but my journey is about to start.  The recession cut short a promotion at work and afforded me time to reflect during this past year.

  1. Job that pays reasonably well→ check.
  2. Friends→ check.
  3. Money to spend on material items→ absolutely.
  4. Cute apartment→ check.

What more could I ask?  Yet, I couldn’t shake a constant empty feeling.  I noticed this feeling appeared more ‘on’ than off during the past 5 years.  I simply ignored it.  Getting over an 11 year relationship can be distracting.  The more I analyzed, the more it was clear something was askew in my life.  Uh, basically, everything.

The Tipping Point

It was obvious a drastic change needed to happen before I brandished a nail file and threatened my boss with it.  Of course!  A change of city!  In Canada, there are few great cities to live in, I had already exhausted Vancouver, so the next options are Montreal or Toronto.  Since Montreal is touted as the Paris of Canada, it seemed like a natural choice.

Going back to school was the next choice since my current career proved unsatisfying.  I plotted out universities and tuition fees, scanned places to live, it all sounded exciting, but it dawned on me – am I doing this because I truly want to?  I had no idea.

In my younger days I embraced goth/punk culture, which taught me to question what happiness equates to in North America.  While my friends worked to pay back student loans, buy houses, get married and have children, I fought a duality.  If wanting these things was correct, why did the quest cause me misery?  Back pain, undue stress, bouts of depression, debt.

So, What’s Next?

If I need to rethink my life why not expand Montreal into a cross-Canada trip to visit friends?  Brilliant.  Or how about heading further south into Mexico, Central and South America?  Oh yes! I always dreamed of completing a long haul trip, now here’s my chance.  While I’m at it, let’s start puttering with that dormant writing career.

The Countdown

I’m giving myself 6 months to hit the road for places yonder.  Call it mid-life crisis, flashpacking, whatever pat term fits here.  A drastic choice to take, but as I comb over all the decisions in my life this one feels ridiculously right.

Whether travel is the catalyst or not, tell me, what was your tipping point?


“A psychologist visited several hospices and interviewed dying patients. Not one patient said they wished they made more money or spent more time at the office. All of them mentioned regret at not traveling more, connecting with people and cultures, or spending more time with loved ones…”
– Anonymous

By |December 28th, 2009 |Categories: Life |16 Comments
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