I actually started writing this three weeks ago, not long after I’d arrived in Istanbul. While I was excited to be in such a diverse and active place I noticed that my sense of awe and enthusiasm were not where they should have been. I found I spent more and more time in the hostel or the nearby restaurant reading or talking to people I’d met. My drive to go walk for six to eight hours a day was gone. I was only six blocks from the Blue Mosque and Hava Sophia and it took me three days before I bothered to go check them out. I was awash in an amazing culture and I was, I can’t say bored, I was tired.
Back at the very beginning of this trip I talked to my friend Candice, who was very excited for my trip and the route I was taking. She had done a year around the world with someone and gave me some sage advice. “From one traveler to another, don’t drink the water, use hand sanitizer a lot, and don’t be afraid to stop if you get tired.”
In Sofia I met a man from Hong Kong named Kerry Pan. Kerry was on an overland journey from Hong Kong to the Middle East. He’d spent the last few years traveling all over the world. South America, Asia, Japan, etc… He would always return home to regroup after a period of time.
In Istanbul I met a German man named Johan (I think I’m spelling that correctly). He had been traveling regularly for 20+ years, all on his motorcycle. He has logged nearly 1,000,000 kilometers and was presently on a journey from Germany to South Africa. We talked about my concerns and lack of enthusiasm and he told me that his limit was six months. He’d taken longer trips but hadn’t enjoyed them as much. He found that after six months for him it just became living. “What pub am I going to hang out in?” “Where am I going to eat?” that kind of thing. The thrill started to wane.
I’d planned the trip, saved enough to get me through a year or more, studied the routes, bought the gear, sold my car, and put my life on hold. It wasn’t until I’d spent months on the road that I realized I might have an upper limit on my attention span for this kind of thing. You can’t know unless you try. No matter what, I know that I tried, and that I’m not done.
I’m glad I had these conversations, and many others, with fellow travelers. When I first started to feel it, I was concerned, and it was nice to have others with a long term trip under their belt let me know they’d felt the same way.
I know there will be some that are disappointed in my decision to stop early. For them, know that it was not an easy decision. I spent several weeks, and countless hours, weighing everything. Was I wasting this opportunity I’d created? Was I stopping too easily? Could I just push past it? In the end I knew that this wasn’t the end, just the end of the beginning. Anyone who thought this trip would “get it out of my system” or “settle me down” doesn’t know me very well. This trip, as long as it lasted, has only opened the door for bigger, more difficult, travel and challenges. So as to not become jaded to future adventures it’s better I stop now and regroup.
Maybe it would be different if I didn’t have my future wife waiting patiently for me at home. She has never pressured me into any decisions about this trip. Still, being away from Summer has been the single most challenging aspect of this whole adventure. Thanks to technology and the availability of the Internet I’ve been able to talk with her often but it’s not the same. I’m sure you can ask anyone posted overseas or in another city about that. There’s also the “Damn, I wish she could see this” factor.
I’ve learned a great deal about myself and the world over the past six months. You can’t not with this kind of experience. You learn what you can and can’t live without, there are more extreme lessons in the world I’m sure, but this has been mine. You learn what is important to you. You learn about the insignificance of so many things you worry about every day. Similar I think to when you age, you realize how to be comfortable in your own skin, and how all that self-conscious crap while you were young, was crap. You realize how everyone is just a person like you. Loves the same, needs the same, lives the same, just differently.
So, with all that said, sorry for the seemingly abrupt end to the adventure. It really isn’t the end. I will spend the rest of my life reaching this goal. I’m more interested in enjoying the ride than unenthusiastically accomplishing a task. Life is too short.
Pacific Northwesterners! I’m back! and unemployed! anybody want to buy me a drink?