[Editors Note: We wrote this post for Meet, Plan, Go! as an inspirational piece for their blog. We loved it so much that we couldn’t help but share it here. We’re hosting the 1st South Florida Meet, Plan, Go! October 16th. Click here for more information.]
What’s in your travel web?
Remember in elementary school when your teacher stood in front of the class and taught word associations?
“Blue is to sky as green is to grass,” the teacher would say. “Hard is to pavement as soft is to pillow.”
These simple exercises created a web in our brains, associating words, experiences and memories into our pattern of communication. For me, travel is a web of associations. It’s not a singular word or a series of experiences; it is a web of experiences that build, influence and complement each other.
Travel is to explore. To explore is to take chances. To risk is to experience. To experience is to feel.
To feel is to make a memory. To remember is to want for more.
My travel web started small, incomplete and somewhat fragile. As a teenager when I left for a teen trip in the United Kingdom I had little idea of the path I was starting to lay out for myself. Three weeks were over in a flash and before I knew it that trip had faded into the darkness of my memory. Years later I spent a few weeks in France, then Canada and finally I was studying in Italy. To this day I’m not quite sure what pushed me to make the impulsive decision to spend a few months in Italy, it must have been something lurking in my web.
You see, my travel web is made up of emotions.
Travel for me is an intensely emotional experience. It’s emotions that are triggered when I hear the muezzin call Muslims to prayer, smell cinnamon and cardamom in a market, and taste the juice of a passionfruit. Joy, surprise, happiness, mystery, reflection, excitement, existence, these are the emotions that I associate with travel. The moment I leave and the moment I return I dip into my web, fishing around for the right emotions. 90% of the time I can never catch the right one.
But that is ok.
Because a web is there to catch you when you can’t catch yourself. When you feel excited to leave on a career break when you know you should be at least a little afraid. When you feel afraid even though you’re about to reach for your dream. When you feel sadness at returning home even though you are heading into the arms of loved ones and when you feel longing to be back on the road when you’ve just gotten settled.
Your travel web, the association of experiences, feelings and memories you create yourself as you explore the world is there to catch you. You don’t need to build the largest, strongest or tightest web in order to break to follow your dream. You simply need to trust it. If you’ve never been out of the country, that doesn’t negate a trip around the world. If you’ve never taken your two weeks of vacation that doesn’t prevent you from broaching the topic of a career break sabbatical with your boss. It simply means you’ll have to learn to trust yourself and trust your web.
On the first day of my 21 month trip around the world I didn’t know where I was sleeping that night. It was an immediate far cry from the “type A” personality that walked briskly down the hall of a multistory office building the month before. I think I left that personality at the border. Over the next few weeks and months I broke nearly every travel rule I had laid out for myself – no overnight buses (broken on the first night!), no meat from street vendors (broken on day 2), don’t drink the water. Looking back it was my travel web that saved me – the trust and emotions I had built into that web were what allowed me to take the changes, weigh the risks and reap the rewards of a journey around the world that changed my life.
That’s the best thing about your travel web – it is constantly expanding, reaching for new areas and filling with new experiences. It is flexible, stretchy and the associations you make, the experiences you have will only serve to enrich your web so that they next time you can stretch a bit further, push a bit harder and go a bit longer.