In the extensive research I did before starting our Round the World trip, I read many blogs that talked about how much the trip would change me. How I would be a completely different person when I returned.
Now, after six months abroad, our trip is coming to an end and I have been thinking a lot about this. Asking myself the question: Have I changed? I don’t think I’ve changed. I am fundamentally the same person, but I have GAINED AWARENESS. Here’s what the world has taught me…
THE WORLD IS A SAFE PLACE
In six months we have visited 23 countries and 68 cities and not once during our travels have we felt unsafe or in danger. Third world or poverty is not equal to danger. Of course, being a wise traveler means being careful and not exposing yourself to unnecessary risks, but don’t be afraid. Get out there and enjoy the world. There is so much beauty and greatness worth seeing!
THERE IS SO MUCH TO LEARN FROM ONE ANOTHER
If it were my decision, I would require that any politician or important decision maker had ample traveling experience as a requirement for their position. Yes, we live in a great country! But Yes, there are great things in other countries too! Why don’t we have the amazing toilets that are a standard in most Japanese homes? Why doesn’t the US have a more advanced railway system? Thinking that we are the best in everything is so old! It is time to open our minds and start sharing our best practices. If you need something, look elsewhere in the world. It’s almost sure someone has already thought about it.
EXPERIENCES FILL YOUR HEART AND CREATE MEMORIES
Riding a camel and sleeping in a tent in the middle of the desert, sleeping in an igloo, bathing an elephant, going on a reindeer sled ride, and zip lining over an incredible beach! We will never forget those moments. They are forever embedded in our minds and hearts. Ask yourself how many WOW moments have you had recently. Not “wow how high is the electricity bill this month,” but those happy moments that amaze you and take your breath away. If you haven’t had those recently, it’s time you start to EXPERIENCE LIFE! Whatever it is that means for you.
WOMEN CAN DO ANYTHING THEY DECIDE TO DO (You don’t need a man to travel the world)
We are a mother and daughter traveling alone for six months and we have managed perfectly fine. We coordinate and execute our plans and deal with unexpected situations. We handle our luggage, we are tech-savvy and know how to remain safe. Only in Morocco, a Muslim country, we felt more scrutinized because we were two women, alone. Women can do anything they set their minds to because we are organized, determined and persistent. If you are a woman and want to travel or pursue any other dream, don’t wait and go for it!
I CAN LIVE WITH SO MUCH LESS
We have lived with one 50 pound/23 kg suitcase and a carry on each, for six months. This includes not only clothing but shoes, toiletries, tech devices, etc. We have learned the importance of the weight and size of every item that goes into our suitcase and how to maximize space. The lesson here is that we have way too much stuff! When I think about all the clothes, shoes and stuff in storage that I will have to unpack when we go back, I feel dizzy. Definitively less is so much better. It makes you more agile, gives you freedom.
A DOSE OF DIFFERENT IS NEEDED TO KEEP US GROUNDED
Different is good. It is not always comfortable. It requires some adjustments on our part but that is how we learn new things and gain new experiences. Visiting other countries that are more or less developed than ours is a great learning experience! We learn to aspire to more and to make our own judgment or learn to be incredibly thankful for how fortunate we are. Either way, you win! Try a local Airbnb and stay in a real home, talk to the local people, try new food, observe how they live, enjoy the good things and quickly forget the bad ones. I recently read that “a traveler needs to be comfortable with being uncomfortable” and I couldn’t agree more.
ATTITUDE IS KEY FOR HAPPINESS. IT’S NEVER A MATTER OF AGE OR MONEY.
The lady in her little canoe selling souvenirs, that approached our tour boat in Thailand, really had a profound impression on me. Her smile was so genuine and authentic. She was happy! I am sure her living circumstances were very difficult but she had a great attitude! We tend to blame others or our surroundings for not being happy. We are always thinking that it will come later. But NO, the decision to be happy is entirely our choice! Our attitude towards the challenges of life is what will define if we have a happy, satisfying life or not. It’s not a matter of age, generation or how much money we have. What really matters is the positive attitude, heart, and passion each individual puts into anything they do, at any age.
NATURE WILL ALWAYS WIN
We’ve experienced all weathers. Fall in Italy, Winter in Central Europe and China, Summer in Southeast Asia, rainy season in Bali and early Spring in Japan. Never have I been so aware of how the weather rules our lives. I now have a deeper awareness of climate change and its impact in our world. On the other hand, at least for me, natural sights are always the best. The immense beauty of Halong Bay in Vietnam and the Li River in Guilin, China. The amazing sunsets, the waterfalls of the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, the crystal clear waters of Phi Phi Islands, filled our hearts with joy and hope. Being in contact with nature heals your soul.
MOST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD ARE KIND AND WANT TO HELP OTHERS
This has been the most refreshing and hopeful discovery of our journey. We can say it because we experienced it and it felt good! The time when we were standing in front of a flight of stairs with heavy luggage and a random stranger helped us without us even asking. The numerous times we have asked questions or directions and people who speak other languages have found the way to communicate with us. The smiles, the gratitude. So the lesson here is to practice it more. Even when our daily lives are bombarded with so much information and bad news, let’s be helpful and kind to one another. One at a time, we can create a positive chain reaction.
A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER CAN BE TOGETHER 24/7 FOR SIX MONTHS
Every time my 22-year-old daughter told her friends she was going to go travel the world for six months with her mom, the reaction was the same. Travel the world, how cool! … but with your mom? Well, we can say now that we did it and it was wonderful (most of the time.) Of course, we had fights, we had disagreements. I am a Virgo and my favorite word is “productive,” so you can imagine I am a compulsive doer. My daughter, on the other hand, is a millennial, more relaxed and calmed. So we had to find a middle point and compromise, we complemented each other. The love and respect for one another has grown. Our journey as Mari and Val Round the World will always be a part of our story and that is a wonderful thing to share.
ANYTHING WORTH HAVING REQUIRES HARD WORK
I have known this all my life. This 6 months journey has just confirmed it once again. Yes, we were not working in an office but I can promise you we worked. A LOT. Before leaving we had to do all the planning, packing, storing. During the trip, the constant planning process continued, making sure we covered every detail of our movements from one place to the other. Since we didn’t have that much time in many cities, we had very long days. Walking from morning to night trying to see everything and finding the time to write our blogs and post in our social media. Getting to places meant constantly packing and unpacking and taking dozens of planes, trains, buses, ferries, taxis, tuk tuks, and tricycles. Did we have fun? Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY YES!
TAKING CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE IS EMPOWERING
Making the decision of quitting my job to travel the world for half a year was probably the bravest thing I have done in all my life. Of course, I was scared and doubtful but I took the plunge. It felt so good! Feeling at peace with the consequences of my actions and not worrying about what others think, has made me feel so liberated and FREE for the first time in my life. Now we have to go back, find jobs, set up a home again, etc. but I am confident we will be fine. So, my message to you is the following: if you are not happy in your job or relationship, change it now! If you want to start a business, if you want to travel or do whatever it is that makes you happy, work for it and do it! Take the plunge. It is Ok, you will be fine.
So, in conclusion, NO, I am not a different person because I traveled the world for six months. I continue to be the same person, who tells her daughter to “do something productive” all the time, but I have gained awareness that I hope will make me a better, happier person for myself and others.
DON’T WAIT, MAKE A PLAN, POSTPONE NOTHING.