Since I began planning my first backpacking trip in July 2013, not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about travel in some way, shape or form.
My Instagram and Twitter feeds are overflowing with gorgeous photos from exotic locations and advice on everything from how to travel Thailand in two weeks to which backpack is the best–thanks fellow bloggers! I’ve read countless guidebooks and travel memoirs, all of which have inspired me. Every night, I fall asleep while making a mental list of all the places I want to visit.
My desire to travel and see the world has consumed me. It’s more than an obsession. I’d go as far as to say that it’s an addiction–one without any rehab known to me. Even if there was, I wouldn’t want to go.
I wouldn’t want to “cure myself” because I love having travel as such a big part of my life. Travel is fun and exciting, but above all, it’s rewarding. It’s rewarding in more than a “Yay, I finally saw the Coliseum” or “I can speak Spanish now” kind of way.
It’s rewarding because it changes you as person. It changes you at your very core. It’s rewarding in the “I went somewhere and did something and now I’m a better person” kind of way.
This is how travel has changed me (so far):
I’ve become more assertive.
I used to always say exactly what I thought and do exactly what I wanted to do–sometimes to the point that I got myself into trouble. In college, I realized I had to make people like me in order to get anywhere in this life. So, I set off down a path of people-pleasing and soon realized it was a slippery slope. I did what other people wanted because I thought it would help me get what I wanted. But amidst all the saying “yes” and doing favors and just plain ol’ keeping my mouth shut, I forget what exactly is was that I wanted.
Travel helped me to kick my passivity. On the road, relationships are generally so short that there’s no point in worrying about how something you say or do will affect a person’s future attitude toward you. It’s all about the here and now. I’ve relearned how to just say or do what I freaking want. For example, “I want to eat at this restaurant” rather than “You choose. I really don’t care.” Or, “No, you can’t buy me a drink. I think you’re creepy” rather than “Um sure…I guess that’s fine. How sweet of you…”
I’ve learned how to make the most out of any situation.
Even on your best days, something (anything) is bound to go wrong. Whether it’s life at home or life on the road, things rarely turn out as planned. Even (actually, especially) if you’re the kind of traveler who has your itinerary mapped out minute-by-minute, your plan is more than likely going to change due to circumstances beyond your control. You’ve got to deal with it.
For some “travelers,” dealing with change means going back to their hotel or hostel, curling up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor and ruing the day they decided to take a trip. For me, dealing with change means making the most out of whatever is thrown at you. Sure, I might have wanted things to be different, but just because the museum I wanted to visit is closed on Mondays doesn’t mean I still can’t have a great day lounging in the park.
Weather. Money. Transportation. Hours of operation. These are just a few of the things that could potentially ruin a trip. The only surefire why to ensure that they don’t is–simply–not to let them! I don’t think pre-travel Alex would have understood that concept. If you’re determined and open-minded, you’re guaranteed a great trip regardless of the circumstances.
I’ve become more outgoing.
It’s been a long time since I actually had to make a new friend. Like a really really long time. I think the last time I had to make a new friend was when my family moved to Michigan when I was 11 years old. If my memory serves correctly, that was the last time I was in a situation where I didn’t know anyone. In the years following, I was fortunate to be in situations where there were built-in friends already in place. For example, teams, jobs, etc.
Until, I moved to Spain of course.
Making friends isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ve really gotta like put yourself out there, and at first, that freaked me out. I’m much more the “hang back and let you come to me” type. If I would have kept that attitude though, I’d be spending a lot of Friday and Saturday nights at home instead of enjoying Madrid.
Getting out there and making friends is a lot like dating (or so I think…I’ve had the same boyfriend for almost five years). I can relate to men (and lesbians) a lot better now that I, too, have approached single women sitting at the bar and tried to charm them. Ugh, the worst is having to ask chicks for their numbers. How do guys do it?!
In addition to bars, I’ve met people at hostels, on Couchsurfing and at parties. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, you just keep trying. When you do click with someone, it makes all those awkward approaches worthwhile. Go ahead. Put me in an eHarmony commercial.
How has travel changed you?