The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees. Marcel Proust
Travel helps me to see the world, and my home, with new eyes.
My minimum travel time is three weeks, and a couple of times, we were able to do a six-week trip, but this time, after exploring Chile, Argentina & Uruguay for three months, I am really noticing my “other eyes”.
The longer you are away, the more acute your awareness becomes when you are once again surround by the familiar. “Home” is so much more interesting – suddenly I’m living life in a hyper-aware state – I find myself noticing all kinds of little things about people, places and our customs. I’m going to try my best to maintain this travel hangover for as long as possible.
A frequent comment we get is: “Wow, three months, was that too long?” No, not at all for us. I think it’s like anything in life – it’s what you are used to. We love to travel slowly – parking ourselves at a homey B&B, connecting with locals, getting to really know a place – this enables us to feel more “at home” wherever we are. We hang out until we are sure we’re ready to leave, even if that means skipping something we had planned for the end of the trip. For us to be ‘tour-ists” – to have a set schedule, get a taste of places, and then hurry on – would be very frustrating, and exhausting.
If you want to try a longer trip, but are hesitant, don’t worry, just do it! Expect to get antsy, or home sick at around two weeks, if that’s what you are used to. Just ride out those emotions, they will pass. For the first couple of weeks, I struggle to let go of that “have to be doing something productive” drive that always seems to stowaway in my backpack. You will be amazed how hard that is to shake, it is so engrained in us, and when it does start slipping away, you get the inner voice saying “geeze, you’re getting so lazy”. When you can reply “good, that’s what I am here for – to become a human being, not a human doing!”, congratulations, you’ve had a breakthrough.
This will be followed by the big payoff. You will settle into a new rhythm, you will begin to understand what “slowing down” really feels like, you’ll take the ups and downs of travel with a shrug, knowing that you need the lows, in order to fully appreciate the highs. When you begin to see mishaps and disappointments as benefits, you are really on your way! As the Buddhists believe, your life’s challenges provide opportunities for growth, and I believe, the same applies to travel. (Not to mention, we have had some of our best experiences, as a result of a things going “wrong”.)
Another benefit of extended, independent travel is the mental stimulation – I’m convinced it’s an alzheimers-buster. Every part of your brain gets a workout, every day, all day – calculating prices, deciphering menus, communicating, figuring out driving, bus schedules, maps, IVA taxes (and how to avoid them!*), and the constant barrage of sights, sounds and tastes foreign to you – what could be better therapy to keep those neurons firing on all cylinders?
*I should write a post on the in “IVA” taxes in Chile, Argentina & Uruguay (19-22%) but seeing as we never actually gained any real clarity on the rules, (and we certainly tried), I will have to just let you enjoy the mental exercise, or the challenge of letting go and just paying whatever is charged. Note: the rules differ in each country, and even the locals are confused. And, the way the taxes are charged (or not charged) varies from city to city, province to province. The good news: the system for getting money back at the airport is pretty well organized, but you only get money back on locally made products, not hotel rooms or dinners.