In many ways, traveling gave me back my life.
About 5 or so years ago, I took a long, hard look at my life, carefully assessed it and realized that I’ve been wasting a good deal of it in a small cubicle. Since I started working, my world became limited to a restrictive cube farm. I strived to conquer the corporate jungle with much gusto and actually convinced myself that a thriving office career was the sole definition of success.
Not long after though, I got close to burning out because of the tiring routine – the long, daily commute to the office, politics in the workplace, lack of appreciation and all other whatnots that make good employees leave. I wanted to escape; I had to find freedom. It was then that I began to read travel stories over the internet and realized that it could be a way out. Back then, I just wanted to quit, pack my bags and vanish.
But I had nothing and I had to support my family while trying to get my life back together. That was when I met someone who was to become my travel buddy for life. She was like me, putting family first, because it’s the most important thing in this world after all.
And just like me, she also had dreams of traveling and seeing the world. After carefully assessing things, we soon realized that we could do a life of traveling without having to quit our jobs. Together, we made plans on how to skillfully use our weekends, holidays and vacation leaves.
Soon, I realized that I had a lot of time to do the things that I love, unlike before when time seems to always run out. Suddenly, I have weekends to look forward to. And gradually, I was putting balance in my life that previously seemed so elusive.
More than therapy, traveling broadened my perspective. I did not have much money to spare when I was just starting out. So I adapted the philosophy that travel does not have to be in a far off place. It can be right across the street, to a nearby building or the next neighborhood. It need not be by plane, bus or ship. In fact, the best way to travel is by foot because it allows you to observe and appreciate the world at your own pace.
Traveling allowed me to see the world with curious eyes and boundless imagination. It has also taught me to uncover the social, cultural and historical significance of the places that we visit, be it a small church, a park or a busy road. That way, traveling becomes more meaningful, profound and interesting.
And with the desire to find meaning, I found myself wanting to see spots that are seemingly plain and unexciting. Take the road less traveled, that is. A public market, for example, may be dreary and grimy in the eyes of other people but it’s always a destination that excites me. Being the heart and soul of trading, it’s in the public market where you’ll encounter folks from many walks of life and where you’ll learn about culture and values just by observing other people. It’s where you’ll find local produce that are unique to that place. In essence, a public market is the microcosm of a community.
Traveling also taught me that everything will still be alright even if we lose control of the situation. No matter how well we plan things out, there will always be random uncertainties along the way. So we have to adapt. Resilience, like patience, is also a virtue.
In the places that I have visited, I realized that there are still many people out there who are innately kind. These people would go out of their way, language barrier and all, to help those who are in need. These people radiate energy and vivacity, and just being with them is also invigorating. The people that I have met in my journeys taught me that human kindness still exists. They are far richer than those who are materially-blessed but live a life of emptiness. I may never see them again but they are already part of what I have become and how I am to other people.
Over the years, traveling has taught me contentment. I love spending a quiet night by the beach, under the stars, not caring about the world, not minding if my phone had signal or internet connection. Little by little, I lost the desire for material things and began to invest only on things that are essential for my trips. I stopped collecting souvenirs because I believe that the greatest mementos and keepsakes are happy memories created with the people who are important to me.
I also learned to take things slow; to live by the credo that traveling shouldn’t be about the number of places I get to visit. Traveling is about being immersed in the experience by taking time to learn culture, traditions and even folklore.
Best of all, traveling gave me my wife. With her, I learned that traveling is not always romantic and picture-perfect. There are misunderstandings along the way; there are quarrels and lost tempers. But these are things that make our relationship stronger and allow us to get to know each other better. After all, we only have each other to hold on to while navigating a strange and unfamiliar place.
Looking back, I can only be thankful for the trials that pushed me to travel. I wandered, got lost and found myself again.
I have never been happier.
Now, I ask you, how has travel changed your life? Inspire other people by sharing your stories with Traveloka.
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