Julie and Carlos enjoying the sandbank, South Male Atoll, Maldives

One Year’s Worth of Travel Wisdom

Aug 19, 2015 - ourglobaltrek

Today marks the one year anniversary of our trip. 52 weeks on the road. 365 days since we left home, everything we owned and everything we knew behind. While we had a plan to traverse Asia for roughly a year, we had no idea if we would really make it for that long. So many things could have happened to prevent us from carrying out the full extent of the journey. We’ve taken it one day at a time, grateful for every moment, never taking any of it for granted. We’ve pleasantly surprised even ourselves that we’ve managed to make it all this time.

So today is a special day. How many people can say they’ve traveled nonstop for a whole year? Chances are, this was that once-in-a-lifetime milestone that will never come again. So in honour of this momentous occasion, some thoughts on what little wisdom we’ve gathered while wandering the eastern part of our wondrous planet.

Carlos and Julie at Lake Louise
Julie and Carlos at Lake Louise, Canada

Everything is relative.

As they say, there is no good without evil, no happiness without sadness. At any given moment, there is always something more or less, better or worse than the status quo. It all depends on how we look at it. Our perceptions are clouded by what we’ve already seen, biased by what we have yet to see. Circumstances can seem extremely positive or extremely negative depending on what it’s relative to. How we experienced the first country on this trip drastically differs from how we experienced the last. So whenever we found ourselves feeling particularly extreme one way or another, it helped to remember this to bring things into perspective. The understanding of this relativity has been key to properly managing our expectations.

Julie and Carlos bathing the elephants, Luang Prabang, Laos
Julie and Carlos bathing the elephants, Luang Prabang, Laos

Ignorance is bliss but knowledge is power.

For some, apathy relieves a burden; not knowing is not worrying. While this may be the case in certain situations, it is our personal preference to view knowledge as the ultimate tool. Knowledge as a concept has been the foundation of this whole endeavour. Our explorations have first and foremost been driven by a desire to know more about the world. We would have never been able to travel for this long without some knowledge of how best to do so. And the more we knew, the better we traveled. Throughout the year, our bargaining power has come from what information we possessed and we often found ourselves trading time, money and resources for exactly that: knowledge. There’s nothing more powerful.

Julie and Carlos enjoying the sunset on Farang Beach, Koh Muk, Thailand
Julie and Carlos enjoying the sunset on Farang Beach, Koh Muk, Thailand

Always trust our instincts.

Within our highly structured lives in the modern world, we rarely have to rely on our natural instincts to survive. Our extended journey into the unknown has brought that inner animal quality back to the forefront. Stepping through foreign lands is a constant mix of impromptu decisions, guessing to the best of our ability, and going with the flow. All structure falls to chaos. And in that chaos was where we learned to count on our intuitions. When all else failed, we had only our instincts to fall back on. It’s impossible to know and be prepared for everything; so when our extensive research and logical reasoning weren’t enough, we relied on that intangible feeling of rightness. In hindsight, those turned out to be some of our best decisions. We just had to have faith and trust in ourselves.

Julie and Carlos with Annapurna II, Nepal
Julie and Carlos with Annapurna II, Nepal

There is very little in life we truly need.

The apartment we had before this trip was tiny, but it contained much. We accumulated more every week. Just like everyone else, we were caught in the mass consumerism of owning all these objects that we supposedly couldn’t live without. Who are we without our belongings? It seemed like every aspect of our lives overall had to be filled to the brim – our houses with things, our calendars with appointments, our minds with inadequacies and worries of what’s to come. It took leaving everything but the bags on our backs behind to get some perspective. Besides basic needs like food to eat and a place to sleep, the rest can be figured out. Everything else is just excess. Anything else we choose to take on should only be what we want, not what we think we need. Sometimes the over-complication of our lives creates more problems than it solves.

Julie and Carlos with their camels, Thar Desert, Jaisalmer, India
Julie and Carlos with their camels, Thar Desert, Jaisalmer, India

Long-term traveling is the best relationship test.

A long-term traveling relationship is like a regular relationship in intense mode, at warp speed. Not only do we spend extended periods of time together, we are constantly facing challenges together. The big travel decisions are obvious and easy; it’s the countless little decisions throughout the day that we have each been used to making for ourselves that we now have to consider with the other person. Everyday, we are forced to think as a team, to communicate as one. On most days, we are all the other has, with only the other to depend on. When it gets tough, there is no place to run and hide. We have to learn to work through it, and work through it right away, because we can’t just ignore each other for a few days. Throughout it all, we have seen each other at our best and worst, from our most vulnerable to our most triumphant. Surviving a year on the road together gives us confidence that we can face anything life may throw at us in the future. It takes a special person to be a travel partner.

Julie and Carlos at the City Palace, Jaipur, India
Julie and Carlos at the City Palace, Jaipur, India

Traveling is more self-acceptance than self-discovery.

People often say that through traveling, one can discover more about oneself. The reality turned out to be a bit of a twist on the saying. Traveling hasn’t shown us anything we didn’t already know about ourselves; it only threw what we already knew into sharp relief. Often aspects of ourselves that we didn’t want to admit to, that we don’t like to think about. There’s nothing like being outside of our comfort zones to throw us into situations where we had to face the truth about who we are. And in these situations emerged the chance to accept and learn to love that part of us. These moments would have never existed at home.

Julie and Carlos observing the fish, Maldives
Julie and Carlos observing the fish, Maldives

We are our own ultimate competition.

From the moment we arrived in this world, we were born to fight. We’re taught to compete against each other, to be better in any way that we can manage. How can we measure ourselves otherwise, if not in comparison to another? Having made the choice to embark on this trip and sharply deviate from the norm, it quickly became utterly useless to compare ourselves to others the way we used to. Like comparing apples to oranges. The only people it made sense to compete against, really, were ourselves – who we were yesterday, last week, the year before. Each day for the rest of our time in this world is an opportunity to fight to surpass our own standards.

Julie and Carlos overlooking Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines
Julie and Carlos overlooking Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines

Happiness is within us to create.

Society tells us that there’s a particular path to happiness. There are certain things that we should do, that we should want, and with all of those things will come happiness. This year on the road has shown that to be untrue. We’ve seen all kinds of people in every kind of environment, all with varying degrees of self-satisfaction. So clearly happiness is not something we can buy, or even find somewhere out there, no matter how hard we look. It’s within ourselves to create. To feel. To be. We are our own reflections. If happiness is to be discovered anywhere, it has to be drawn from inside us.

Julie and Carlos with Mt. Raung erupting in the background, Indonesia
Julie and Carlos with Mt. Raung erupting in the background, Indonesia

It’s never too early or too late to chase our dreams.

Every kid has dreams that are equal parts silly as they are fanciful. As we grow older, we realize our dreams can come true, while simultaneously learning that it’s not possible to fulfill many of them for a variety of practical reasons. Yet some of our strongest (seemingly unattainable) wants never fully go away, glimmers of hope in moments of dread. This past year is our proof that all it takes is a little bit of courage. Our wildest dreams and deepest wishes are within our reach. There is no right or wrong time; only the euphoria of finally living our dreams. We can promise that it’s more than worth all the stress, the hassle, the fear and self-doubt. It made us come alive. Everything before simply pales in comparison. It made life truly worth living.

We’re so happy to be able to share this special occasion with all of you!