Becoming a Student of Life through Travel

In two and a half years of travel I’ve met many a lost soul… and even more that had been recently “found.”

People that travel, like I have, aren’t just looking for their next passport stamp.  They’re typically on a quest for something greater- something more fulfilling and life-enriching than a global checklist.  Many of them, myself included, have suffered in their past lives back home and are taking to the road to heal.  Some are looking for an escape from reality- others are creating an entirely new reality.  ALL are seeking deeper meaning in their lives.  That’s what I find so beautiful about all of us travelers- we are all in “Seeker Mode.”  We are what I like to call “Students of Life.”

We’re in search of answers to life’s BIG questions like:

Who am I?

Why am I here?  

How can I better understand the world I’m living in, and my place in it?  

Those were most certainly the questions I obsessed over as I made the decision to travel in 2015, and well into my 10th, 20th, and so on, countries.  What I’ve found fascinating during my “existential crisis” taken abroad was how many others were asking themselves these hard questions too- and how they were finding the answers in strange places different from my own.  We’re all on similar paths that are identical at the deep core, but contrasting each other greatly on the surface.

Each person is on their own quest- whether they’re a traveler or not- and the last two and a half years of skipping around the  globe has taught me to appreciate everyone’s individual journey.  I find it absolutely fascinating hearing people’s stories about how they’ve answered questions like the ones above, and where they found those answers.  It’s incredible how two travelers can go to the same destination, with the same goal in mind, and come out with entirely different insights into life.

One girl I met in South East Asia told me about a time she got lost in the jungle on an island in Thailand for an entire night and came across wild animals that “scared her shitless,” and forced her into survival mode.  At the end of the scary experience, she said it all made her “feel more alive than she ever had before.”  She was “invigorated and refueled with a passion for living in the moment!” she said.  I was jealous.  But I also wasn’t about to go on an overnight escapade in the jungle.  I decided I’d keep searching for my own “Aha” moments, preferably without wild animals and a night sleeping on a rock.

Months later, I met a woman in Ireland who told me about her quest around the world and how it had turned into her entire life over the course of 40 years.  She said she’d never go home (to Australia) and would continue to travel as long as she could.  The road had became her, and she had become the road- there was no longer a divide between “the real world” and the one she was living out of a suitcase- and that gave her a sense of purpose and understanding.  She was in her sixties.  I could only relate to a certain extent, but appreciated the commitment to her mission and wondered if I’d still be traveling like this in my sixties.  Her mission was to keep going, no matter what.  Mine wasn’t that clear cut.

I kept searching.

Recently, I met an English guy who’d been cycling the world for nearly four years, camping every night and cooking his dinners on a small little stove he carried on his bicycle.  He volunteered when and where he could, and cycled in between.  He spent most his time alone and found meaning in the freedom that came from the road, but “even more meaning in the people” he’d met along the way.  They made him feel at home on this planet we call Earth, and that seemed to be enough to make him happy forever.  I NEVER caught him without a smile on his face.  I felt myself resonate with his sentiments, but wouldn’t be cycling around the globe anytime soon (I have lazy tendencies and I like flying too much).

All of these people I’ve met are so unique and special, and come with endless lessons to share.  I’ve been lucky to meet many souls like these.  The travelers I’ve met have told me their stories, and almost all come with anecdotes about how travel has improved their health, wellness, and life overall.  These people were my teachers and with every shared travel tale, I’ve learned.

The mission…or the quest,  that I’ve been on has lead me to the point I’m at now.  I understand myself better, and why I’m doing what I am.  I find purpose in sharing my learnings with those who can’t or simply haven’t traveled abroad yet; and even more when someone tells me I inspired them to take their first trip.  It turns out my “aha moment” came early on when I hit “publish” on that very personal first blog post and continues to light the way for me today.  My quest has, and still is, about sharing with others and learning together.  I see that now.

Basking in the rare sunlight of Montreal in the Winter — Photo taken by George Popi

I wasn’t the best student growing up, but I’ve taught myself a new way to learn that is far more impactful for me. Travel has transformed the way I see myself, the world and the point in which I exist amongst all of it.

I’m proud to be one of the “students” and find myself in a constant state of wonder and awe as I continue on my own quest.

I think I’m finally realizing my own answers to “The Big Questions” after all this time, and countless passport stamps, and it feels good- I don’t know if it’s as good as the surge that girl in Thailand felt in the jungle…but it feels right to me.

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