If you are anything like me, you read travel blogs because you want to both experience other people’s adventures and you want to learn how to go on these adventures yourself. You likely want to go on your own series of journeys and at the end, look in the mirror and see a seasoned and happy traveler. That is certainly my goal. But have you ever wondered what will happen when you achieve that goal?
I don’t consider myself to be the foremost expert on anything related to travel (there are many more experienced people than myself) but I do look back on my adventures with a smile. I have visited all seven continents, finished 80% of my 150+ item bucket list, ran marathons, published a book, lived in foreign countries, filled multiple passports with stamps and most importantly, met an insane amount of intensely amazing people. I am proud to say that I have become the version of me that I only imagined before I started my travel journey years ago.
My goal with the piece below is to show you how I feel when I travel now. Everyone’s journey is different but hopefully this will help you understand some of the highs and lows that you are likely to encounter going forward. Cheers!
I am sitting in a tiny pub in Galway, Ireland. In front of me is a crackling wood fire and a half full Guinness. After a long journey, I am am finally feeling like myself again.
Rewind 35 hours.
I arrive at the airport three hours early. This is uncharacteristic of me as as I know it takes me two hours to get from my door in Seattle to the aircraft door on the tarmac at SEA. I am feeling uneven today, I am burnt out from something unknown and don’t feel like my legs are touching the ground. I am technically home but feel far from it.
I keep thinking something feels off. Upon check-in, I find I have an upgraded ticket. That is odd, I check my TripIt itinerary. I bought the plane ticket with miles almost a year ago (this is also uncharacteristic of me) and opted for higher class. It cost me $34. I am happy with the decision but the novelty of Business class has worn away. I am now always more excited for the destination than I am for another airplane ride.
“Feel free to use our Lounge Mr. Dover” the airline employee says overly politely to me. I nod.
This is weird. I usually never fly anything but economy, it is not my way.
Contrary to what my bank may think, the airline employee quickly assumes that I am an important businessman.
I board my flight and sit by the window. I still feel odd.
Two minutes later, a beautiful girl sits next to me. We make small talk and faster than normal, move into actual conversation. She is French but lives in Berlin. She is a nurse and just finished studying in the United States. She is now returning home.
She notices my laptop and asks if I am writer. I tease her about the odd conclusion (there are lots of things to do with a computer) but explain that while I don’t know if I am a writer, I do actually write a lot. She beams. It seems, I was actually the one to come to the wrong conclusion. She is merciless with her teasing.
We chat the entire 11 hour flight.
We land in Frankfurt, Germany (our respective layover destination) and head to the nearest airport pub. We both have flights to catch in less than an hour.
Before I know it, we are kissing. She initiated it. That has never happened before. Her phone alarm goes off and we both look at our tickets. It is time to go. We both linger.
I am the last person to board my flight from FRA to DUB. I am smiling but still feeling hazy. It isn’t jet lag, it something else, something I can’t explain. I sit in my normal window seat (10A )and the man sitting next to me asks if my last flight was stalled (he was wondering why I was late). I described my last seat neighbor. He laughed out loud and immediately started talking about his life prior to being married. He used to be a world leading tennis coach and spent all of his time traveling and training athletes. He showed his balance of airline miles on the app on his phone. 2.2 million.
An hour into the flight, he brought up my late entrance again. You must have a hell of a job. I thought to myself that his conclusion was better suited for himself.
On my taxi ride from the DUB to my hotel, the driver asks me where I am from. I say Seattle and he immediately interrupts me with “Frasier”! (an old TV show based in Seattle) I laugh, I have never got that one before.
He immediately tells me, “I knew it, you are one of those smart intellectual types!”. My immediate thought is “smart intellectual” is redundant. My second thought is I am a dork for thinking that. :-) I laugh and say far from it. School was never really my thing. I just like exploring.
On my way out of the cab, the man slips me a handful of unmarked white pills. What are these I say skeptically?
“Melatonin (sleeping pills), you look tired.”
I take them begrudgingly and without the driver noticing, deliver them to the nearest trash can. The risk is far to high to be worth any sleep reward.
The next day I sit alone in a train on my way from Dublin to Galway. I can’t count how many people have told me to add Galway to my Life List. I go way out of my way to visit it.
Right before the train departs, a group of Canadians’s sit around me. I am feeling exhausted from the long day before and don’t feel like talking. Instead, I open up my laptop and start to write. The seat-mates are polite and leave me alone while still being inviting.
20 minutes before the end of the ride, I finally decide to surrender and join their interesting conversation. I am still not feeling right but decide that that shouldn’t be a reason for me to be anti-social. I learn that my seat-mates are all from Toronto and have just starting a month-long journey of their own. They notice my camera.
“You are obviously a photographer” one of them says.
No, just learning actually.
We step off the train and I start exploring the city alone. I find a pub and sit down. On the TV is rugby and in the background is the distinct murmur of people chatting. I start thinking and writing about the conclusions people have had about me in the last 35 hours.
To them, I only briefly existed as part of their personal journeys.
To them, I was an important businessman, a writer, a tardy youth, an intellectual and a photographer.
To each person who made an early conclusion about me, I occupied a completely different role in their model of reality.
Right as a I take a deep drink of my cold Guinness, a thought grabs me.
Maybe it was I who had made the premature conclusions. Maybe the others were offering insight, not judgement. I, like all people, am actually multifaceted. My understanding of myself is growing but perpetually incomplete.
I am just a traveler. A traveler who is on a journey to define my world by the insights of others. I started my life mission striving to see and understand humanity. Instead, I have learned that I need humanity in order to see and understand myself.
I let out a deep breath. I finally feel right again. I pay the barman and leave the pub. All is right in the world, I have another train to catch.