At a loss for words and learning to go with the flow

by Kim on November 30, 2012 · 18 comments

It seems like a million years ago that Brian and I were sweating our hearts out in the Amazon, tromping through the thick, dense Peruvian jungle, swinging in hammocks and flirting with monkeys. In reality, it was only one month ago.

But in the month since we left the jungle we’ve found ourselves eating dinner with an indigenous family on Lake Titicaca, sleeping in a straw bed and slurping soup over candlelight. Then, hiking deep into the world’s second-deepest canyon, then trudging through the honking, polluted chaos of Arequipa, then ducking behind the walls of an ancient monastery. Then, finally, on a cramped plane to Chile, touching down in the windswept, wide-open expanse of Patagonia, the most beautiful place I have ever been.

So much happens and I don’t know how to explain it all. I can tell you about the family we stayed with on Lake Titicaca, I can describe the cool feel of the mud wall of their kitchen, the early-morning crow of the rooster that struts through the field behind their home, the dampness of the grass on my toes as we navigated the tiny village by moonlight. But how can I explain why I burst into tears, unexpectedly, when I leaned in to hug Maria, the woman who’d welcomed us into her home? Call me mama, she’d said, because now you are my children. I can’t explain it because I don’t understand it myself.

Traveling can feel isolating because I know that no one, except for Brian, can ever understand all that we are experiencing. We look and sound as we always have, but I can already tell that we are profoundly and forever changed inside. It’s a subtle change, to be sure, but it is deep and real. The world will never look the same to us.

We are changed not only by the experience of learning about the world firsthand but also by the experience of having true freedom for the first time in our lives. We have no work we have to do, no bills we have to pay, no deadlines to meet, no papers to write. Any pressure we feel to live up to this or that standard is only the pressure we put on ourselves. Who else, at this time in their lives, can understand what this means, how it feels, to live this way?

As a former control freak, I’m constantly amazed at how easygoing I’ve become. For example, when we arrive in a new place we just simply show up. We ask around. Where can we find a bed? A good meal? The best beer? If one hostel doesn’t have a room, the next one will. If we can’t catch one bus we catch another. If we can’t go north we go south. I’ve stopped exhaustively tracking the money we’re spending because we spend what we have to spend.

I can’t stress enough that I never thought that I would learn how to relax like this, but I see that I am able to relax because I do not have to plan everything down to the smallest detail in order to maximize my precious time. I have so much precious time right now and it means everything. It is so much better than having so much precious money.

5 a.m. and hunkered down outside a bus terminal. Waiting for the 8 a.m. bus. 

In one month we will be in India. INDIA! My brain can’t wrap around it. And yet, I don’t think about it much. There is still here, where I am. There is now. India will happen when India happens. I have seriously spent more time planning dentist appointments.

I sat down to write a completely different post, one about falling behind on the blog, promising to catch you up on all of the stories, and apologizing for not responding quickly to all of your wonderful comments and emails, but this is what came out instead. It’s been on my mind, I suppose, for awhile, but we just had friends come to visit and there is nothing like old friends to reflect back to you who you have been over time and who you are now.

Today we’re headed to Santiago before busing over to Mendoza, the wine capital of Argentina. After a few days in Mendoza we’ll head to Buenos Aires, then Iguazu Falls, then Rio de Janiero. Then, we’ll catch a flight to Delhi, India, but not before a two-day Christmas layover in Germany where we will spend the holiday with the lovely Ali and Andy. In almost 30 days I will be in a rickshaw bumping my way down the subcontinent of India.

So many stories to tell and so many more that haven’t happened yet. Thank you all for experiencing this journey with me.

A technical note

Those of you who subscribe by email may have noticed a change in the way the email hits your inbox. I’ve switched post-to-email providers and am still working out the details, so please let me know if the new format doesn’t work for you. Also, check out my last two posts which you may have missed because they weren’t delivered by email:

My RTW Packing Essentials

Six Months on the Road and Thoughts on Homesickness 

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Rhonda November 30, 2012 at 8:07 am

Kim that was soooo beautifully written. I can tell you from experience that your family and friends at home, alas, will NEVER understand the emotions that are changing you so. That is why we family of long term travelers all flock to eachother like long lost friends….because only those who have done it can truly understand what you’re talking about and how you’re feeling. Only we can understand how truly life changing this experience is to you! I Love that you’re not planning so much and truly experiencing the NOW because that is all the time we’re really guaranteed. Enjoy your time because it is truly unlike anything else!

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OurLifeExperiments December 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Rhonda and Kim,

I can only say- EXACTLY WHAT I WAS THINKING. How do you explain those intricate, weird feelings? Maybe one day we’ll all be in a room together, us travelers, and we can all emphasize together. :)

Maria

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Jessica November 30, 2012 at 8:19 am

Nice post! Travel this way can feel isolating, especially when trying to describe the everyday to everyone back home. But those of us who have gone on similar journeys of their own understand and connect with this so much. Thank you for articulating it.

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Sarah Somewhere November 30, 2012 at 8:20 pm

Sounds like you’ve really hit your stride Kim! Love hearing about the discoveries you have made about yourselves and the world, and I’m so happy to hear you are in the flow of life! See you on the 26th at midnight on an Indian train :)

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OurLifeExperiments December 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Super excited about your guys’ adventures!! Can’t wait to read about them!!!

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Lucie December 1, 2012 at 8:39 am

Must be so good to relax, to learn to live differently and just to learn how to live simply and in the moment. I can imagine that it is just how life is supposed to be. So enjoy, and write only when you have time or feel like it, we will be here to read you ;)

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Maddie December 1, 2012 at 10:10 am

Wonderful post! I love this “Traveling can feel isolating because I know that no one, except for Brian, can ever understand all that we are experiencing.”

We say this to each other all the time, I’m so grateful to have someone to share the experience with. Friends/family will be interested to a certain extent but they will generally lump ‘travelling’ into this overall experience that you can’t possibly begin explain to them. Sharing an experience like this is a great gift.

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Ben Miller December 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Pick up a copy of The Story of My Assassins by http://www.taruntejpal.com/ before you land in India. I heard an interview with the author on NPR today.

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Tracey December 1, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Kim, I can totally relate to this post. In the way of feeling fundamentally changed by the changes you made to be where you are right now.I, like you seem, am at peace:)

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Bama December 2, 2012 at 7:51 am

Again, your words resonate so much to me, especially about being more relaxed. I’ve always been an easygoing person and not to overthink of everything — that doesn’t mean I’m careless. However, my current job and corporate cultures require me to pay attention to even the slightest details which are often not essential to my work. I guess I’m the one who knows what works best for me, not others. Thanks again!

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Ali December 2, 2012 at 1:44 pm

I love how much travel can change a person. It shifts your perspective and changes how you react to things. I’m so glad you’ve found so much freedom and relaxation from traveling!

Andy and I are really looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks!

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Arianwen December 2, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I understand exactly what you’re saying, although I guess it helps that I just did pretty much the same route. Those families on Amantani really were something else. So warm and welcoming! Watch out for Mendoza. It sucks you in and makes you a wine alcoholic! As if I wasn’t one already… Last night we got invited to a local’s house for a BBQ that went on till 5am. Amazing. Enjoy the rest of your time in S America. I can’t believe it will end for you so soon, but India will be incredible too!

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Hannah December 3, 2012 at 12:21 am

This was beautiful Kim and I know exactly how you are feeling, as I have been feeling much the same. I have fallen so deeply in to this new relaxed way of living that in fact I am finding it hard to do anything at all – even blog! Now I feel like I need to try and find a happy balance between blissful living and still being productive in some way. It’s another journey to embark on :)

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Expat in Mexico December 3, 2012 at 7:20 am

It is an art living relaxed inside the structure of a plan and a budget…well done

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Stephen S. December 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

Wow great post. You can tell it really came from the heart! I feel the same, the first time I traveled I saw the world in a different light. I felt free and relaxed for the first time. I was an addict from that moment on. Traveling is best thing that has ever happened to me. Cheers

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Tina December 14, 2012 at 7:08 am

It’s great hearing your stories. We just returned from Argentina,(2nd time), and it’s one of the most beautiful countries.

That being said, THE BEST TRIP ever, is to fly to Ushuaia, and get yourself on a boat to Antarctica. Seriously, you could probably get major discounts, and it’s a trip you will NEVER forget.

I’ve traveled the world, and will tell you, I would hop on a ship now and go. Make sure it’s an expedition ship and less than 100 people. Just DO IT! You won’t regret it.

You want to hike, see Penguins that have no fear of humans. I always thought Galapagos (back in the 90′s) was the place, but this beats it hands down.

Either way, enjoy your travels, and looking forward to hearing more.

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Kim December 16, 2012 at 9:32 am

I want to do this so bad. It’s so expensive!!! But it is absolutely on my list to do someday.

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Montecristo Travels (Sonja) December 18, 2012 at 7:33 am

Others DO know how you feel. That is what long term travel does to most who have tried it or live it. Kudos and … when you can keep the amazing posts coming.

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