I stepped out of the airport and into the crazy atmosphere of Cairo. On my right stood two army officers, their AK 47′s hung loosely on their sides. I adjusted my 75L backpack, the contents of which, a few outfits, a couple electronics, and some toiletries, were now everything I owned in the world; and although I had a tentative plan, I could (and have) changed that plan at a moment’s notice.
The world was laid before me. I could go anywhere, and the only limits I had were those that I imposed on myself. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. It was the moment I started living my dream. That was four months ago.
Four months are a lifetime when you are traveling. Traveling strips away the everyday distractions that silently eat at the preciousness of your day. When you are backpacking, you have no TV, very few errands, and only minor worries like wondering where is the closest place to get your caffeine fix or how many days you can wear the same pair of underwear before people start to notice. Time moves gloriously slow. It’s only been 4 months, but it fills like a lifetime.
Last week I started reflecting on this life of travel and the previous two years that I worked, dreamed, and sacrificed to get here.
“Was it all worth it?”, I asked.
Even though I knew the answer, it was an important question that had to be asked and thought about.
Yes, I’ve had some tough moments. I’ve been sick, alone, jet lagged, and hostel-less. Traveling isn’t all fun and glory, it is a mental game. Long-term travel isn’t just one amazing moment after another amazing moment, as Tom from active backpacker so accurately wrote in his latest post. Travel is work. Sometimes a lot of work. You have days where everything that can go wrong does, but at many points along your journey, you are rewarded with indescribable, powerful moments.
You feel accomplished and stronger. You visit nature’s most beautiful masterpieces, man’s greatest achievements, history’s past and today’s present. You view the world in a whole new way. The thing about travel moments is that they don’t happen daily, but when they do, it is almost always life altering. But the question remains. Has all those moments been worth the work? The money?
Yes, I saved a lot to travel. Was I rich before I left? Hell no.
I’ve never bought into the lie that you need to be rich to travel. In fact, I’m richer than when I started. At this moment, I feel like Scrooge McDuck diving into his ocean of gold. I may not be rich in money, but I’m utterly rich in moments.
I’ve grown and accomplished things that I didn’t know I could.
I’ve explored the land of pharaohs, and I’ve camped with Berbers and Cads
Sailed the coast of Croatia, and played Indiana Jones in Petra.
I’ve helped pass out toys to kids in forgotten parts of the world, survived the back of a Russian cop car, and spent a day as a Russian celebrity.
I’ve driven 1/3 of this wonderful world in a car your grandmother would deem “Slow as Hell”, and I’ve talked my way out of bribes.
Lived through the running of the bulls, and , seen the endless stars against the mysterious Milky Way.
Stood in the heart of Ancient Rome. and I’ve viewed monuments and sights that I’ve always dreamt of.
When I look back at those memories, it is with great joy and love; these are the moments that define me, my journey, and where I am headed.
As I’m sitting here, staring out into the endless golden fields of Tuscany while the sway of the train slowly rocks me to sleep, I reflect that these moments are just a couple of the riches I’ve gained. There isn’t a question in my mind of its worth. It is the purest, realist thing I’ve ever done. I love traveling more than I ever have. I’m following my dream and I am a richer person every passing second. I am alive.