“Travel changes you.” Throughout my life this is something I’ve heard countless times. I don’t think any other activity has gained as strong a reputation for opening the mind and encouraging character growth.

Reykjavik, Iceland
A few weeks ago I entered my 20th country (Vietnam), and this milestone got me thinking: How has my time abroad affected me?

I’ve learned that bad feelings are not bad.

While traveling, I have experienced a wide spectrum of emotions. Of course, these include wonder, excitement, curiosity, and inspiration. But I have also felt fear, uncertainty, annoyance, discomfort, and boredom.

And where do you think my best stories come from? When do you think I came home feeling more resilient or more experienced?

When we arrived in Beijing with no return ticket, no hotel booked, and barely enough Chinese to ask for help.

When we spent a night homeless and exhausted in a cold Icelandic bus station.

When I was robbed and ill in Tanzania.

Now, whether I’m home or somewhere out in the unfamiliar, I say yes to more experiences. Whether they are “good” or “bad,” I know I will be thankful for them in the end.

We laugh about this day now: Lost in the Forbidden City. In the rain. Still carrying our bags because we couldn’t find a hotel.
 

I’ve found comfort in knowing that I can ALWAYS adapt.

Unexpectedly, I’ve learned to love the frustrating struggles we encounter with each new country.

It’s satisfying and empowering when something that seemed challenging – chopsticks and squat toilets in China, dressing modestly in the desert heat of Oman, over-the-top spicy food in Thailand, communicating with only charades and body language – finally becomes normal and natural.

We’re already out of water! Dressing appropriately in the Middle East makes you thirsty.
The thing is, I don’t really know myself, and I don’t really want to. Knowing myself is not the goal anymore. I can always change, I will always change, and I like changing. I don’t want to find myself, but I do want to surprise myself.

I’ve accepted that my journey will never be finished.

When I first started traveling, I remember thinking that it would only take a handful of trips overseas to feel as if I had “seen the world.” One or two stops in each continent, and I could claim my title of World Traveler™. Then that always persistent, painfully expensive travel itch would disappear and I’d be ready to find an easier, cheaper, less time-consuming obsession.

But that’s not what happened.

I’ve now accepted that I will probably never be happily rooted to one place, and I’ve learned that the world offers way more variety than I’d ever thought.

A 2-week trip to Asia won’t scratch Asia off the list. Myanmar is vastly different from the Philippines, which is vastly different from Vietnam — and a quick visit to any country will never give me a real grasp on its culture.

The world is best explored slowly and thoroughly, and I now believe I’ll always want to do just that.


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  • Stuart Neylon

    great to see you adapt to your surroundings when traveling Simon, best thing we ever did travel even now I want to see more and more.

    Stay safe and continue to enjoy yourselves.

    Much love