What journey taught me are unparalleled lessons, which could never be learned in another way.
First of all, traveling long term teaches you how to push new boundaries and go outside of your comfort zone. Every day. Try to find a shower in Western Tibet, warm blanket at 4000 m above sea level on the way to Everest Base Camp, vegetarian food in Mongolia, or a sheltered place for your tent in Patagonia. Every day is a challenge, but also, every day is a reward.
Bolivia. Marta riding a bike in Salar de Uyuni.
Second, you meet people from all various backgrounds. Many times you depend on their kindness. Many times you need to negotiate. Or manage to get out of the policeman’s hands who tries to find another source of income (aka bribe) for today. You need to practice your negotiating skills, influencing, understand what matters for this another person, in order to survive.
Marta with school kids in Nara, Japan.
Thirdly, traveling teaches you stamina and persistence, grit and never give up attitude – both on a physical and mental level. Usually, when things get tough physically, soon after the mind is affected.
No proper toilets and showers in Western Tibet for 10+ days drove me crazy, till the point I was ready to go home. Glad I did not give up. Severe cold and freeze at nights on the way to the Everest Base Camp taught me survival skills and gave me a conviction that if I socialize more with my team, we will all get through it together. Serious diseases, poisonings and visits to the hospital always posed a question mark in my head: Was this travel worth the risk? Whether climbing high mountains or walking long distances or hobble with broomsticks as substitutes for crutches just to see another Moai on the Easter Island – it always required not only the physical but also mental strength.
Marta on a dune buggy in Peru.
Fourthly, managing emotional energy is essential during a long-term journey. Not seeing your family and friends for a year, not sleeping in your favorite bed, living out of a suitcase, carrying a heavy backpack to another bus station – it all takes a toll on the level of the emotional energy.
Therefore, it is important to anchor your happiness around familiar things. Do you miss a good cup of coffee? Spoil yourself and buy a good espresso in the Italian restaurant or a big cuppa of Starbucks. Do you miss a comfortable bed? Sleep in a nice hotel from time to time (and account for it earlier in a budget).
Other pieces of advice would include: cook your favorite food, call your family and friends regularly, do your favorite activities which you miss now, e.g., do yoga, go to fitness, play soccer, read a book, play a computer game. Do whatever makes you feel familiar and is not new or emotionally draining.
A sunset in Kaua’i, Hawaii.
To summarize, the trip I completed was a fantastic adventure. It gave me perspective on my life. Made me realize that I am extremely lucky to have so many things in my life. Taught me even better crisis management skills and perseverance. Showed me how beautiful the world is. And increased my appetite for even more travel.
If you want to read more about my round-the-world trip, visit my blog: http://travel.samandmarta.ch/