My friends Dave and Kim, after a couple of years of planning and saving, are doing what I'm sure you have fantasized about from your cubicle: a year of traveling around the world. Their itinerary is taking them to a ridiculous amount of cool places, from Macchu Picchu to Bali to Sweden to Uganda. For many of us, it's literally a dream come true.
You can follow Dave and Kim's adventures on their site Twotraveling.com.
Seeing them off at a sendoff party last night, I've been reflecting on if I would do this and where I would go.
Money is not the main issue. I think I've got enough squirreled away for a fairly low-cost year abroad (including family and friend visits, hostels, and coach surfing with people from the lindy hop and Quaker communities.)
Mostly it's about being in the right mental and emotional state of mind to embrace this kind of prolonged adventure. I'm just not sure if I would be happy doing 12 months of constant travel. I'm a pretty Type A, goal-oriented, practical-minded person. I think that simply wandering the earth without some kind of larger goal or daily structure might drive me nuts after about three months.
So for me to do it, I'd want it to be part of some kind of "Mission." Perhaps working on a book, or a documentary, or a research study. On the subway right home last night, I was dreaming about traveling to five continents to learn five different dance forms:
- African dance in Senegal
- Lindy hop in Sweden
- Yoga in India
- Tai chi in China
- and tango in Argentina
Or perhaps going deep into one dance form and seeing how it is translated into various cultures. One could easily study the growth and evolution of lindy hop as it has spread around the world and been incorporated into various cultures, from Mumbai to Seoul to Capetown. What makes this particular American artform exportable and attractive to peoples from a variety of backgrounds? It would be fascinating to try and find out.
I've also thought about this as a spiritual quest. As a Quaker, I think it would be amazing seeing the varieties of Quakerism around the world, and finding the common threads that run through them. Definitely exploring European, American and African Quakerism would be a neat six month study.
One big consideration is that I don't have a traveling partner (or any kind of partner) currently. So there's a big question about how much of that year do I want to spend with myself. I've done extensive trips alone, as well as with friends and girlfriends. Inevitably, traveling alone becomes very introspective and meditative.
In my 20s, when I did most of my major world traveling, I had a lot of personal identity and acceptance issues that traveling helped me work out. In my 40s, I'm much more outward focused, and assured about who I am. So an extended journey wouldn't have to be about "finding myself" (Thank God.)
Instead, it would be about what kind of story would I want to tell other people, and finding a format to do that. Inevitably, digital media would play a big part. Blogging, photos, and video documentation would be my primary activities on the road. Having the right portable gear, software and online tools would be key to making something like this work.
And finally, there's what and who I would be leaving behind. I've spent nearly 15 years in New York developing my network of friends, my church community, my dance community, my professional network. A large part of who I am is wrapped up in my ongoing connections to these various strands of my life. Just dropping that and wandering the earth would be a seachange in my life.
On the other hand, these kinds of dramatic life shifts can open up new possibilities for myself to explore who I am, my place in the world, and what I want to leave behind. As unencumbered as I am right now (except for a somewhat needy cat), I'm in a nearly perfect position to consider something like this.