Thursday, January 3, 2019

My love of travel

This article gave me all the feels today. It speaks to the courage of one woman but really speaks about all women because we have each taken a bold leap of faith at some point in our lives. I also happen to read it on the day the 116th Congress swore in a record breaking 127 women in to office which is a monumental milestone.

Me somewhere in Cappadocia
It is of no surprise that travel is my first love. I say that often and with pride. But I don't think anyone has ever asked my why. Reading this article brought up all the reasons in one sitting over dinner and I couldn't stop beaming as I glanced over at my husband and son. You see travel is the best life lesson I have ever had. I have learned more about myself on trips than I have living the day to day. 

Jada Yuan won the trip of a lifetime courtesy of the New York Times. They sent her to all of the 52 places to visit in 2018 and she got to cover them. After traveling for a year she had seven lessons to share. As I read her lessons, I couldn't help but think back to my earlier travel days and the lessons I learned as a result.

Lesson No. 1: A year is short
I remember when I decided to take six months off and move to Cambodia to volunteer. I knew the time would fly by but many around me were worried. Wasn't I scared to leave my life behind for six months? To be without my husband? To quit my job? Six months came and went much quicker than I could have ever anticipated. Technology allowed me to stay in touch with my loved ones on a daily basis. The hardest part was not being able to hug or kiss my husband and I am so grateful that he understood why I needed to do this for me. 

My apt in Birmingham, England
Lesson No. 2: Know thy logistical self
When I was moving to England, it was the first time I would ever be living by myself in a place of my own. I was a little too ambitious and being Pakistani I had to be extra prepared. My mom helped me pack dishes, pots, cutlery, along with clothes and other essentials. Two suitcases and a carryon later I was off! Well my thrifty self did not purchase a direct ticket and had a layover in Amsterdam. This layover was also where I needed to grab ALL my bags and recheck them for Birmingham. Navigating this was not as easy as I thought it would be. One of my bags rolled down the escalator and I was at the mercy of a complete kind stranger who brought up my tumbling bag to me. He didn't have to. I now only travel with a carryon or pieces I can carry with my two hands. 

Lesson No. 3: Develop your superpower
Like Jada, I used to be able to sleep anywhere, under any condition. My best friend hated me for it. It allowed me to wake up refreshed and ready to go no matter the conditions of the journey. This was always helpful when there were only a limited number of hours/days in any given city. 

Lesson No. 4: Try it
I won't try fruit but I tried a whole lot more during my travels. Couchsurfing. Being vulnerable with complete strangers. Bunjee jumping. Crash landing in a hot air balloon. Riding in a scooter and crashing but still managing to see a beautiful sunset. Taking a train alone in India. Eating all the street food. I have not regretted a single one of these decisions. 

Lesson No. 5: Learn what safe means to you
My gut is something I adamantly listen to even if it is annoying at times. As a solo female traveler, I may have erred on the side of over precautious at times but I always went with safe rather than sorry. Everyone has different barometers and that is ok so long as you listen because you know you best.

Strangers who became friends
Lesson No. 6: Still, talk to strangers
A stranger let me live with her for a whole week! While I had couch surfed plenty of times, I had never moved in with a complete stranger. That's exactly what happened in Cambodia on my first day at work. I had an apartment lined up but after arriving discovered that my landlord decided to gift it to his newly married son. And so I was homeless. I shared this with my new co-workers and one of them, Anjana, offered her bed to me while I looked for another place. So for seven days I shared a bed with a girl I had just met and it reaffirmed that the world is an inherently kind place. Many strangers, like Anjana, have become some of my closest friends and I would have never met them had I not talked to a stranger. 

Lesson No. 7: Alone does not mean lonely
Many people I know are afraid to travel alone. Traveling alone for me has been one of the greatest discoveries of life. Through it I learned about me. When else can you be with yourself and really get to know who you are? It is an experience that allows you to learn your comforts, your boundaries and your greatest fears. But after doing it you also realize your strengths. And with todays technology you are always connected to your loved ones. 

So why am I telling you all of this? Well I hope it convinces you to take that trip you always wanted to but found a million excuses not to or to go somewhere where everyone else thinks you are crazy for doing so. I guarantee the trip will change you for the better. The bigger issue is you'll never want to stop.  

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