After spending the first month and a half of our year of travel in Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar it was with some relief that we landed in the French territory of Reunion. Please don’t get me wrong it had been a dream of mine for as long as I could remember to Climb Mount Kenya and Kilimanjaro, to go on Safari and to visit Lemurs in the wild, but I needed a break.
A break from the realities of these dreams, such as weird and ridiculously big portions of food, navigating the confusing and awkward world of tipping, pollution that made your chest hurt, people yelling ‘white person’ at you, and police that were looking for a little money on the side. These things were part and parcel of travel in the region where my dreams reside and are often forgotten or glossed over in later recounts.
Sometimes living the dream (in my case traveling in Africa) can be tiring, and although you are excited to do it, you are in many ways glad when it is over. We as humans crave comfort, and being somewhere, where at least on the surface you fit in and where you can understand processes, culture and what is happening should not be under estimated. Reunion was this place for us.
Reunion is in many ways similar to Hawaii. My husband and I were discussing yesterday as we swam at the beach at sunset whether or not we even knew the island existed before we started planning this trip. I had the vague feeling that I hadn’t. We were both surprised to find that there are direct, and cheap flights from Reunion to Sydney, but there were only French people in site. This island had kept its secret well.
I read the post ‘Travel Inspiration- Abandoning the Status Quo‘ by Josh and Caroline Eaton of Traveling 9 – 5. Their story about leaving their jobs and traveling was in some ways similar to ours, but what caught my attention the most was this feeling he described of his first trip to Europe where he felt that travel transformed and changed him, only to find that when he got home life quickly returned to normal and those changes were quickly forgotten and passed over for every day routine as he was sucked back up into society. I understand this feeling exactly and therefore I am not viewing my year off as simply a holiday, but rather as a time for reflection and preparation on how I want to re-enter the ‘real world’ in ten months time. This year will soon be a distant memory to my husband and I, and I want to make sure I actively pursue getting out of it something that I can put into everyday life on my return, and not to let everyday routine suck me back up.
I want to come up with a plan that is both optimistic and realistic. My first aim is to address the feeling I slide into at home that how I live is the only way and the opportunities available to me are only the ones right in front of me. I forget that the are billions of people out there in the world whose concept of daily life is completely foreign to my own. This year gives me the opportunity to separate out what my assumptions are from what is actually the case.
I will be able to make decisions on what is best for me without the influence of family and friends expectations and beliefs that are not necessarily in my best interest. It also gives me a chance to discover options that I had never before conceived.
On the flip side, as I referred to in the start of this post, and my lesson from Reunion, is that although we spend a lot of time complaining about how our daily lives are stopping us from living our dreams, we often don’t take the time to appreciate the daily grind. We need to remember that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, everything has its pro’s and con’s. If you are traveling everyday it is as much a job, as a job. All the hassles of daily life still come with you when you jump ship. So separate out what is a part of life wherever you are, and what is a part of your life only because of your current circumstances, i.e. your job, house, town, family etc.
These are the things that will make this years expedition an opportunity to use travel as a catalyst for change in my way of thinking about my own life, what I want to get out of it and how I plan to go about it.
Rachael Ruddick is spending the year traveling with her husband from hike to hike around the world, doing all the things they had ever wanted to do before ‘settling down’. In her real life she is a romance writer and endurance runner/rogainer who makes maps in her 9-5. She dreams about being able to buy a dog on her return to reality, as well as a machine that will wash her underwear for her! This year she is most looking forward to visiting the lost world in Venezuela, hiking amongst the fjords in Norway, running the Marine Corp Marathon in DC, and Euro Disney in Paris (She is a Disney fanatic). Her blog covering the lessons she is learning as she travels the globe, following the summer sun, can be found at rachaelruddick.wordpress.com, along with more information about her debut novel set at the Summer Olympics. She is also on Twitter as rachaelruddick2.
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