Aug 6, 2008

Epilogue of the Wanderers

Millions of people travel in this world. Many of these tourists take packaged tours with guides and travel agents. However, many go as Amanda and I did. They take the bare minimum of supplies; a couple of shirts, some underwear, and a toothbrush. They put these items on their back and leave. We met hundreds of such travelers. Some had no plans and had been gone for more than a year. Others had 1 year’s worth of plane tickets with plans to spend no more than 2 weeks in each country. Some worked as they traveled. Some took many drugs. Others hung out in the same hostel for months. Some traveled to escape their reality. Some were looking for themselves. Some had no budget. Some had the smallest budget imaginable. Some traveled alone. Many traveled with their loved one. Many more traveled alone only between traveling with new friends they met along the way. We traveled with people from Canada, Norway, France, Australia, Israel, India, Argentina, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand, and many other places around the world. And while we all had our own agendas, our own plans, our own time line, and our own budget, we all shared one thing in common: we had all sacrificed so much to see what the world had to offer.

While Amanda and I would love to look at ourselves as pioneers, we are not. We simply are two Americans who created an opportunity for ourselves to get out of our familiar lives of work and play to explore this vast planet we live on. Go ahead and browse through this blog again. In the last seven months we packed in a lifetime of stories, adventures, sights, sounds, and food sickness. We saw so much. In typical American fashion we moved fast and tried to see it all. Yet, we failed miserably. Once we got to Peru, our first country, we realized we could not see it all. Once we reached India we understood why everyone told us 25 days was not enough. The vastness of this world and diversity of its inhabitants is astronomically huge. In a way, it is overwhelming. Take India for example. Life is simply a struggle to survive in India. The majority of over 1 billion people try every day to find safe water, and food, shelter. Yet, the resources simply cannot be spread thin enough. Where do we fit in as tourists? In Bolivia we saw a new president, Bolivia’s first with Inca roots, fighting a wealthy Spanish population in the Southeast in a country that has been ruled by Spaniards since the occupation in the 1400s. In Turkey we saw a country caught on the fence between the westernized world and decidedly un-western Muslim religion that 97 percent of its inhabitants practice. Many of the countries we visited are all too familiar with terrorist attacks and civil unrest and strikes and chaos. We were simply tourists there to observe from afar. Some countries made us miss the comforts of home more than others. We have it good in America. Sure most of the world hates us and our foreign policies. But we have to ask ourselves if this matters as long as we can flush our toilets, buy our fancy electronics, sip our Starbucks, and buy our cheap gasoline ($13.5/gallon in Turkey). I don’t mean to sound sarcastic or even elitist. These truly are the things you begin to miss. We have rights in this country unlike any others. We have laws that protect us and police who don’t ask for bribes (often). America has its issues much like any country, but it is a wonderful place to call home.

Maybe this is why we travel. It is good to leave for a while and forget about the mundane media reports on the price of gas or Obama’s preacher. It is good to step outside of our American cruise ship to catch a glimpse of the beautiful and turbulent ocean that surrounds us; if nothing more than to realize how grateful we are for all the comforts of life in a western world.

We missed our friends, we missed our family. We missed knowing what was happening around us. We didn’t miss the hectic schedules and American work ethic. We didn’t miss 14-hour workdays and only spending a couple hours a week with each other. We didn’t miss the American media or the election news. In fact, there is a long list of the things we didn’t miss so much about home.

It seems Americans, much like any country, have the tendency to become engulfed by the microcosm of their lives. This is only natural. Why worry about the ban on head-scarves at public universities in Turkey when it’s Muslims that wear head-scarves and Muslims who are killing American soldiers in Iraq? Who cares if Argentina is facing a nationwide strike due to taxes on beef exports that could send the country into its second massive recession in 10 years when we can still buy a Big Mac for $3 any time we want? It is easy to view the world through our American goggles. This is what I loved about our trip. We saw the world in a different light. We hope that my words and Amanda’s photos acted as a portal of this perspective for our friends and families. We want this blog to not only share our experiences, but to reveal a small portion of the vast world that exists beyond our borders and TV screens.

We hope we can carry all of the wonderful experiences with us as our journey continues on the homeland. Life is, after all, nothing more than collection of experiences. We strive to find a way to shape them into some meaning now that we've returned to a different reality. We certainly have a more global perspective and we hope it will last as I begin to bury my head in books for Law school and Amanda begins building her successful business from scratch all over again.

We want to thank all of our readers and encourage you to check back every few weeks. We have decided to keep the blog going because life can be an adventure – even if we aren’t stopping thieves, escaping road blocks, getting published in a national magazine, or hiking the Inca trail. We have seen so much of the world and it has been a bittersweet ending to this chapter in our lives. We will miss the life of a tourist. Yet, we are excited to see what life brings us next.

And because ending with a quote just feels right, I will leave you with J.R.R. Tolkien:
“Not all those who wander are lost.”

1 comment:

alphasquirrel said...

Cool trip you guys. Very philosophical of you L8n. Amanda- I'm still waiting for the pictures I requested, mostly ones of L8n in pain, TIA. You guys have wanderlust worse than I ever did, and I thought I really had it.

So while you were away, I came up with a list of numbers to see if my life sucked:
7750= miles I drove back and forth to work.
1550= Hours I spent at the office.
30= Approximate number of days I traveled.
5= Number of months I worked on my house, restoring it, to sell it...

Even with all of this, I'm still convinced that life is great- cheers!

I have about 100 bottles of wine moved out of the cellar. You guys should come up and help me finish them off.