Without any schedule or predetermined agenda living on the road is like playing candy crush. You move candies all the time in search of a perfect alignment but you have only that much control over the chaotic randomness.
After all life on the road lines up in its own mysterious way.
Kuba and I though, fool ourselves that we are in charge by taking decisions all the time. Here is a daily sample: Which guesthouse do you want to crash at? Which rickshaw driver looks less likely to kill us in a car crash? Should we buy the big yellow mangoes or the little green ones? Do you want to bargain or should I do it? Do you think we can survive the heat in a non AC room or is it better to splurge? Do you care to visit another temple?
No matter how many details we think we control, our days are still seasoned with a daily dose of unpredictability. I am afraid that there is no other way for a journey like ours. Setting out with set expectations can only bring disappointment. Lowering the bar and keeping an open mind will only make one happy at the end, no matter how each day shakes up. And I don’t mean settling for less, but parting with the idea of how things aught to be and indulging the imperfection that is life.
Living for the future is the ultimate mistake we adults make. Trying to constantly achieve new goals, get to the next place with the idea that it will satisfy our craving to feel complete and accomplished, only to find ourselves charting a brand new destination to be conquered… How elusive that chase can be and how depleted it can make us feel?
I think of myself eight months ago, just before we plunged into our adventure, and cringe. The TRIP itself was the next carrot I was chasing. I thought that catching it and swallowing it whole will give me all that I was missing: liberation from the routine of everyday, quality time with my children, time to learn, take a breath, explore and just be. I was so obsessed with making the TRIP happen that I was channeling all my energy and aspirations towards that singular goal. Luckily we did embark and I avoided plunging in deep depression. Luckily, we were too busy before leaving to craft ‘a bucket list’ and pre-buy one airplane ticket with 13 open connections limited to a year of travel. I would have hated exploring in such a scheduled way because the reality of actually being on the road turned out to be nothing like I imagined it to be. Dreams don’t account for life’s messiness, the highs and lows of energy and desires, the monsoons or the stifling heat, nor for companions who mature and change right in front of your eyes.
All this constant flux makes for ever evolving perception of what makes us feel ‘full’ on the road. 240 days into the journey, satisfaction for us comes not from admiring beautiful monuments, even though the countries we have visited have wowed us with their architectural heritage. Happiness for us comes from living immersed in the moment and tasting every second, whether sweet or sour.
We don’t chase the carrot any more. We just drift, somewhat aimlessly, trying to savor every second. It is the first time since childhood I can truly claim that I am living in the moment.
It is hard to detect and point all the changes that have happened within over the last eight months. Here is what we sketched, but can you trust fully one’s perception of themselves? Maybe or maybe not…
- I am more shy
- I am happier playing outside than inside like before
- I don’t care about toys as much
- I am a much better eater
- I am more relaxed as rushing for school was very stressful
- I am a much better reader and writer
- I wouldn’t be able to sit playing Video games for hours
- I realized the value of money
- I am afraid of cows and bulls after India
- I don’t take electricity or water for granted
- I became a little greedy and I want to see the whole world
- I am more clear with my desires and needs. I go for quality not quantity.
- I am more resilient to long travel and discomforts
- I realized that connecting with locals is more important than checking off sites. I am more open and not as reserved. If someone is interesting I just talk to him/her
- My realization of how privileged we are has deepened
- I have grown more frustrated with my own inability to change the world
- I can elbow my way. Before I couldn’t
- I have become a benevolent lair
- I can live with sweet coffee if I have to
- I am surprisingly not a homey as I perceived myself to be before
- I excell at bargaining
- I loose my temper in public. I am not always polite and well mannered any more. Different circumstances call for different behavior. I learned to adjust
- I can live with one t-shirt, flip flops and a pair of pants, but not without a daily shower and washing my faded uniform
- I am much more willing to let things flow rather than plan them ahead
- I am more passionate for women’s rights than architecture
- I take all information with a grain of salt. Double check, triple check, repeat. I used to trust unconditionally
- I can communicate without words
- I can sleep anywhere as long as no one bothers me. I have slept stretched on the bus aisle, in a dirty tent and in a desert fully covered with sand
- I prefer life without set social engagements
I am sure the list will only grow with time. And thank you for keeping us company!