The Middle of Things
Halfway points are important. 6 months into a 12 month global journey, here’s what I had to say about my experience traveling the world. (Remote Year participant)
Enough credit isn’t given to the middle of things. The beginning of something is always exciting, full of anticipation and expectation. The end of something is always dramatic and sentimental, even if that sentiment is “well, that was anti-climactic.” But the middle of things is often the most important — it’s the genesis of transformation, where the real work is done that leads to the grand finale. So, with that, here is my (3 month late) Remote Year halfway point reflection.
When we landed in Cambodia in December, I remember looking back at my girlfriend and travel partner, Minji, and telling her “I’m tired.” Two words which, despite their simplicity, summed up quite nicely the prior 6 months of traveling with Remote Year. It wasn’t the “I-didn’t-get-enough-sleep” tired (though I’d had plenty of those nights). It was more like the tired you get when you eat too much. You know the feeling — you just ate a great meal and now realize you might’ve overindulged. The food was delicious, the flavors still lingering on the back of your tongue, but you’re uncomfortable. You’re more than full; you’re stuffed, and you feel it. That was the thought I had coming into my halfway point on Remote Year. Six months of over-stimulation, large group settings, a social button that’s always on, dozens of late night parties and early morning flights, and an iPhone reminding me it’s storage was full from the hundreds of photos I’d crammed into its hard drive. Motion is life, no doubt about it. But in my accelerated revolutions, I had become a roaming spirit, stuck in a purgatory-like state where I existed more between places than in the places themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I was still enjoying myself, and I had a passport full of memories I’d relive in a heartbeat. But something felt off. Like I wasn’t quite doing it right. What had happened? As we grabbed our bags off the belt and hopped in our cab for the millionth time, I had a bit of a revelation. Back in Seattle (my home before Remote Year), I had a reputation of ‘living large.’ I loved doing everything to the max — trying to make every weekend worthy of story-telling at the dinner table. A night out wasn’t just a night out — it was a 3 hour drive to Vancouver, no plan, no place to stay, just a determined mindset to drink a lot and weasel our way onto that night’s VIP list. A night in wasn’t just a night in — it was an epic 6 hour Halo marathon, pounding Red bull and Chipotle and trying to go 20–0. I took that mentality with me everywhere I went, and Remote Year was no different. Before the wheels had gone up in June, I had crafted the mantra “12 months, 30 countries” for my year abroad. Remote Year was scheduled to only visit twelve, so I had a lot of extra planning to do. And plan I did. Within the first four months, I had been to Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Italy, Morocco, Iceland, Bulgaria, Greece, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Right on target.
But then something began to change. Exhilaration started to slip into exhaustion; enthusiasm into frustration. My pace was untenable — I’d have epic weekend trips planned out & plane tickets booked before even finding the local grocery store. The moment I landed somewhere new, I was already planning my departure to somewhere else. In short, I was putting my experiences before myself, and starting to feel the effects. Sure I had been to a ton of acclaimed destinations, but I lacked any real connection with the places I’d been. I had nailed the well-rated restaurants and “must see” beaches, but couldn’t remember any of the language or cultural nuances. Moreover, here I was traveling with a group of forty-something remotes, and the phrase I was most used to hearing was “hey, you’re back!”
As I sat in our Cambodian apartment later that night, I made a resolution to myself. It was time to slow down and settle in; to learn to find enough in my immediate surroundings, and peel back more than the Trip Advisor layer of the local culture. To take control by letting go, and give each place, and person, their fair due. No more three day flings with Mykonos. No more “I HAVE to make it to that mountaintop, even if it means getting two hours of sleep and sacrificing my happiness for another checked box.” Why? It’ll still be there. Mountains form over millions of years. I can always come back. That’s a great lesson I’ve taken from Remote Year — the world is remarkably accessible, and contrary to the belief of most tourists, isn’t going anywhere. Believe it or not, you can come back to the same place and do the things you didn’t get to do last time. But only if you want to.
Thanks for reading! Check out Paul Perry’s post here where he captures the perspectives of 3 other remotes.