I write this to you now as a homeless person.
I’ve now been in various airports for 38 straight hours.
I’ve essentially been without a home for the equivalent of 2 days, and I’ll remain homeless for the next 16 hours before I touch down in America.
This is traveling.
It’s a helluva far cry from what these travel instagrammers make us believe traveling should be (mine’s below).
I went on this trip to broaden my mind. To “find myself.” Hell, that’s what my blog’s called.
Three months later I’m struggling to figure out just what I did learn from seeing so many countries/things.
That Beautiful Bali Instagram Feed Is The Problem
Like all digital nomads/aspiring DN’s I went to Bali during this three month stint. I enjoyed it, I learned a little bit about Indonesian cuisine and culture. I even made a few videos..
But as I walked around amongst the thousands of white people staying in Bali, rotating between going to the beach and drinking their face off until 5 AM, I started wondering whether I was doing this whole thing right.
Then I thought about the villa I rented with the brand new AC unit above the bed. I thought about how I kept coming back to that the grocery store everyday that “reminded me of America.”
I thought about how I basically ate out every single day somewhere nice.
Then it hit me..
I was basically just living the life I do in America in Bali. I was learning nothing. Or was I?
Sure I rented a scooter and learned how to drive it and acted like all the locals do but what was it doing to me?
I thought it would’ve made me feel different.
I dreamed of what it would feel like to rent that scooter. I’m serious — I was THAT in love with the whole Bali idea.
It didn’t really do anything to me.
You’re the same person you are in Bali that you are in America. Sure, I can now say that I’ve been to Bali and “seen this third-world country” (albeit from the safety of my $800 villa) but why didn’t it make me feel more enlightened?
Then I realized something profound.
As Travelers, We’re Valuing All The Wrong Things
Before we go to places we search Trip Advisor for the best sh*t to see. We buy tourism books pointing out all the good food spots. We can’t wait to check in to that damn villa.
All this stuff is fantastic, but we’re expecting THIS to be the stuff that enlightens us. We’re going to come away from this trip changed and with a bunch of memories because we’re going to see that place or stay in that villa.
I asked Cheza the other day what her favorite part of our trip was. We both found it hard to point out one key thing. We did a lot, by the way. I filmed a bunch of stuff.
But I’ve seen waterfalls before. I’ve seen mountains before. I’ve eaten good, new food before.
I’ve seen rice paddies befo — wait, no, I’ve never seen them before. They were cool.
After contemplating this for the last 38 hours I’ve realized something..
New experiences hardly ever make us better people.
You know what does?
Adversity enlightens us more than anything else.
And traveling by its very nature is sure to throw a fuck ton of adversity at you.
Whether that’s speaking a foreign language, navigating the logistics of a missed flight, getting that damn refund, feeling pressed for money, or just figuring out where a place is.
Traveling is one of the most adversity-filled things you can do. Everything is new.
You get tired, hungry, stuck in airports for days (literally), and you start appreciating the smallest of things like any kind of AC unit. Or cheeseburgers. Or driving on a road where you don’t feel like you could crash into 50 scooters at any given moment.
Cheza and I got in so many little fights our first few days in Bali because I could not drive a scooter for the life of me. Just couldn’t.
It was actually extremely stressful to go anywhere because I was afraid to make a mistake (crash).
The whole thing made me stressed, and even strained mine and Cheza’s relationship to a point.
The paint of this article is to help you realize that many of us think seeing a new place or visiting a new country is outright going to change us.
But these things aren’t going to do sh*t to change us/make us better.
That 24-hour day in the airport will, though. Almost crashing your scooter 3 times in 2 hours will. Sleeping in a room with no AC out in the hot Philippine countryside will (which I loved even though I was uncomfortable).
Because these experiences make you appreciate the little things. Like fast transport. Like your car. Like cool air.
Your perspective is bound to be changed by going to these places, but not because you saw the Alps…
Because you missed your flight to get there and had to get refunds, change plans, and lose a little bit of money in the process.
This is real traveling, and this is what really changes you.
Read more of my writing on my blog, findingtom.com.