Tuesday, May 06, 2014

What I Learned About Myself After Backpacking Central America

What I learned about myself after backpacking Central America

When I reflect on my three months in Central America, I remember thinking a lot about personal development and envisioning how I’d like to live my life going forward. I remember looking at beautiful scenery around me as we'd pass through an area and making a point to stop and appreciate the moment. I remember being hot pretty much all of the time. I remember friendships developing when I least expected them. I remember that feeling of accomplishment when I would participate in and understand a conversation in Spanish. I remember sharing new experiences with my family.

After being on the road for three months, though, I think backpacking lost a bit of its charm. I learned quite a bit about myself on this trip, one of those things being that in the future I'd prefer to travel for shorter periods of time in a more concentrated area. A trip around four to six weeks in one to two countries would be ideal.

I learned that I very much appreciate having a sense of home, a space where I can feel comfortable and call my own at the end of the day. I don't want to slip back into the grind of 9-5 like how it was in Canada, but I do enjoy a bit of routine and familiarity in my lifestyle. Being a long term traveller or digital nomad is not in my cards.

A part of me wants somewhere that's decidedly my own, somewhere I can sit on a porch and drink that third glass of wine that I probably don’t need (but who cares I'm home), a place where we can pick out paint colours and decor, a place where we can grow. Another part of me wants that new adventure and not being limited to travelling only once a year for vacation, wants the adventure of being somewhere different and the excitement of trying new foods and activities while I'm in the prime of my life.

Can both parts of me co-exist? Can I afford them? (I've also learned that travelling on a shoestring is overrated.) I want to make a conscious effort not to get caught up in the norms and vanities of Western culture but instead keep the lessons I’ve learned on the road close at heart.

Some things that I hope stick with me:

  • not as much of a focus on makeup – I don’t want to go back to feeling like I have to put on a face of makeup to go to the grocery store. “What if I see someone I work with? I’m not even wearing concealer,” I used to think. Instead I want to remember what it was like in Nicaragua to be barefaced and feeling beautiful as the sun warmed my skin (that being said, Ulta is my new favourite store and its proximity is proving to be quite challenging)
  • remixing clothes rather than always buying new items – it's easy to get wrapped up in having all the latest stuff and things but I'm learning to be content with a smaller amount of quality pieces that can be remixed together
  • remembering to trust my gut – oftentimes it's too easy to rationalize away my gut feeling about whether a situation just feels off. I hope I can remember to channel my instinctual feelings and stay in touch with my intuition
  • being active every day – I can really be a hermit when I want to be so I'm trying to make an effort to be active five days a week, even if that means just a half hour walk around the neighbourhood. It's not comparable to how much I was walking through cities and temples a few months ago, but it's better than nothing and, to be honest, walking is one of the only forms of exercise that I don't hate

I’m truly grateful that I visited Latin America and got to experience the culture and way of life in that part of the world. I don’t know when I’ll be able to go travelling like that again so it meant a lot to me to get out there and explore, even if I was a bit nervous about being on my own for part of it.

In the meantime, I’m devouring articles and blogs about Nashville and other close by areas. This year is turning out to be just what I needed. I feel happier and more in touch with myself than ever before. I think slowing down and taking a career break came at just the right time. No longer are Sunday evenings synonymous with soul-sucking anxiety as I dread the start of the next week. My heart, soul, and mind are content yet challenged these days and it feels good.

If you have any recommendations of places to go or sites I should see in the Tennessee area, please send them my way! We plan on doing lots of exploring over the next three months.

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  1. I had very similar realizations after I took an extended backpacking trip through SE Asia a few years back. It was this mad dash through 10 countries in four months and I got home understanding that it was an amazing, life changing experience that I would not subject myself to again :) Now, I take more concentrated trips to one or two countries for a shorter amount of time.

  2. this is awesome! I would love to go backpacking in Central America.

    When I was in South Africa I ended up not wearing makeup as much as I do in the US. I'd like to start remixing my clothes more!

  3. Yes to the make up one! It's nice to have had a 3 month backpacking experience. I think most people do really love the comfort of having a 'home'

  4. That's awesome that you had these realizations! I too get caught up in the vanities of society, and wonder if it is all worth it at times. I can definitely relate to your point about trusting your gut. I tend to overthink everything when I should just go with my instinct sometimes.


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