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6 Signs You've Been Traveling The World For Far Too Long

I had been hired to staff a high school study abroad trip. I got fired, bought a one-way ticket to Vietnam, and I’ve been traveling the world ever since.

When I was 22 years old, I bought a one-way ticket to Israel. I had been hired to staff a high school study abroad trip, and I felt invincible! However, after a few months, I actually got fired (whoops!). But it ended up being a blessing in disguise. I went home for a few months, reassessed my values, and decided that I belonged in Southeast Asia instead. So I bought a one-way ticket to Vietnam, and I’ve been traveling the world pretty much perpetually ever since. Sometimes I forget how long I’ve been traveling. It’s been over three years now, and it feels completely natural to me to be the only white person in the room. But then I do one of these things and it reminds me that maybe I’ve been out here for far too long…

You run into someone you know in a random country

A few weeks ago, I went on a weekend trip to the beautiful Gili Islands off the coast of Indonesia. I stayed on a small island called Gili Air, which was so quaint that it only took me about 40 minutes to walk the entire circumference. One day, as I was going to grab lunch, I noticed a guy walking toward me. “Wow, that guy looks just like my friend Chris,” I thought. As he got closer, I realized it was my friend Chris!  This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me while traveling. Run-ins like this make me feel like the world isn’t so big after all, and traveling the world isn't so lonely. But the truth is, it isn’t a small world - it’s a small class. And I’m so fortunate to be part of the percentage of the world that has the luxury to travel. I love when this happens, because it reminds me that I won the lottery when I was born a white, American male. And it’s important to remain grateful.

You speak the wrong language - and it’s not English

“Sodikaaap,” I said to the shopkeeper with a small bow. He didn’t look up from his phone. Why was he ignoring me?? I wondered. Then I realized my mistake. He was not Thai. So it makes sense that he would not respond to my Thai greeting. When I travel, I love learning the local language. I make an effort to speak it as much as possible. However, sometimes I get so comfortable with my practice that it becomes automatic - even when I travel to a new place. Thus, I usually end up speaking the wrong language to locals for my first few days in a new country. Luckily, they usually don’t notice. Or, if they do, they don’t say anything!

You forget which way to look before you cross the street

In addition to language differences, it’s important to remind myself of other differences between countries when traveling the world. People drive on the right side of the street in America, Brazil and Vietnam. But they drive on the left in South Africa and Indonesia. Sometimes it’s so hard to keep track!I recently returned to Ho Chi Minh City after a month in Bali. The first time I tried to cross the street, I almost got hit by a car! I had grown so accustomed to looking to my right to make sure there was no traffic coming that I stepped out into the street without looking to my left. Watching a car zoom toward you is enough to make you readjust your habits. Now I look both ways three times before crossing. After all, you can never be too safe!

You start to complain about “needing” to go on visa runs

Many of the countries I’ve been living in have rules about letting foreigners reside in their country. Sometimes it’s 30 days, sometimes it’s 60, but there is usually a number of days that I’m allowed to stay before they kick me out. Luckily, there’s an easy workaround. If I leave the country, even if it’s only for a few days, I can return and my day count resets. These “visa runs” are a common thing among long term travelers, and many people end up complaining about them. “Yeah, I’m going to Cambodia for the weekend. Gotta do my visa run…” they say with a sigh.I understand the intent. It can be frustrating to disturb your routine. It can be expensive or time consuming to get across the nearest border. But, come on. Get some perspective. When I get so comfortable with my traveling lifestyle that I see visa runs as an inconvenience, I know I’ve been traveling the world for too long. So I shift my mindset to a positive outlook.   I get to take a mandatory vacation to a place that many people dream about going to! That’s awesome!

You have to stop trying everything because you would gain too much weight

When I first started traveling, I wanted to eat EVERYTHING. After all, isn’t eating the local food the best way to get to know a new culture? How could I be in Vietnam and not try to find the best Pho? However, after my pants began feeling a bit tight, I realized I couldn’t keep up with this trend. Now, I don’t use travel as an excuse to splurge. Of course, I still try the local dishes, but it’s not sustainable to try sixteen different Pad Thais in Thailand… “for research.”

You have refined your definition of “home”

I spent the first 18 years of my life in Minnesota. Then the next four in Wisconsin. And then the rest of the time I’ve been living all over the world. When people ask me where I’m from, I never know what to tell them. Sometimes, people ask me where I call “home” and I still have no idea how to respond. Usually, I tell them “Right now, I’m in *insert current location*. So that’s home.” Because traveling the world has made me realize that home is far more than a physical building with four walls. Home is a feeling. Home is the relief of crawling into bed next to my girlfriend at night, whether that’s in Burma or Da Nang. Home is the laughter I share at a meal with my brother and sister, whether we’re eating at a vegan buffet in Bali or a night market in Chiang Mai. And home is the comfort of walking into a coffee shop and seeing my four best friends already working hard on their laptops, whether that’s in Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok. Relationships are the most important thing in life, and as long as I’m traveling with the people I love - I will always be home.Since I’ve been traveling for so long, I definitely take some things for granted. My “normal” has changed drastically, and sometimes I forget that I’ve been country hopping for years now. However, I am often reminded of just how long I have been traveling. But the truth is, there’s no such thing as “far too long.” And I certainly have no intentions of stopping any time soon.  

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