Thoughts on Long Term Travel (4 1/2 Years Later)

So… what’s your story?

I always get to these points in my life where I realize I’ve been living my dream already without even realizing it.

After the cliché “I want to leave a mark”, I was working as a social worker with teenagers – planting seeds and leaving marks.

When I quit social work, I was dreaming of traveling the world – and I’ve been doing it for years now.

In March 2018, I surprised myself thinking that I wanted to live in Bali long-term and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year.

Long-term travel. It’s easy to picture yourself wearing a backpack while wandering across the world.

I remember my first travel encounters in the first hostel I ever stayed at. It was in Paris. And they were Australian. My English was pretty terrible, but I was mastering the art of pretending to understand with my best smile on.

I obviously knew when someone was flirting.

It was all about AWs and WOWs.

Of course, over the years, encounters are different. There is this weird thing called “life” with a “backwash” twist… You know that moment when people have to leave to make some room for the new people in your life.

If in a lifetime, you’re meeting a lot of people, can you even imagine how many more people you will meet abroad? The friendships are shorter, temporary. They are real but also twisted. The more you handle the goodbyes, you don’t get better at it. You do become better at avoiding them though.

And I realized one awful thing the other day; the more you meet people, the more you forget who you truly are. Temporary friendships also mean that nobody gets you as much as your “long-term friends”.

Yet, you’re asking yourself when was the last time you were real.

Long-term travel is a lot more than just carrying a backpack.

In fact, if my carry-on isn’t that heavy, I’m now carrying some kinds of baggage acquired on the road.

I lost my communications skills.

I became an avoider.

I ran away too many times.

I struggle to let people in.

I’m good at pretending.

All these encounters don’t feel this magical anymore. The things I liked so much about traveling such as sharing moments with strangers have evolved.  In fact, I get my “I love to travel” feeling when I’m on my own now. I guess I don’t need all these encounters after all.

Let’s go back to Paris and this twenty-year-old version of myself.

The one who wasn’t this scared. The one who was a risk taker.

As I landed in Paris, I then found my way to the RER station. I thought the airport would be right in the city, but of course, I didn’t know a thing back then. There I was, trying to understand this silly train machine and more importantly, trying to get a train ticket.

Already, it was challenging. Can you even imagine? As a French speaker, it should have been easier for me.

There I was, hopping on the train, trying to get to my hostel where I met the Australians. Let’s talk about the cute one – what made him so special? Because, after all, I had a boyfriend waiting for me at home back then.

I guess it was the fantasy behind it. And his cute accent when he tried to speak French. He knew the basics.

The infamous “voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”

The cute “voulez-vous danser avec moi?”

And the spontaneous “voulez-vous prendre une photo?”

That night, we went to buy cheap bottles of wine and went to Montmartre from where I would see the Eifell Tower in sparkling mode. We got drunk.  (Back then, I was still drinking. And, yes, I’m sober now if you are wondering.)

The next day, I left for Berlin. And I’d meet the Australians again a few weeks later in Germany.

I went back to Europe many times after this trip. I partied my way around Europe… until I stopped drinking. In 2013, I then sold everything – and left for Europe with a one-way ticket.

I was still handling the traveling well. Especially, since I got back home not long after my departure – because life had other plans for me.

A year later, in 2014, I left again – with a plan this time.  A plan that would fail, of course, but I didn’t know that at the time. But this failed plan was on my side this time. And here I am. Living in Bali with my baggage four years later.

Traveling has changed for me over the years. I remember different phases during this journey.

Disappointment – which turned into an “I can only count on myself”.

The love bubble – which turned into an “Ok, at least we have each other.”

The fun part – where I was a “yes, girl”.

The boring part – where I wasn’t a “yes, girl” anymore.

Then, it quickly became an “I don’t care about emotions” phase where I was wondering what was the point of this “temporary reality” until I got to the point where I found it really hard to let people in. In fact, it seems like I like pushing people away.

My point is – my traveling passion has evolved over the years. I found a base I like, which I also struggle to leave. I’ve neglected some areas in my life and that’s okay. I’m protecting myself I guess.

I travel less. I travel in a fancier way. My dorm days happen once in a while, but most of the time, I enjoy my privacy. My bed is super comfortable, and it’s not even actually MY bed, but it feels like it is. I found a temporary home without commitments, and this is all I really want, for now.

My encounters abroad are also evolving – it switched from the small talks to the “what’s your story?” line. My friends might also be based in Bali – and I may be avoiding the holiday people somehow.

Everything changes.

So, what’s next?

There are a lot of countries I still want to visit. And I still want to revisit some other places. I want to embrace this younger version of myself who wasn’t scared of people and was going all-in. I want to find a balance between my Bali life and spontaneous adventurous life.

In 2018, I gave myself one mission – to not make plans and say yes to opportunities.

In 2019, I’m hoping to find a balance – between the yes and the “making it happen”.