It’s been an insane month leading up to our departure – moving house, storing possessions, ticking a trillion things off an ever-increasing list of tasks, organising bank accounts and credit cards, and all that stuff that comes along with any large change in the physical manifestation of your life. I said to Lisa really early on that I hoped we didn’t turn into those people who whine endlessly about how difficult and tiring their lives are because of the preparations for an amazing year-long travel experience. Real #LatteBeltProblems and #FirstWorldDisasters, you see. I’d hate myself, I said.
The preparations seemed to go on forever as we both grew increasingly impatient to just get on the freakin’ plane and leave, with our moods reflecting this. It’s not that we weren’t excited, but anticipation and exhaustion were overtaking us, with all the emotions morphing mostly into frustration. Friends and family who grilled us about our trip, excited on our behalf, were probably a little disappointed to hear a lot of bitching and moaning in reply. I dare say that Scott of one month ago would’ve hated Scott of last week. However, I guess it’s fairly human to get caught up in your own challenges and lose a bit of perspective.
By the time the actual evening of departure came around we were so ready to leave. Not because we wanted to get away from our friends and families (all of whom had given us a loving and humbling send-off), but because we just wanted to go. Now. Flying out from Coolangatta Airport because Air Asia saves a few dollars on fees there, we arrived two hours before our flight. After negotiating the relaxed Sunday night regional queues at security and customs, we were left with one-and-a-half hours to kill before the scheduled departure time, plus an extra thirty minutes due to a flight delay.
A quick browse through the airport’s book shop yielded a $10 Penguin classic (For The Term Of His Natural Life) and successfully burned ten minutes of our wait. Getting ready to sit out the other hour and fifty in the departure lounge, I automatically and unconsciously reached for my iPhone to check email, Twitter, Facebook, anything. Problem was, I’d cancelled my iPhone contract the day before, transferred my phone number to a pre-paid account to preserve it, and removed the SIM card for safe storage in my parents’ filing cabinet; the iPhone was nothing more than an $800 Sudoku machine (Spykey’s favourite time-killer.) For the first time in a long time I found myself disconnected from the online world.
I like the Internet. Actually, I love it. I’m not addicted – I can quit whenever I want to, I just don’t want to. So, I won’t lie: my first reaction to not having Internet on demand was frustration and alarm, but those feelings quickly turned to relief and liberation as I pondered what this simple and slightly pathetic realisation meant for me.
When I got back from my two years overseas in 2002 I vowed – only half-jokingly – to never own more stuff than I could fit in a backpack. After two years of living out of a bag I couldn’t imagine why I would want to do otherwise. Of course, when I went through all my crap last month getting ready to move it out of the house I became painfully aware of how much I’ve accumulated since I made that vow. Not that I regret owning all that stuff, it’s just that I doubt I could carry it on my back.
But no one mode of living is necessarily any better or more right than the other. While the backpack living was perfect for my state of mind and circumstances in 2002, owning a bit more stuff was just what I wanted in 2009. We adapt to changes in our lives and we adapt surprisingly quickly – the adaptation from backpacker to homeowner happened so slowly I barely noticed it, but in other circumstances the change can be jarring, especially if it involves a sudden and significant step outside of your comfort zone.
And this is one of the reasons why extended travel is such an exciting activity — it forces you out of your rut; it removes familiarity, pattern, order and routine from your life. And it does so suddenly, forcing you to quit familiarity, pattern, order and routine cold turkey. While these things are absolutely essential for most periods of your life, allowing you the headspace and mindset to focus on doing and achieving other things, taking them away now and again is like jumping in the freezing cold pool after being in the sauna: shocking but totally invigorating.
I’m writing this on the plane between Kuala Lumpur and Tiruchirapalli in India, and I’m not too proud to admit to feeling some nerves along with the excitement. But they are all part of stepping outside of my comfort zone, and those nerves, along with the satisfaction and relief of successfully rising to a challenge, play a large part in giving you that awesome feeling of being completely alive. Every now and then it’s nice to remove the safety net from your life and jump.