He Said/She Said: Travel Now

He Said/She Said: Travel Now

When we set off on this trip one of the primary reasons for doing it now was the assumption that we couldn’t do it later in life.  As responsibilities grew and we aged, we didn’t know if we would ever get the chance to do more than just quickly visit places, to really be with the locals, and spend time where our interests brought us.  How has that assumption panned out?

HE SAID…

When we set off I thought of our timing as “now or never.”  We were reaching the age that not only would we physically be less able to do some of the things we wanted, but it would be harder and harder to leave our creature comforts.  I am not going to lie to you, we had a pretty good thing going back in Minneapolis, I was completely content with the life we had built.  Just a few more years and the inertia would have been too much to overcome.  This is why we decided now was the time, but I now realize a better reason: the world is changing, fast.

Asia is changing so rapidly it is hard to describe, but even harder to exaggerate.  If I told you that there were thousands of buildings under construction in a city I would probably understate what’s going on.  Just a few years ago I was wandering around downtown Singapore and went to the Merlion to see construction across the water from it.  I probably spent an hour in the area very confused, how was there construction there?  Last time I was there this was open water.  Today stands the Singapore Sands, which I lack enough superlatives to describe.  Let’s review, today stands the equivalent of a city, built over the last 3-5 years, on land that didn’t even exist a decade ago.

That is how Asia is changing.  Last year I was overlooking the “bay” that was created for the Singapore Sands from a skyscraper with my father and his childhood friend.  As we looked down on the city I asked them, “so what was here when you were children?”  They laughed, looked 40-odd stories below, pointed at three story buildings around Clark Quay and said: those were the tallest buildings in the country.  That is happening all over Asia, but even faster.

While we set off on this trip thinking about “now or never” from our perspective, this trip has taught me that it is “now or never” to see many cultures and traditions that are coming to an end.  I don’t mean to infer this is a bad thing, this progress is pulling hundreds of millions of people up with it, but there is an accelerated homogenization of cultures.  As Asians urbanize the cities become more like Western cities and younger generations abandon traditions.  The time traveling affect of wandering the world is lessening as the similarities across the world grow.  The best part of traveling now is that you can see human progress in action instead of in the history books.

SHE SAID…

I never thought I would say this, but traveling is a lot of work.  Now before you go and call me a complainer, hear me out.  As I make my way through the last year of my twenties I realize how much I miss comfort, especially on a long distance bus among other places such as my hostel room bed.  Don’t get me wrong I would not trade my recent travel experiences for anything in the world, but they came at a cost- mostly to my now bruised rear end.  We felt this was an important topic (most of our other He Said/She Said topics are chosen purely for their entertainment value) because this is the entire reason we started this website, to live your ifs.  Our big “if” was traveling the world and we weren’t going to lose out on the opportunity to do so.  I never realized what a time sensitive “if” this was until now, when we’ve been on the road for 6 months.  Travel is not easy; it’s a young man’s game if you plan to stay on the road for anything longer than three months at a stretch.

This is not to put you off from your own RTW trip or any other “if”, no matter your age, but to give you a good ole’ kick in the pants to get out there and do it.  Sooner rather than later.  I left this trip having just run the fastest marathon of my life, but I was still reminded of my age in every country we visited.  Ho Chi Minh City where we first landed, reminded me that I wasn’t invincible as I had thought in my teens, I was scared just to cross the street (link to Zen and the Art of street crossing).  Bangkok reminded me that no amount of caffeine could keep me up all night on Khao San Road (link to top ten Khao San), Vang Vieng (link to H/S) was a rude awakening to the fact that I couldn’t drink like I could in my college prime and Cambodia reminded me that long distance motorcycle travel on dirt roads isn’t as exciting as it was when I first got my motorcycle license just two years ago.

We have met plenty of people on the road that are much older than us, but none that are out for as long as us or planning on breaking their trip up with a relaxing beach stop.  I would be incredibly offended if anyone called me old, but increasingly we find that we are the oldest people taking the slow boat in Laos or drinking on Khao San Road.  This was all a surprise to me when we first started out, but I am now becoming comfortable with the role of the “oldest” and even find myself dispensing motherly advice whether it’s been asked for or not.  The best advice I can give is live your “ifs” now, because you never know what’s going to happen by the time you make it to the ripe old age of 29.

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Comments

» Tim Morrison :
Jun 1, 2011

Wait – Erica, are you saying that at 30…i’m going to be the oldest on the road? Mannnnnnnnnn.

LOCAVORista Reply:

Tim, you may not be the oldest on the road, but you’ll be getting up there for sure…just a warning.

» Donna Seline :
Jun 2, 2011

Nice to have you back online … missed ya! So you’re feeling old at 30, eh? It’s good you’re doing this now for sure … but it’s just the beginning. You may “settle in” when you get back, but you’ll take many many more trips in your lifetime. And you’ve got another 20 years before AARP starts bothering you. :-)

The world is changing … I see it every time I go back to Europe too. For example, Oberammergau used to be this neat little wood carving town with buildings painted in colorful frescoes. There are still frescoes and there’s still wood carving … but the ambience is gone. And the number of wood carvers has fallen drastically over this last century. However, I found a beautiful hand carved Don Quixote and Sancho there and it makes up for the one I didn’t buy almost 40 years ago.

But enjoy while you’re young … love reading all your adventures … and glad it’s your butt that hurts and not mine!!

Donna

» Kate C :
Jun 4, 2011

We completely agree. I’m so glad I saw Laos when I did. I’m so glad I visited Koh Russei when we did. But I feel this so much more than Jeff does. Since this was Jeff’s first backpacking trip, it’s all he knows. I, on the other hand, found myself comparing over and over this trip to previous. At 23 in Ecuador, every Tuesday was a wild night of dancing and drink, followed by school the next morning. Now, at 29, a drink (very often non-alcoholic!) in a quiet spot with a friend seems to happen more often than anything else. Or hotel rooms. My brain said “Cheap, cheap, just no bugs” just like in the past. My body said “That AC and bed with nice sheets sure looks nice”. I actually found myself laughing at some of the “kids” we found around us and realized that I’ve definitely taken on a more mature perspective! I hope to travel my entire life, but I do find it slightly sad to know that traveling like a 20 year old just doesn’t last. I’m sure traveling like an adult will bring it’s own advantages, though :-)

» Mom A :
Jun 4, 2011

Dad and I gloat that we went to Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam before you did! Although we were well over 50, we took the “basic” plan. So we weren’t back packing on our own – we were part of a group of about 26 – but there were only two others who were over 30. All we had were backpacks, local buses or our own large van, but we did have air conditioning. Even stayed in someone’s backyard in the smallest village we have ever visited anywhere! No one treated us like “oldies” and we had a ball. However, I must say that the public bus was a wild enough ride to Angkor Wat – never would have taken a motorcycle at any age! So in part, I think comfort/discomfort is mind over matter (as well as pocket book) at any age, unless there is a disability involved.

I think, at any age, if you haven’t seen it – see it now! I couldn’t agree more about the rate the world is changing. All points made on that score are valid. But if you are able to talk with people you will still discover similarities and differences, that will take more time to change than it took to build the Kentucky Fried Chickens I saw in China.

After all that, the bottom line always is DO IT NOW!

» bka :
Jun 5, 2011

too much youth movement talk for me………yes, Tim, you can travel past the age of 30!!!!!………i understand the challenge of the physical piece, but age and experience, i suggest, brings a perspective/certainly different, maybe not better, per se experience as well…..traveling inter-generationaly has proven to be a compromise and just maybe the best of both worlds……be safe……peace…..love you dad

» Stella :
May 26, 2012

Good day! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!
Read Stella’s awesome post this saved my garden

LOCAVORista Reply:

Stella, glad this post hit home for you. After 40 days hiking in the Himalayas this rings truer than ever- TRAVEL NOW! Your knees won’t want to hike uphill for that long as you age and as we have pointed out traveling in the developing world is tough work and a young women’s game!

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.
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