Sunday, November 13, 2011

Made in China

Let me preface this entry by saying that this is not an every day type of entry. This is not the greatest product of my travels, nor how I spend the majority of my time thinking. It is actually, the least of my thoughts and I have since worked through these feelings from this particular night. I do realize how very blessed I am and I would not trade any of my experiences for anything, not even for a box of double stuff oreos and a goblet of milk. But, nonetheless, it is the truth of what I have occasionally felt in the moment. And, I think to fully understand what traveling is to me, I must also capture these days....

Annoyed with travel. Cranky with the backpackers life. 90% of the time the diverse cultural mix that surrounds me is exciting and enchanting..but then there is that other 10% of the time when I am utterly annoyed that I can't understand half of what's been said around me. If this isn't enough to annoy me, I am also perturbed by the fact that I am one of the older people traveling this path and I look up to see that I am surrounded by a fleet of 21 and 22 year olds who are just looking for the next big party and whose idea of a good time consists of nothing more than being next in line for a jager bomb in the jager train. Although I am living the carefree lifestyle as well, their methods of being relaxed and carefree suddenly get on my very last nerve and I feel like pushing them off their happy little backpacking pedestal. These are the times in which I miss the common comforts and ease of home. Things such as my own private bathroom that I know has only been used by me and I know the exact date of when it was last cleaned. Things such as a dresser and a closet to hold my clothes, where I can freely choose from any number of clean items, instead of searching through a smooshed compression sack at the bottom of a backpack that is full of semi-clean clothes that have been worn and re-worn over the past 3 months. Things such as going to bed at night, knowing exactly who is in my room (me) and having the peace of mind knowing that I will be the only one there when I wake up in the morning..knowing I don't have to take inventory and roll call of all my personal, valued possessions before bed at night and when I wake up in the morning. I look forward to the day I can crawl into bed at night without having to repeatedly answer the question, "What are you up to tonight?" if the fact that I am in my pajamas under the covers was not clue enough that "No, I will not be attending the rave in West Berlin tonight". When the sounds I fall asleep to will be only my chihuahuas trying to make themselves comfortable in their beds, instead of the snoring German in the corner, or the restless Brazilian on the bottom bunk. I have been living the nomadic lifestyle for a little over 2 years now, frequently relishing in the fact that I am often times homeless and jobless at the same time. But there are times when the constant planning ahead that travel entails is too much to take. When the research required to find a good bed for the night and the easiest transportation to that bed is just agitating. Some just hire me a limo, load up my bags for me, give me a cozy and clean blanket complete with a matching pillow, feed me cookies and hot cocoa and take me to my luxury hotel room please.

It's a strange thing and makes no sense that I can be sad and discouraged while living what is by most standards considered the ideal and enviable lifestyle. It's not fair by any means that I have the right to feel down and melancholy, yet here I am. In spite of all attempts to explain these things to myself, I still lie here at 1:30am, wondering what the heck is wrong with me. Maybe I'm just being hormonal and I need a strong dose of Midol with a rum and coke to chill out. I'm loving it, yes. But, why am I not loving every single second? Why am I wasting ANY time and energy on these negative feelings? I feel disappointed in myself. Part of me feels like I am not making this trip all it should be. Like there is some pre-established standard for traveling Europe for 3 months, and if it is not met than I am to be considered a failure on all accounts. Is this pressure real? Or is it imagined? Am I placing it on myself? What if I don't see the right things, do the right things, learn the right things or meet the right people? But this is my journey right? What am I trying to prove? And who am I looking to for approval? What if I disappoint RIck Steves, or the authors of the Lonley Planet, the Europe on a Shoestring edition? I feel like I am constantly searching for what will change me and wondering what it will change me into. It is a dramatic metamorphosis that I seek. But what exactly do I want to change? What am I learning and is it enough to satisfy my hunger for transformation? I want self-assurance. I want pure confidence in who I am and what I believe. Even if it is a strong sense of opinion on what is the best bath soap to use, I want to be able to stand firm and debate it against some of the greatest minds of the nations. I want to not only feel intelligent, but truly be intelligent. I want to have an infectious love of life and a peace that exudes from me, like my best friend who's wisdom and chronic optimism for life is undeniable. I want to be encouraging and uplifting, to inspire people in simple and extravagant ways. I want to be influential, not forgettable. And I want to be able to find all these things from within, and not have to rely on an external source to fulfill these desires.

The emotional highs and lows of travel are insane. I can wake up feeling tired, uninspired and a bit overwhelmed but the instant I am showered and ready and I step into the fresh air of a new city I am literally instantly transformed into a renewed person who is excited for the adventure of the day. Why would you need to pep talk yourself to travel the world on basically a very extended holiday?? Because sometimes being in a foreign country for every minute of the day is overwhelming. It's like getting a new toy for Christmas; it's the one you've always wanted. And you play with it and you love it because it is just what you asked for. But, maybe there are secret hidden things that you don't know about this toy, and to find out about these secret things you need to read the instructions. Only, your toy has been Made in China, and the instructions are in Chinese. Sometimes you just want simple when all you get is a foreign form of complicated.

And probably what is most frustrating of all, is being ashamed to admit any of this.


  1. Traveling abroad is a very humbling experience. I had the opportunity to backpack around Europe for two months before I finished my tour in the army. I know how overwhelming it can be to be almost hyper vigilant the entire trip. You want to make sure you see the things you have always wanted to, learn new things, experience different cultures. All the while being surrounded by millions of people and feeling all alone. Traveling is difficult when you dedicate so much time to it. It's more work than a job at times. But, take advantage of the time you have. Don't worry so much about where you're going next as what you can experience now. Living out of a backpack is not fun, hostels are not fun, not knowing 95% of what is being said around you is not fun...but, discovering a world for yourself that you would have never known except through a picture in a book is amazing. Also, knowing how strong you have become by challenging yourself to move outside your comfort zone will be something that you will reflect on for many years to come. Enjoy your travels and be safe! - Michelle Smith

  2. Baby the life you love and love the life you live! Seek God's heart in all the chaos of foreign countries and languages...let Him show you what is the important lesson of each day! In everything give thanks...for this is the will of God for you! I love you so much and am so very proud of all you work or in play! Dig for gold out there, baby! Mama