Well, unbelievably we’re five months/half way through our trip today so I thought I’d post this list I’ve been cobbling together for a while (sorry there aren’t any photos!)
Twenty signs that I’ve adapted to the backpacker way of life
1. The thought of wearing shoes (as opposed to flip flops or sandals) makes me feel uncomfortable; the infrequent reality of wearing shoes causes me to feel stressfully claustrophobic!
2. I can not only tell you what book I’m reading, but I read it recently enough to be able to recall what was happening in it.
3. Hand washing clothes, often in cold water, and sewing up their holes to make them last longer are part of daily life.
4. I am no longer addicted to tea or my iPhone. I wonder how long it will take for that to change when I get home!
5. Chopsticks, fork and spoon, just a spoon, nothing at all – I no longer notice!
6. I nod at/smile at/greet complete strangers many times every day.
7. I genuinely have no idea what day it is most of the time and it hardly ever matters!
8. The idea of having a job fills me with a great deal of concern!
9. Basic accommodation requirements have been lowered to: no creatures bigger than ants except geckos, clean pillow cases and lockable doors and windows. Then wifi!
10. I no longer instinctively look for a seatbelt when entering a vehicle.
11. My calcium intake comes solely from cartons of chocomilk!
12. The hair on my arms is completely blonde.
13. I never ever ever trust the first taxi/tuktuk/tricycle/horsecart/sawngthaew owner I speak to when I disembark at an airport, bus terminal or boat port.
14. Instinct dictates whether it would be wise to go to sleep wearing ear plugs to avoid 3am cockerel wake up calls.
15. Rice or noodles seem like perfectly normal things to eat for breakfast.
16. I have a ‘just get on with it and try not to touch anything’ attitude to public toilets regardless of them being squats, holes in the ground, non-existent, stinking, seat-less, flush-less, paper-less…
17. Current TV series, films and music are completely off my radar (unless someone raves about something on Facebook!).
18. I have straightened my hair, on average, once a month (I’m sending them home this week!).
19. It’s a pleasant surprise when public transport has specified departure and arrival times and when they actually happen as scheduled.
20. ‘Stress’ is now being several days behind on my journal, having a too large a stack of emails to reply to (though I love getting them so please keep/start sending them!), or leaving it to the last minute to sort out where we’re staying next.
I thought at this halfway point I should evaluate my progress on the resolutions I set at the start of the trip. I’m adding a fourth: to keep learning and start using Spanish.
1. Take better photos.
I’m not convinced that ‘less but better’ photos has necessarily occurred but I certainly feel like I am putting more thought into how I select my camera’s settings. I’m also looking forward to learning how to edit photographs properly when I get home to make more of what I’ve got.
2. Broaden my food horizons.
I think I mentioned this a few weeks ago but I have been trying more, even if it’s just a bit of whatever Dean orders. I am eating a fair amount of meat whenever I can (previously I would generally not eat it abroad). No fish yet though!
3. Chill out!
I’ve definitely achieved this one despite being worried I might get bored or feel purposeless on the trip. At work I constantly try to make things as efficient as possible, at home I can’t watch TV without multitasking, I like everything to have a purpose. After initially struggling a bit to wind down fully, now I can happily just gaze out of the bus window for hours or wander around with no particular destination and if there’s a long wait, so what!
This last one, when I stop and think about it, is wonderful. It’s amazing to take a step back and appreciate how much my quality of life has improved. In real life, aside from the times when I feel actually stressed, day to day workload, other people’s expectations and all kinds of obligations can tally up and take their toll. Life without those things is liberating in a way I didn’t think possible. I feel very lucky to be experiencing it.
I’m sure I’m stating the obvious but when in the midst of all that, it can be hard to gain the perspective required to see how to change things for the better. In many ways being a world wanderer is an unsustainably selfish way to live but it’s certainly shown me that I’d like to find some kind of happy medium when we eventually return home.
Here’s how the next five months look:
Home (sometime in July)!