I originally wrote this list in November of 2013, towards the end of what I will always refer to as The Big Trip. I dug it up a few weeks ago, as I prepared for my next adventure, a mini Big Trip, if you will.
But I wrote this before The Big Trip was even over, before I could comprehend the impact that these lessons would have, and before I could see the many more insights that would come from the experience. It was before I knew that the last three years would be the most challenging, fun, emotional, and adventurous years of my life.
They've been like a really good yoga class - the kind that totally kicks your ass but leaves you wanting more. The kind that makes you think, for a moment, that maybe you shouldn't have come in the first place; you picture yourself perched on that cozy couch, how you could have just stayed there, none the wiser to all this opening and growth. You sometimes curl up into child's pose and just breathe and forget everything that's happening in the rest of the room, but then you dig deep to find that determination inside yourself again and hop back up to join the gang in Warrior II and see just how powerful you are.
It's the kind of class that leaves your muscles feeling sore and battered, an uncomfortable sign that they're getting stronger. It's the kind you walk out of feeling simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated – elated that you showed up on your mat, and certain you’ll be back for more.
You know, that kind of class.
But before all that, nearly three years ago, I wrote this list in a quiet wood-paneled room, in an otherwise empty hotel, in the mountains of Switzerland...
Things I learned while traveling:
1. You can only wave your hands in front of so many antique-looking faucets before learning to look for a foot pedal.
2. Email and facebook are pretty boring before about 2pm Europe time, because nobody I know is awake yet.
3. I really need a certain amount of “me” time to remain at all pleasant around other people.
4. I was taking my very comfortable and gigantic bed for granted, and I will never do so again.
5. European servers will never just bring you the bill, you have to pretty much chase them down for it; they’ll certainly never drop it off while you’re still eating and say “no rush.”
6. I have to unpack my bag completely to get any one item out of it.
7. By the time I’ve gotten through the airport rigmarole and am actually boarding a plane, I’ve forgotten which city I am currently in.
8. It’s easier than you think to forget what day it is. And sometimes, what month it is. And sometimes, what country you’re in.
9. iPhone has not, in fact, taken over the entire world.
10. I love napping.
11. It’s even harder than you think to stop caring what other people think, no matter how far away you go.
12. Leaving a city is an interesting way to see which friends you keep in touch with; sometimes it’s not who you think.
13. Eventually, it’s time to go home.
14. We try to fit others and ourselves into a lot of “boxes,” but in fact there are no boxes. We create them to feel better, perhaps, to create our identity and to think we know who we (and others) are.
15. I do not fit in the box I used to put myself into, and it is a huge personal challenge to jump out of this box and build my life from the a la carte menu.
16. I have an above-average sense of direction.
17. My laptop (Slice) is the best travel companion I could have asked for, and bringing her was the best packing decision I made.
18. Google Translate is your friend.
19. Google Maps is your even better friend.
20. I really love peanut butter.
21. Belgian boys are the cutest.
22. You can’t plan a trip like this.
And on my first stop of this mini Big Trip - after a day of working and adventuring around Seattle - I’ve come back to my lakeside perch to write to you, and re-read this list. It transports me back in time to when all of this was new to me, to when I was just learning how I travel and that life didn’t have to look a certain way. And I see how some of these lessons completely shaped the next three years of my life, and delivered me right to this moment. And how this trip has the potential to have a similar impact.