Recently I saw an old friend from my childhood. We used to be really close friends. However, as some friendships go, we lost touch and hadn’t seen each other for years. We spent some time catching up and after telling her some of my travel stories, she realized I wasn’t the same person I was when I was young. “Well, you sure aren’t that nine-year-old boy who wouldn’t order his own food at restaurants anymore,” she noticed. It’s true, I’m certainly not. My life has changed since the last time we met. I can make my own decisions, and – yes – I do order for myself at restaurants now.
That might be a ridiculous observation – obviously, I’m not the same person I was when we were at the pinnacle of our friendship some fourteen years ago. People grow out of utter shyness and other stages of life. However, I don’t think that was the message she was trying to convey. She hasn’t seen me for years – at least since our high school days over six years ago, but probably even longer than that.
My life has changed – What factor has travel played?
If you ask a majority of the people who haven’t seen me for that long where they think I’ve ended up, it’s a safe bet they would tell you a secure job, working 40+ hours a week somewhere in my hometown of Kansas City. It’d be a shock to some of them that I have spent over a year in Europe since they last saw me. It would catch some off-guard that I’m living in Europe now with a plane ticket booked to three new continents within the next year. Of course, in the age of social media, you feel remotely connected to even the strangers from your past.
Despite social media interaction, no one from my past would believe me if I told them of the stories I have to tell now. I wasn’t the same person when they knew me. Why am I like this now? Well, largely because of the extensive amount of traveling I’ve been fortunate enough to do in the past two years. I owe my generally happier way of life all to traveling and the inspirational people I’ve met along the way.
I chose to surround myself with my passion and it has become a life that is more than I could ever ask for. My life finally has direction; a passion that I truly can’t wait to see where it takes me. That’s what traveling can do. It breaks your comfort shell and puts you in positions that you don’t necessarily want to be in, but it’s in those situations that you grow as a person and you are honest with yourself more so than ever before.
Travel forces you out of your comfort zone
It makes you do things that you don’t want to do – that you don’t know that you are capable of doing – until you have no other option. One of the most important things I’ve learned about myself since I’ve picked up a nomadic lifestyle is that there is rarely a sticky situation that I can’t get myself out of. I tell myself, “I can’t” a lot less now and instead I tell myself, “I’ll try”. If you’re forced to figure out life on your own, you will.
That’s just the kind of mindset you need while you’re on the road. You need to believe you’re capable of handling anything thrown your way. Trust me, you’ll have all sorts of situations thrown at you if you’re not ready for them.
One of the most entertaining things now is seeing and catching up with old friends. I like to see how much I’ve grown as an individual by how they act towards me. It’s fascinating to me to see how far I’ve come along with my social skills – as I’m sure everyone has since high school. I’m able to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. And those social skills go a long way even in a corporate sense.
I’ve changed and I’ve excepted it
I get the feeling that everyone from back home still sees me as the kid who is trying to please everyone. Whereas, I have a completely different lifestyle now that I’ve moved continents. It’s really easy to move abroad. No one knew me and I was able to restart my reputation the way I wanted to be known. I wanted to put my choices first; which was weird, because my whole life up until the last two years revolved around making the decisions I knew others wanted me to make. Before I started traveling, I saw that mentality as selfish. It’s not selfish, though. I found something I love and now I’m pursuing it for me and no one else. There’s nothing wrong with that.
I didn’t know how to respond to my friend who told me I wasn’t the same anymore; I never know how. It’s hard to say if people who say it are disappointed or just making an observation. But what I’ve started to notice is that I’m beginning to take it as a compliment. The old Me is no longer around. I’ve developed a new Me and I’m satisfied with just the way I’m living.
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