Now eight months into this journey, I’ve started doing a good deal of reflection: what has happened so far, where I’ve been and what it’s meant to me – and will mean to me in the future; what I’ve learned and how it’s changed me.
I remember meeting people in Auckland, telling them I’m three days into my trip around the world.
I think about Fraser Island and the A-Team; the undercover trip to Hawaii and San Francisco; the time with my cousin Brian; driving around with Kishore and Michelle and Firhana and Eugene in Malaysia, and the Palencia family; Lane and April Perry and the Gap Fillers, Dwayne Groves, Florence and even Dennis. I go back to conversations with Callum in Sydney and my friends at the Lucky Lake lounge. I think about Milford Sound and geographical time; India and Vietnam; Ishinomaki and Poland and Morocco.
It took me six months to really start getting it. There is no doubt I’ve enjoyed the adventure all the way, even despite some downers and challenges and rough times. But I hadn’t really starting getting IT.
There were times early on when I thought to myself that this really isn’t that big of a deal, that ok, I’m traveling around the world but it’s really nothing extraordinary, sometimes even asking myself what the hell am I doing here. Why am I doing this?
There have been plenty of other moments when I’ve stopped and thought, holy shit, I’m actually here, right now, in this place. Wow! Is this really happening?
Since the beginning I’ve always thought about how long it will be until I get home, a countdown of sorts. I’ve always missed home: my family and friends, my Sigma Nu alumni brothers, my old job and my second family back in Lexington; playing sports and watching my favorite teams; my car and being able to get in and drive wherever I need to go; Red Wave tacos and my other favorite foods. I really miss my house, and my roommates, and having friends over, and cooking, and going to Friday’s. I miss my life.
Even so, I can’t say that I’ve ever been home-sick. Like, “oh man, I wish I was just back home.” It’s never been that way.
I’ve also been concerned often. Where am I going next, how am I getting there, who am I meeting, where am I going to sleep, how am I going to eat, what am I going to do when I get there. What am I going to do right NOW? And not least of all, what am I going to do when I get back? There has been stress and anxiety along the way.
Most of these things are still on my mind. However, over the last two months or so, this journey has come more into focus. Today, I’m much more at peace. I still think often about the future and the past, but I’ve been living much more in the present. The now.
Jurgen shared with me, “your only job in life is to live.”
I’ve enjoyed life tremendously over the past eight weeks, soaking it in, seeing and feeling more around me than ever before, maybe just knowing myself a little better. My perception of each day has changed. I’ve still been concerned about those things, but somehow I’ve had a better grasp of it all, a sense that it’s going to fall into place, and that whatever happens, I am in control.
After all, Chris Guillebeau says, “most of the time, everything is going to be alright,” and he’s right.
Now, today, I’m really init. This is my time.
Over the past two months I’ve stayed in a hostel or guest house perhaps eight or ten nights out of 60; the rest of the time staying with friends and locals and great people, and those connections have no doubt been a big part of it. Also, life in Europe is a lot easier than many other places, albeit much more expensive.
But these past two months have changed how I feel about this journey, and myself.
I have changed and grown. I knew that I would be a changed person, but I wasn’t sure how it would all go down; if I would see or feel the change happening, if I would recognize the changes in myself, if it would be gradual or if I would just get home and suddenly be different.
On occasion I’ve gone back and watched the original launch video.
Not only can I barely recognize the face of the person in the video; I almost can’t remember the person I was then. What I mean by that is the experiences, the people and places, the adventures and mishaps, the things I’ve seen and that have happened over eight months have changed and shaped me. Now that these things are all in my mind and memory and a part of me, I can’t seem to recall how I was or thought back then, before all of this.
This I know: I’ll never be the same again. I can never go back, neither to my previous life nor to the person I was before.
That’s not to say I wasn’t a good enough guy before, or there was anything “wrong” with me or I was an asshole or something (debatable by some no doubt). And certainly not to say that I’m no longer Chris Healy. No, I am definitely still me. Just different.
Maybe these are some of the ways I’ve changed. I’m more compassionate. I’m more humble. I listen more and speak less (I still speak a lot).
I understand that people live in different ways than we do; while it’s our life and our country and our way, it’s only one of many ways and many places.
I’m more flexible. I don’t always have to have it a certain way. Lots of ways are ok.
My comfort zone is vastly expanded. I can handle more than I may have thought before.
I know myself better. I know better what is going on in my mind – maybe only slightly better, but I’m more aware of that now.
I’ve changed physically; I look different; I’m stronger, leaner and more muscular. With my few clothes and only two precious ball caps, I look just about the same every day. Which may often resemble a vagabond.
I’ve realized that there is so much out there I have not a clue about. “The more I learn the less I know.” – Socrates or Lao-Tse, depending on how you translate it.
And, I know more people and have seen more places and done more things. Those things just change you.
There is probably more, but those are some of the things I’ve noticed.
I do miss home. On one hand, I could go home now. I could see myself back home. However, I remember this: there will surely be more travels, more adventures, more connections and tales and triumphs; but I know that this is the adventure of my lifetime. There will be others, but it will never be the same again.
So before being too eager to get home, I’ll pause; I’ll be patient; I’ll live in the moment. I’ll breathe it all in, reflect often, embrace the present and be thankful for every day that changes my life and shapes who I am.
Because once it’s over…it’s over.
Our world is one with vast and endless opportunities. In all, I’ve seen very little; met very few; scarcely understood the things around me of which I’ve caught only fleeting glimpses. But I’m doing it.
And so I post this reflection from the London Heathrow International Airport, minutes before I walk to the gate for my flight to Rio de Janeiro, for the final leg of my journey. I hope you read this as I cross high above the Atlantic Ocean, and consider this:
You can go anywhere; you can do anything; you can be whoever you want to be.
It’s up to you..