A book I picked up before I hit the road this year, and one I highly recommend to anyone that wishes to travel, Vagabonding, covers all types of the ups, downs, and lateral moves that happen to anyone living life on somewhat unsure footing. It is a tremendous find, not only for the simple lessons that it teaches, but for the less obvious.
Found in this book are examples perhaps overlooked by many, when preparing to hit the road. The author thoughtfully points out the merits of not only saving money, preparing your inventory, and packing your bags. More importantly, for certain, is preparing your mind for the coming changes. I find this to be especially important if you are someone easily unsettled by change.
Of course having a general agenda, some type of budget, and a plan are all-important. Of that, there is no question. There are peripheral things, though, that weigh squally much if not more. Covered in this gem of a read are the merits of settling debts. That is not to say simply that you must come out of pocket, but moreover to settle emotional distance and gaps between yourself and anyone wherein the void may lie.
Another point I found to be extremely valid is your approach how you travel. Some people travel with a camera slung handily around their neck at any moment in time, white sneakers trekking briskly across any safe area they feel safe to snap a photo of the local scenery. Some people travel for the sole purpose of cheap dope and a hostel to party in for weeks on end. Some gape at every tourist spectacle they can possibly get close to, on tightly-organized schedules whereupon the moment they have seen what they came to see, they hop aboard the air-conditioned bus and head back to the hotel, or on down the line. Others yet consciously avoid seeing anything "touristy", and hold their noses high in the air with disdain at anything so ordinary as a traveler looking to see the famous offerings of the world.
For me, the best of my travels come by some combination of these approaches. To spend all your time reading a guide book instead of exploring is a travesty. Likewise, to while your time away consciously avoiding anything that may make you appear like a tourist is equally bad. This nearly-more-self-conscious approach leaves me wondering: are you really better than the tourist with the camera?
Of course I am not dismissing the need to keep yourself safe, and stay smart, but to become such an anti-tourist as not to see something like the Eiffel Tower, is, in my eyes anyhow, only doing yourself a disservice.. I was reminded of this in a recent experience. The entire hostel took a boat cruise through the islands of Lake Nicaragua, and had an absolute blast. Sixteen people from 6 different continents all together, experiencing the same day, same inside jokes, same sunset, same moment in time.
To me at least, this is certainly part of what travel is all about.
Photograph from one of the islands on Lake Nicaragua, November 13th, 2014.