“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”
If I’m honest, I must admit that I’ve been procrastinating writing this last, final blog post. Beginnings are easy, natural to initiate—the horizon spreads out ahead, an ocean of possibility and potential. Endings, on the other hand, are tough.
On a cold, drizzly fall morning in Seattle almost a year and a half ago, I boarded a ship and changed my life forever. I left a comfortable life to travel the world.
I journied for fifteen months, visiting 35 countries spanning five continents. I explored underwater shipwrecks in Australia. I gold prospected in New Zealand. I prayed at temples in Indonesia. I drank strong, dark coffee in the mountains of Vietnam. I rode bullet trains in Japan. I walked through some of the poorest slums in India. I bought an entire leg of prosciutto in Italy. I drank scotch in Scotland. I saw the sprawling, endless savannas of Africa. I fulfilled a lifelong dream of seeing the world.
After all these adventures, the trip is finished. I did what I set out to do. I saw the world. And now, I’m home.
I began this blog in order to document my journey, and to share glimpses of my wanderlust travels with the people I love. Reading back through the prior posts, chuckling here, choking up there, remembering every detail, I hope, and believe I achieved that goal. It’s such a long road I’ve been walking on.
At the onset of my trip I revisited an old pastime of drawing maps, and on a blank sheet of paper, I began to sketch the world.
Since then, every stop along the way, I filled the blank recesses of the page with detail. As the months went on, the white paper, just like my experience, took on life, and vibrance, and meaning. Here is a map that will forever be carved into my heart:
How do I feel, now that the trip is over?
Well, the feelings are mixed. I am still getting my head on straight and find myself, often, daydreaming of far off lands. And, oddly enough, it’s been tough getting used to sleeping in the same bed. But in truth, its good to be home.
As some might have noticed, I’m a Tolkien fan, and especially of the sense of adventure that characterizes his work. Right before leaving the country and beginning my trip, my sister sent me a Bilbo Baggins meme, with him running out the door saying “I’m going on an adventure!”
Tolkien’s protagonist does indeed embark upon an epic adventure. He climbs mountains, hikes the great forests, finds his courage and, despite a few stumbles upon the way, makes his way back home. In the end he’s proud of his accomplishments, but happy to have his pocket hankerchief and enjoy the comforts of home.
Now that my trip is all said and done, I feel a bit that way. It’s wonderful to explore the world, vast and diverse as it is, but it is also lovely to come home to where you belong. One can touch the stars, but one must always remember the ladder on which one stands.
Here’s a photo taken a few days prior to my departure:
And the next is one taken right after I got home.
To quote the wise old Mr. Tolkien one last time:
Roads go ever on and on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Many, many years ago, I heard a something that always stuck with me. It went along these lines:
“The majority of people in this world are asleep. However, there are a few–a precious few–that are awake, and they live in a state of constant awe of the beauty and majesty of the world which surrounds them.”
It is easy to go onto autopilot. It’s natural. We all do it, in life.
Part of the beauty of travel is that you are forced to wake up, to be aware, to be alive, to look around you, to smell the flowers, to say yes.
Me? I have not undergone some complete metamorphis as a result of my travels. I’m still the same old Nick. I really am.
But I am changed. I have grown. I did learn. I forced my bleary eyes open, and had a peek around.
Having traveled, would I recommend it to others?
It is the hardest, funnest, most enriching and rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
But, to those considering it, I will say this:
Be less naive.
Trust yourself, and your instincts.
Always, always consider what motivates someone, especially a stranger.
Think twice about which risks are worth taking.
Pursue your interests.
Be respectful, but firm.
Know that everything will change, and don’t expect to come back the same person.
Don’t forget, enjoy the ride.
Some of the most powerful, moving scenes I witnessed throughout my travels were sunrises and sunsets.
New beginnings, and endings.
I watched them from a balcony of a ship in the middle of the pacific ocean, thousands of miles from any land.
I watched them alongside ancient spirits in New Zealand.
I watched them sitting in the warm sand in Thailand, and bundled up against the chill wind atop mountains in Japan.
I watched the sun rise over the vast deserts of Namibia, and set in flames over the Zambezi river.
Endings and beginnings, beginnings and endings.
Here at the end of my trip, although things didn’t all work out as planned, although the highest of highs came with some crashing lows, looking back, I feel truly blessed, and grateful. I feel like there’s still so much to say, but, looking back, I think I’ve already said it.
Thanks to all for following the blog, and joining me along the way. Friends, family, contacts and characters, you’ve made a special impact on the fabric of my soul that I shall never forget. My wanderlust remains a part of my being, a curiosity, a call to see the world and understand the rhythm of its heart. But for now, I’m pleased to stay put, and begin the next great adventure.
This will be my last post to close the loop for the present.
(Though, never say never. Perhaps I will find some bonus material down the line.)
My thanks to all, and please contact me if you should ever need help, support, or just want to talk.
A few months ago, I painted this picture onto the last page of my travel Moleskine.
Traveler, there is no road, only a ship’s wake on the sea.
Sunrise, or sunset?
I’ll leave it to you.