WHY I AM GOING ON THIS TRIP
On Saturday afternoon I headed over to Café Névé to sip coffee and chat with a couple of friends. It was also the opportunity to meet “the new girlfriend” (Miss K) of one of my pals.
After some light introductions and a couple sips of café au lait, Miss K turned to me and asked me innocently, “So why are you going on this year-long trip?”
The rest of us at the table giggled at the enormity and bluntness of the interrogation. The meta-ness of the question was actually a bit alarming. Miss K blushed, and then rephrased the question, “Well, are you leaving because you’re experiencing some sort of malaise that you would like to escape from?”
Despite my reaction, I deemed it an extremely valid question.
Many people in my life haven’t inquired specifically into “why” I am traveling. Most of them have filed it effortlessly under “Crazy shit that Daniel Baylis does” and have been simply able to infer a couple great reasons for traveling. This is perfectly acceptable behavior from friends and family.
The beauty of Miss K’s question, however, was that she didn’t want to know THE reasons for traveling; she wanted to know MY reasons for traveling. It was a large yet intimate inquiry that was posed with the most earnest of intentions – “There are many motives to travel, but what are yours?”
I feel like addressing this question is like passing through a mandatory customs checkpoint at the airport. The only difference is that I desire the personal search. I want the interrogation for the motivations and intentions that I carry with me as I travel.
So I’ve sat down and made them explicit.
I suppose I have many reasons (and non-reasons) to why I am embarking on this trip. These are some of the most important ones:
I have a thirst for seeing how other people live. I’ve always strived to be a sophisticated and informed human being. (I’ll let you judge whether or not I’m actually worthy of those adjectives). I want to engage with the world (whether at home or on the road) in a way that will increase my opportunity for deeper understanding. After remaining geographically static for seven years, I believe travel will be a perfect way to expand my human experience.
I want to take my career to the next level. To be honest, I don’t actually know what “the next level” is going to look like. But I want to be the guy who spent a year living out of a backpack, visiting six continents while exchanging work for food and accommodation. I have a hope/faith that this experience will launch me into something that I can’t yet define. This excites and frightens me.
My trip is not an escape from malaise. My feet are certainly itchy. But to say I have “malaise” with my current life would be to devalue the amazing elements that are present: a fun job, a great apartment, and most importantly, an amazing community of people that continue to cheer me on. Any “malaise” would stem from bougie-over-privileged whining, of which I try to avoid. Perhaps on some level the trip is however a form of malaise prevention.
I’m going because I can. There needs to be countless variables aligned to make a year of solo world travel possible. My personal health is good. My family’s health is good. I’m not in a committed long-term relationship. I have no remaining loans to pay: no mortgage, no car payments, no mafia indebtedness. I have the basic skills to navigate international systems. I have people that are cheering me on. If don’t do this trip now, then when would I?
I want to be a storyteller. My best writing comes from throwing myself in situations where I am challenged (for instance, running a marathon). If my trip functions smoothly, that will be lovely. If I’m faced with tons of challenges, then my writing will be that much richer. I travel for fodder.
I am choosing a more “hands on” Master’s degree. Formal education is often a great choice, and I’ve certainly invested time and money in this option. But at the moment, I question my ability to focus in a structured academic environment. I view my trip as an informal Master’s degree in international travel and community engagement. I won’t get a piece of paper that certifies my studies, per say, but I will certainly have the financial debt to prove it.
This is not a vacation/I hope to learn new skills. As I’ve talked about my travels with friends and acquaintances, the word “vacation” has been mistakenly used to describe my upcoming year. I’m quick to assert that a vacation involves sitting one’s arse on a beach. That’s not what will be happening. I will have 30-hour workweeks (minimum) with the various people and organizations that will host me. I hope to acquire knowledge and skills in organic farming, running guesthouses/ashrams and aiding community-driven initiatives, as well as continued development in photography, video and writing.
Life is going to change. I might as well author my change. Ancient Greek historian Herodotus is famous for saying, “There is nothing permanent except change.” These words have always resonated with me. I can’t guarantee that I will always have my lovely job and wonderful apartment; budgets change and fires happen. I prefer to be proactive, rather than reactive, if possible, with the changes in my life. My life will constantly be in a state of renovations, and choosing to travel is my current implementation of this belief.
Over the past few weeks I’ve spent a lot of time in “production” or “go” mode.
It’s easy for me to get lost in the process of making the trip actually happen: booking tickets, buying travel insurance, packing up my apartment, visiting the bank, redesigning my website, . There are a many administrative details of which to take care.
Thank you Miss K for posing the bigger question, and for bringing me out of my head and into my heart. It has been the perfect opportunity to reconnect with the core purpose(s) of my trip.
As I proceed, I encourage you, my generous reader, to halt me from time to time and invite me to go through a checkpoint: challenge me, pose me a question,