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It’s come full circle.

There I was writing a freelance article when I realized that today marks 1, 460 days on the road.

If you were here at the beginning, I did one post, the one that recounted the first year of this personal journey that suddenly became a public display.

I opened up a vein to you and here we are again, four years later.

I was sure I wouldn’t last this long. There were so many self doubting moments when I’d seriously ponder booking a ticket home and forgetting the whole thing.

I had a good run, just pack it in.

Ultimately my mind came up blank on what I’d exactly do if I came home, knowing that even at my darkest moments, I couldn’t go backwards.

It was always about moving forwards.

In that first anniversary post, I referred to the ‘shake and slap’ syndrome, the intense desire to wake up my life — so what is the shakedown after four years then? The same or amazingly different?

Calgary, Canada - 2014

Calgary, Canada – 2014

Happiness

What I’ve found in the last two years is not so much happiness, but peace. What you will discover in this lifestyle is that happiness is not bound to objects. In fact, I toss away material things without much thought, except a favorite shirt or two. But really, go buy a new one in a new country. It’s that simple.

If anything, happiness is connected to experiences and people. Whether I’m meeting up with a reader in whatever city I’m in or sharing with colleagues at a conference, I seek connection more and more. It’s what keeps me rooted to the ground.

Four years ago I had an idea of happiness lodged in my head, that I could easily find it in any travel adventure I undertook, but it was not true. Travel in itself does not make one delirious with laughing gas.

I gave myself purpose and happiness came, albeit in ebbs and flows, but it will still be an anchor that I can return to again and again. It didn’t come from seeing Iguazu Falls or from a bottomless glass of Chinese baijiu, but inside of me. Travel is the trimmings to whatever it is I’m doing.

We think that happiness is about obtaining or having, never seeing that it’s really about watching and listening to yourself.

Sounds pretentious, kind of theoretical and silly, but when have I ever lied to you?

Delhi, India - 2010

Delhi, India – 2010

Friends

My biggest fear was losing all my friends. Or worse, that I couldn’t make any at all out there. But I found that I put more effort into keeping in touch with the ones that matter, and because of this effort, my friendships from home have gotten deeper and stronger. There are certain sects of people I’ve lost contact with for sure – but I’ll be frank, I don’t miss ’em. If I did, I’d dial into Skype and seek them out.

In my lifestyle, I don’t have time for keeping up appearances. Basically, I keep it real and honest as much as possible.

Traveling around is another matter. I’ve come to realize that I can have an immersive 10 minute conversation with a hosteller and then never see them again, or hit up a social media friend in Belgium, spending a few days being shown around and swapping tales.

My travel friendships are blunt, fast but lasting too. I know in the back of my mind that our status is reciprocal. I look them up; they look me up. Everybody’s kosher.

There are times I do want to be alone for longer periods of time to decompress, so I might hold back from engaging where ever I am. The key is to know what you need when it comes to solitude or camaraderie.

Hapao Rice Terraces, Philippines - 2011

Hapao Rice Terraces, Philippines – 2011

Love

It was August 2012 when my sandals slapped against the cobblestones leading to Sacré Cœur. Paris was a relentless wall of heat that no one could escape, even in the shade. My mood matched the sticky humidity trickling into the crevices of my body — uncomfortable and miserable. If I had been touring around with someone they would have scolded me, reminding me that I had just finished an astounding feat, running with the bulls in Pamplona with three other women and shouldn’t that lighten me up?

Hell no, I was in the throes of depression. Pamplona had been about conquering my fear of dying by a bull’s horn, and then watching another potential relationship sputter out viscously before it could even begin. Relationship death.

I had started a pattern of choosing douchebags, men who seemed so exciting and exhilarating because they traveled, wrote about it or surfed. But no, they were simply douchebags.

A sick addiction to bad boys that gives my hands tremors and leaves my mouth dry with wanting.  So, now I choose to wait. To continue seeking out connections that leave my belly somersaulting with happiness, paying attention to the important details. Not all men who travel are jerks and not all of them want easy sex.

Granada, Spain - 2012

Granada, Spain – 2012

Stability

My friend and I were talking plans. Mine, to be exact. She wanted to know what I was going to do after leaving Vancouver. I gave my usual honest answer of “I don’t know”. She cringed, exclaiming how she couldn’t live like that, with the uncertainty of not knowing.

But I like not knowing. My former life in Vancouver was so routine that I could do it all half asleep. I chose this path to be awake to everything. I certainly don’t travel as fast as I use to, preferring to hunker in a spot for at least a few months but stability is borne from my gut. I can calmly navigate a security line just as much as I do trying to find my hotel for the night. Throwing in an element of the unknown always spices things up.

Four years has taught me that stability is not a place, but a mindset.

Bangkok, Thailand - 2013

Bangkok, Thailand – 2013

Money

Money is the one ingredient you cannot travel without. It’s what we all need to get going. I can now say with confidence that even though I earn much less than I did before, my fulfillment level is at an all time high.

My concept of quality has altered drastically too. I’d rather spend money on an experience with lots of emotional input than on an inanimate object that gives me a short lived thrill the day I bought it.

My point is, I still have some. I still earn some. And I’ll keep adapting to continue being able to have my freedom. Hence all my wicked projects that are upcoming.

Freedom is not always wrapped up in money you know, it can be centred on choices. I relish having many.

Finally

I’ve come to an emotional and physical upswing. I still get to write everyday and I’m not sick of it. My brother finally told me he’s proud of me. What’s surrounding me is a network of colleagues and friends I can count on. Believe it or not, I never feel lonely. Work or play, is there when I want, in the amounts that I need. I’m far from done seeing what’s out there, what could be.

Back to Calgary - 2014

Back to Calgary – 2014

This life choice is still in its infancy, a blazing new outlook on how to work and live.

Choosing a shakedown to your life is about not being idle, uninterested or uninteresting. Though travel is not easy at times, it will brand you forever.

I definitely wear my scars with pride — four years worth of them.