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Can you picture yourself hitchhiking across Myanmar or riding a motorbike full speed down the center of an active airport runway?
That’s alright. I couldn’t either.
Like many people, I thrived on stability and certainty. I enjoyed having future plans, committed relationships, house plants and a place to live. I was in a rush to live my dreams. I was scared of getting lost. But that was before I embarked on my trip seven months ago. I didn’t leave to escape or to find myself. I left to see the world.
I’m no longer in a rush and I am emboldened with a sense of freedom and fearlessness. I don’t dread getting lost anymore. In fact, I can’t get lost.
I’m at home wherever I am because I’m a nomad.
I didn’t always feel this way and my brother was quite surprised when he learned how I travel. We’d previously traveled together on a seven-week tour of Southeast Asia and I had every day planned down to the minute. Now, I don’t plan a thing.
On the first day of my open-ended trip around the world, I met a Spanish guy named Miguel who changed the way I think about travel forever. One day Miguel suggested that we try hitchhiking somewhere and, being open to new things, I acquiesced. “Should I look for a place to stay when we get there?” I asked Miguel.
“Dios proveerá,” he responded. “God will provide.”
I spent the next two weeks hitchhiking across Indonesia with Miguel and things always worked out. We survived a frigid night atop a volcano with nothing more than a small fire and a bar of chocolate to keep us warm. Having nowhere to go, we tried hitchhiking with a sign that just said “pantai,” which means “beach” in Indonesian. After several rides down from the volcano, one man said it was only 20 minutes to the coast but he would take us all the way to the neighboring island of Bali if we wanted.
Having no plans or obligations made it easy for us to join him. He dropped us in north Bali and, after looking for Bali villas, it turned out to be a bust. Not knowing where else to go, we started hitchhiking with two new cardboard signs: “dimanapun” (anywhere) and “bersama” (together). It’s amazing, the experiences you have and the kindness you find in other people when you’re traveling without a plan.
Several months later I was traveling in Myanmar with a friend from back home and, before ascending to a mountaintop temple, my friend asked if we should pay a driver to wait at the bottom to take us back to town when we came down. I repeated Miguel’s line of “Dios proveerá.” I asked him, “What if there are two beautiful ladies at the top waiting with a car to take us back down?”
Of course, we didn’t meet any beautiful ladies but we did meet a monk who needed help registering for an English class, which I offered to assist him with. Afterwards, the monk took us down from the temple, to where there was a ride waiting.
Somehow, things always seem to work out.
It was around the time I was in Myanmar when I lost all fear and began to embrace the unknown. That’s when I stopped feeling like a traveler and started feeling like a nomad. Rather than traveling through a place I felt as though I was temporarily living in a place–more connected to the locals, and they more connected to me.
Traveling as a nomad makes me feel free and allows me to experience foreign cultures in a way I couldn’t otherwise. It gives me a feeling I can’t explain. Like love, it’s something people just have to experience on their own. I think everyone should experience the liberation of a nomadic life, to know that less really can mean more and that it’s not things that make you happy but experiences.
You don’t have to hitchhike or get rid of all of your possessions to be free. Try entering into a foreign situation with no plan. Learn to be more open and take things as they come. People will show you tremendous generosity if you let them, and life-changing experiences will present themselves if you’re open to them.
Travel far, worry less and do more. Things always tend to work out as they should.