370. That's the number of days I spent traveling last year.
From my time in South America, Africa, Europe and Asia, here's a list of all of the things (big and small) my trip around the world taught me.
The entire cruise feels like some bizarre Milgram experiment designed to teach us about privilege; the very things that were too indulgent at the beginning for me to consider are coming too slowly by the end. I’m becoming the “You’re on vacation!” guy they keep telling me I am, when I’m so hungover from drinking that I don’t leave my cabin until 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
After six months of continuous travel, we've had quite a few adventures. Check out our top 5!
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I'm an introvert. Jess is an extrovert. What forms one of the strongest parts of our dynamic at home, can put us at odds on the road. When we are worn out on the road, Jess needs more interaction, I need less. How do we take care of eachother and still take care of ourselves while we travel?
The first month has been more challenging than I expected. I'm trying to find a routine that keeps me positive and active. Though what and where we are is amazing, I'm having a harder time taking care of myself and ensuring that I am productive and happy.
In 2011, I met a tall lanky boy named Nate at a fundraising event in Chicago. I called him by the wrong name, and he worked up the courage to ask for my number anyway. We hit it off and started dating.
A few months in, I freaked out.
Right before my move to Chicago, I'd gone through the toughest break up of my life. It turned my world upside down, and when I met Nate, I'd just started to feel normal and whole again.
When we started seeing each other, things got serious fast. We were spending almost every day together and started talking about moving in in the first couple of months. That was when I started to freak and wrote him a long e-mail about how hesitant I was to dream about a future with him given what had happened in my past.
This was his response:
So. Let me imagine some future things for you that would be nice.
We could have a little place in noble square. A little tiny kitchen with a tiny bedroom and a front room with windows for entertaining a few friends.
We could have a little back walk up where we could sit in the summer and drink wine in the dark and lily would lay on the floor next to us and sleep.
We could wake up on mornings and sit quietly on the couch and read and drink coffee. We could grow huge green plants and cover the walls with their leaves and we could breathe in their wet earth smell even through the driest winter.
We could be wrapped up in blankets and listen to traffic out the window and watch the snow fall in the halo of the street light. We could go out late in the crisp and silence of frozen air and walk until our noses burn and our toes ache.
We could sit and make plans and do figures and make a chart that measures money and we could watch it fill up. We could quietly decline another dinner date and agree with just our eyes that we'd rather keep our money. We could sit with books and maps and calendars and make reservations and book flights. We could wait at border crossings in hiking boots with backpacks, or swim in warm seas behind tall boats, we could order things by pointing and get drunk on a patio next to a roundabout and we could walk back to our hotel in the dark.
We could pick apples in the fall and ride bicycles all summer. We could stand in huge thick coats and hold each other by the moonlight while the lake ice creaks and shifts.
We could drive to little towns and sleep in tired beds and sit in little diners eating greasy food. We could walk through ancient ruins and stand on top of sky scrapers and hold hands and kiss each other on the neck.
We could see things we've never seen, get lost in unknown places. Have strangers point us home and take our picture.
Our walls could be full of pictures, our shelves all full of boxes and bowls, little animals and paintings, toys and books, ticket stubs and boarding passes and we could live in the space of that memory.
So you see how I never stood a chance, right?
Nate wrote me this long before we lived together. It was before we chose a tiny one bedroom in Noble Square (our old Chicago neighborhood) with a back step that we used to sit on and drink wine. He wrote this years before we decided to start saving for a trip around the world.
It was before we filled our apartment with maps and travel books and started to plan. Before we booked flights and hiked across border crossings in worn shoes with just packs on our backs. Long before we dove off rocky cliffs in Italy or drove through tiny towns in South Africa or climbed red dunes in Namibia.
Now, I'm sitting at my new table after a full year of making memories with my favorite person. My laptop is sitting on the bright orange table cloth we bought in a back alley in La Paz. I dropped my keys in the leather bowl we bought in Argentina. The road map we used to drive across Southern Africa is sitting on our bookshelf waiting to be framed. We've already hung the masks we bought in Thailand and the postcards we brought back from Vietnam.
When I stumbled across this old e-mail recently, I was shocked at how much Nate had predicted accurately, even down to the plants we had in our old Chicago apartment. When I read this to Nate, he didn't seem that surprised.
"See?" he said. "See what good things can happen when you visualize the future?"
The truth is, our trip didn't "just happen." We visualized and saved and planned for years. We forced that dream into fruition just as we're building and designing our lives all over again here in Denver.
This e-mail is a reminder to me that it's never silly to dream big. Who knows? Maybe it could all come true.