Two months ago today, I got in my tiny car just after the sun rose over the Winooski River and left Vermont for a long break. In the intervening weeks, I have traveled across the country and halfway around the world. Here's a scattershot of thoughts I keep returning to:
1. There is real pleasure in learning, and this is heightened when language barriers and lack of internet access curtail the amount and quality of information available to you.
2. Unfamiliar places are fantastically fertile ground for imagination. There is sensory enjoyment in wandering, looking up, soaking in smells and sounds and fantasizing about the millions of people over thousands of years who've walked through the places you're lingering in.
3. Travel is also an exercise in emotional intelligence. Irritations and low moments call on you to manage your reactions and expectations. The photo up top captured a moment of pure, unvarnished joy. That baby goat was so soft, so sweet tempered; the sky was intensely blue and sunny, the view down the valley astonishing. This is what travel adventures look like online: curated, cultivated happiness. The reality is, there are frustrations, extrinsic and self-imposed. There are days that don't go so well, and moments when irritations can escalate more quickly than they ought to. Learning to manage this is also part of travel - finding the most harmonious line between patience and action, between flexibility and decisiveness.
4. The phrase "visually stunning" has felt literal at moments. There are landscapes in China and Tibet that overwhelmed me in ways that there wasn't space in my brain to do anything but stare and try to memorize what I was seeing.
6. Normalcy is a shape-shifter and you can pretty much get used to anything.
7. Planning and thoughts of "what happens next?" are inescapable. Micro-term, near-term, long-term - you make the best decisions you can about where to go, how to get there, where to stay, what to eat and what to do based on the information you have available (and then laugh later when you realize how naive/prescient/lucky you might have been).