The world is the perfect size to bring us together yet keep us apart

Long-term travel has long been romanticized by the likes of Elite Daily or the average travel blog.

And clearly, I agree. Travel is awesome.

I’m such a curious person and there are always more places to see, more things to learn, more interesting people to meet. I love the perspective travel can give you. However it also breaks my heart and I don’t see travel as the end game or the ultimate lifestyle.

And like any other lifestyle, it comes with both positives and negatives – and these aren’t often shown on the internet.

While in a fit of homesickness, I actually wrote a list of all the negatives or bad things that have happened to me since I’ve been away from home. However I don’t really want to subject anyone to that list in its entirety (especially without the positives), or dissuade anyone.

Instead I really want to share my most favourite, favourite, article about lessons learned from travel. (HERE IT IS).

Why is it my favourite? Because its absolutely real, I can relate to each point and I don’t feel that it is try to ‘sell travel’ to it’s audience.

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In a nutshell this guy, Mark Manson, travelled the world for five years and writes of the following five life lessons gained.

  1. Happiness is common – Human Dignity is not.
  2. Travel gives you a perspective on life, but limits your ability to commit to things.
  3. The best part of the culture/country is also usually the worst (Side note: Although not the point, I read that Spanish food is responsible for most cases of food poisoning in tourists not India!
  4. 4. The majority of the planet doesn’t care what you say or do (so just be who you are)
  5. 5. The more you travel the more you lose sight of who you are.

But please read the article! Mark Manson is much more eloquent, articulate and insightful than I am, and those points will make a lot more sense on his site.

2. Is the worst, yet the best.

I feel like I’m a tourist, transient in other peoples lives – getting to view theirs without really building my own. I love to get to know interesting people well, but conversely what I hate the most in the world are goodbyes.

I’m at a stage where I want to start working towards things, and building a life other people would be interested in. However I still want to see the world, and I’m both scared of the temporary and the permanent. I’m still torn – I’m trying to decide whether to go to Argentina and teach English or stay home and get a permanent job.

Anyway. I’m not sure what the point is. In my opinion travel isn’t the utopia, or end goal. Yet it is by all means fun, rewarding and educational (woohoo I feel educational is a cool word)

Despite this you may have to say goodbyes you dont want to say, or go to the dentist, miss more than one place at the same time, be unable to fully support friends/family or worry about money. Im not saying don’t do it – just don’t expect perfection.

The first shower after 10 days is the best shower you’ll ever have

Sometimes when I’m acting ‘all professional’ in my current office work, I like to think about the time that I lived in an un-powered caravan and didn’t shower for 10 days. Other times I think about the times I hitch-hiked for groceries. Or any number of strange situations I shouldn’t attach my name to on the internet.

Haha. You people don’t know me. I’m even wearing makeup!  You have no idea…

NB: I would never voluntarily avoid showering for 10 days. Except in those cases where the outside temperature and the (deliciously chilled mountain) water is just above freezing and there is no way of getting dry.

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Deciding what to do the week before. I chose the most uncomfortable option

Back in October/November I decided that I would like to have the experience of living and working in Portugal as well as the experience of living on a farm. I was able to organise working on a Permaculture farm through Workaway, although this farm was also advertised on WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms). If you are looking for similar projects you are probably better off looking there.

The idea behind ‘WWOOFing’ is that one works for 4-6 hours per day on a farm in exchange for food and accommodation. This supplies a farmer with cheap labour yet, also allows for a ‘worldwide’ spread of (local) knowledge and ideas on organic and sustainable farming practises. As with all other work exchanges, it also allows for an excellent cultural exchange and is a means for budget travellers to travel longer and see places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

“Permaculture” is organic farming taken one step further. It is hard to find a simple definition on the internet, so I will try my best. It is an integrated whole-systems approach that works with, and involves people, society and nature to ensure the sustainability of agriculture. Was that clear? 🙂

Working hard

The particular farm I chose to work on was un-powered. I don’t mind feeling disconnected from time-to-time, so I thought this would be three weeks of labour and learning, with limited facebook access while eating very fresh, organic, vegetarian food. WORLDS CHEAPEST DETOX.

Yet I didn’t consider the real consequences of the lack of power before signing up.

No hot water. No light. No getting dry. No warmth.

I think I would have been fine if it had been summer rather than late Autumn.

Despite that I’m glad I did it. I’m all for diving into experiences head first, just to see how they turn out. If I hadn’t gone I wouldn’t be able to say I’ve done the following:

  • Showered in 5C water in 5C temperature, and then avoided showering for ~10 day

  • Gone on a hr long road trip for the sole purpose of paying for a hot shower
  • Slept in my ‘holey’ caravan with all my clothes on each night so I was warm enough to sleep (another ‘what am I doing with my life’ moment)

  • Was vegetarian for 2.5 weeks, ate plants I’d never seen and felt absolutely fine.

  • Lived with people who produced 95% of the food they ate, and only worked a few months of the year.

  • Done the dishes for 3 meals, for 8 people outside – at the outside sink, in the rain.

  • Not been able to get dry for hours due to the cold temperature and lack of power.

  • Spoke to the son (of the English immigrant) who said his favourite subject at school was P.E. because he got a free hot shower afterwards. He didn’t shower at home in winter.

  • Walked 45 minutes almost every day to the nearest town so I could sit in front of a fire and get dry, connect to the internet and power and drink 0.50 euro cent coffees (x2) in the little cafe where no English was spoken.

  • Been pitied by the old Portuguese lady who owned the cafe. She would gift us with things like roasted chestnuts and biscuits (because in her mind we’d have to be pretty poor to be working on a Portuguese farm in the middle of nowhere)

  • Seen the absolutely most beautiful scenery on this walk into town, which I could never take a photo of – because my phone would always be dead by this time.

  • Not been able to eat goat cheese,  because it smelt too much like the goats from which it came. That, and the smell reminded me of cleaning all their shit (‘mucking out’) out of their ‘enclosure’.

chestnuts

The trip back into civilization (aka Porto)  was a journey in itself. I had to navigate a taxi, bus and a train while at my peak homelessness appearance. I was just incredibly thankful for the beanie (toque/hat) that I had to hide the 10 day grease on my hair that normally needs to be washed daily. The whole journey is etched in my mind and the shower anticipation was incredible.

Once I returned to society I was just so unbelievably, incredibly happy just to be in a state of mundane normalcy.

Powered, showered warm and with a salty, greasy ham and cheese sandwich in hand I did not venture outside the hostel for 1.5 days.