Ten Years A Traveler
A selfie at Horseshoe Bend on the first Walkabout - December 2012
Ten years ago today, January 5, 2013, I returned from an almost-cross-country, mostly-solo two week road trip. The trip was born out of a sudden change in family holiday plans and a desire to practice my new hobby of still photography in some spectacular locations. I drove from Charlotte, NC to New Orleans and the bayous of Louisiana, through a Texas ice storm to the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park, then back home through Roswell, Carlsbad Caverns, Austin, Memphis and Knoxville.
But that trip... changed something in me. I left on a whim, but returned a traveler. No longer satisfied spending vacation time in familiar places, no longer willing to wait for other people to make the time to come along. I came back with a curiosity about other places and other people... and a little more confidence that if need be, I could do it alone. I called that trip my 'Walkabout'. Since that one, there have been 13 more.
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic - October 2016
Solo travel can be a bit of an intimidating hill to climb. Concerns about language barriers, crime, illness, transportation and accommodations are the first to pop up... followed by worries about loneliness and boredom.
It took me a little while to conquer that hill: the second 'Walkabout' was a 'buddy road trip' up the West Coast, the third more than 18 months later as a quick trip (that was booked, then cancelled, then booked as a shorter trip) to Madrid and Lisbon, two of the most accommodating cities in Western Europe.
But the confidence started taking hold there... and since then I've ventured into places like Cuba, Morocco, Peru, Turkey, India and Nepal. Sometimes on organized tours, sometimes solo.
Pisco sours with new friends in Lima, Peru - April 2019
Sure, there have been bumps in the road and annoyances. Canceled flights on the way to Iceland and on the way home from Greece... missing a bus because I couldn't read the signs in Prague. Getting scammed in Budapest, getting lost in Chefchaouen. Aggressive rug salesmen in Istanbul, aggressive tuk tuk drivers in Delhi.
But through all of it... every single one of the 14 'Walkabouts' so far has been an amazing experience. Exploring different cultures, cuisines and faiths. Meeting people from all over the world. Seeing life through the eyes of those suffering under both communism (Cuba) and extreme far-right nationalism (Hungary, Turkey). I've been on planes, trains, automobiles, ferries, tuk tuks, bicycle rickshaws and hot air balloons.
On the back of bicycle rickshaw in Varanasi, India - November 2022
I guess the point is... if travel is something you're interested in... JUST DO IT! Don't wait for other people to make themselves available, and don't wait to save enough money for a luxury cruise. Just. Go. If the solo part intimidates you, start with a long weekend in a nearby destination and go from there. If you're worried about planning where to go and how to get there, book a group tour and let someone else do all the work. If it's expense, find a budget destination (Latin America, Eastern Europe, parts of south Asia) and stay in hostels (they aren't just for young folks anymore).
I hear from friends all the time about how they're envious of my adventures. But the god's honest truth is it isn't magic. I'd say I get an average amount of vacation time per year (for an American), and I'm certainly not what anyone would call 'wealthy'. But exploring the world and its people is something that has become important to me over the last ten years, so I make it a priority.
The bottom line is if you want to travel you can find a way to do it. After all, you can always make more money, but you're not guaranteed more time.