Really, what else is travel for?
ASTORIA, NYC- I’ve basically been on sabbatical for the past three years. You know the story. I still accomplished some things — I edited two books, helped start a successful cable show, started a film company, filmed some crazy shit, spent the pandemic going to Mexico and Florida — but it was all very different things than what I was doing for the previous twenty years, where my focus was all about traveling and telling the stories of what I find — where I was the main character in the story.
The world is now completely open again. Everyone knows that the snake oil really was, in fact, snake oil — so much so that multiple countries have basically banned it — and there is no longer a threat of being trapped somewhere, forced to quarantine, or of being taken away by the Big Whites. The gates are again wide open and I can walk right through them, back into the life I had known before.
But do I want to?
That’s what I’m going to Puerto Rico to figure out. It’s a simple, cheap trip. I actually selected it because it was the cheapest flight that I could find to somewhere that seemed interesting. I have to admit that I’ve become a little apprehensive that I may not have it in me anymore, that I may have lost the Wanderlust, in the three years that I’ve basically been living the sedentary life. So before embedding myself deep in Central Asia on a research project with a stuffed schedule that I invested thousands into I want to make sure I want to go back to this way of life.
Part of this apprehension comes from a trip to Mexico I took with my wife last year. We went to a fun, niche resort in Cancun, and then traveled like normal to Tulum. While I enjoyed the time with my wife, the travel experience was horrible. I didn’t find charm in the grimy bus stations, I didn’t feel relaxed riding in busses on packed highways that seriously went slower than bicycles, I found the restaurants barf-able and and the taxis offensively overpriced. I didn’t enjoy the journey — and I had no idea how I ever could have for a 20 year block of life. I wasn’t sure if I had entered another phase of life that I couldn’t come back from or if Tulum really is that bad.
So I’m going to Puerto Rico to see if the passion for the open road can be rekindled or if it’s gone for good and I should just move on and do other things …
I’m also curious to see how I will respond to having to eat travel food again. Restaurant food is garbage all over the world. It’s usually carb and sugar heavy, made with the lowest quality ingredients, slathered in seed oils, and stored / packaged / served in endocrine-disrupting plastics. I now only eat meat, organs, eggs, raw dairy, and fruit. So no vegetables, grains, seeds, refined sugar, processed foods … basically, the stuff that makes up 90% of the diets of the entire planet. I am not a foodie. Obviously, I will need to adapt. Travel is about adaption. But do I want to?
I can do anything I want. I’m not bound by precedent or identity or expectation. Life is about living each phase fully, not about doing the same thing endlessly merely because that’s what you’ve always done.
But one thing that bothers me are the mistakes that I’ve made in those years on the road. During my “sabbatical” I’ve had the opportunity to think about all the things in my career that I didn’t do well, that I didn’t finish, that I failed at.
Why is it that whenever you look back on the past you only see the failures?
Probably because only seeing the failures is an opportunity to devise strategies as to how you would do things differently if you were to do them again. I guess it’s a productive process.
So over the past few years I’ve just been sitting here in NYC devising and re-devising ways to better ways to arrange and implement book projects, film projects journalism projects … I’ve come up with ways to better optimize my time when on research trips. I’ve thought about all those countries and places that I almost went to but didn’t — Uzbekistan, Romania (3x), Sarawak, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ningxia. I’ve thought about all the opportunities that I’ve had but didn’t put my all into or just didn’t do — such as a short book project with Penguin. I’ve thought about the languages that I didn’t achieve fluency in, such as Spanish.
I just don’t feel done yet. So much just seems incomplete or not good enough. Do I want to keep going, top things off, or start something new? Going out on the road to figure that out now.
What else is travel for?
About the Author: VBJ
I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. VBJ has written 3679 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii