Celebrating Four Years Of Travel

On November 30, I will be celebrating four years of travel.

New Zealand entry stamp

welcome to NZ

It’s hard to process and communicate such a long period of time succinctly. I wish I could wrap it up in a neat 500-word package and deliver it with a smile and a have a good day, but four years of travel isn’t tidy like that.

The significance of the past four years is further impacted because of the period of my life I’ve been traveling. On November 30, 2007, I was 22. Other people in their early to mid-20s are meeting their future spouses, marrying them, having kids with them, buying houses, and building up their careers. They have bills, credit cards, and car payments.

Me? I’ve swapped a mortgage for hotel stays, car notes for tickets on buses and planes, and as far as meeting a potential husband…. Yeah no.

I think back to my 22-year-old self with fondness. I remember the insuppressible excitement of quitting my job. How I felt when I hit the purchase button for a one-way ticket to Auckland. Trading my apartment for a backpack.

Getting rid of my belongings was the first step to liberation. Most of it ended up at Goodwill. I handed over my most prized possession, a carefully cultivated collection of hip hop mixtapes, to a random guy walking through my apartment complex.

first flat in New Zealand

my first apartment in Wellington

I remember settling into my first overseas flat in Wellington. At first, I found the Kiwi accent weird and the slang incomprehensible. I firmly stuck to my American way of speaking. Then I softened. I begin to appreciate the random words that were different and began to use them myself.

I became hooked on being a cultural chameleon. In Australia, I pronounced Melbourne the right way. In Indonesia, I shocked a taxi driver with the amount of Bahasa Indonesia I had picked up in my month-long stay. I’ve been mistaken for a local in half of the countries I’ve been to.

I’ve had roommates from six continents. I myself have traveled to five. I’ve learned Spanish. I’ve had to add more pages to my passport to accommodate new entry/exit stamps and visas.

I’ve made dozens of friends from all over the world. I’ve fallen for a few guys. I’ve pet tigers and lions, held koalas and snakes, fed wild monkeys, gotten up close to the sperm whale.

But the high is gone. The rush I used to get when touching down in a new city, throwing my bags next to my hostel bed, and running out to explore the place has vanished. After years of continuous travel, what was once thrilling is now ordinary. Riding in the back of a taxi from an airport to a hotel, I gaze out the windows not with adrenaline pumping through my veins, but just with interest.

I wander new streets with curiosity, but not enthusiasm. New signs, faces, restaurants, cafes – even though I haven’t been to this particular place, it feels familiar. It feels like I’ve done it all before.

I became aware of this phenomenon a year ago, when I traveled with my then boyfriend to Ecuador, which was his first time visiting a new country. I’ve never spent so much time with a newbie traveler before, and it was eye opening. I observed his paranoid precautions, his child-like wonderment at new experiences, his inadaptability and egocentrism. Was I like that in the beginning too?

I am sad that the high is gone. I often wonder if something is wrong with me. If these four years of a nomadic lifestyle, with no home base, have affected me in ways that only a fellow nomad could understand. I wonder if I will get over this hump and break through to another new and fresh level of travel.

When strangers casually ask me about myself, it makes me a little uncomfortable. Why are you here? No particular reason. Because I’m a nomad. They laugh. I used to feel challenged by this laugh to launch into a diatribe to prove that I am what I say I am. Now, I just grimace and change the subject.

I’m certainly not trying to make it sound like I am bitter or bored. I’m not. But reflecting on four years of travel, as I said, is messy. It makes me feel old, wise, young, and clueless all at once.

At the base of all of these feelings is one of pride. I’m proud that I endured all the challenges I have come across. Proud that I followed (and follow) my dream, despite its radicalism, despite what everyone else my age is doing. Proud of my growth, of how far I’ve come, of who I am.

Here’s to another four years.

23 Comments
  • Bruce Miller
    November 16, 2011

    As I reflect upon 30 years of playing by the script.   College, career, marriage, children, house, college, career, children’s tuition, and at age 52 I traveled with a friend to my first Latin American country.  I met friends from all over the world, I experienced openness and warmth, excitement, beauty that I had never seen both in people and in setting.  How I wish that I had the courage that you had at your age, and chosen to live beyond the script and enjoyed this incredible life that I had been given.  I am 55, not old, but old enough to see the best of my years behind me and
    that there is a stop sign down the road.  You are an inspiration Jamine, you are living the life.
    I love your blog

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    November 16, 2011

    Wow thanks Bruce! That means a lot to me. It’s never too late to enjoy life, and I’m glad you were able to experience something so new and exciting.

  • Dave from The Longest Way Home
    November 16, 2011

    I enjoyed reading this from a reflective standpoint. Really I did. It resonates with the few people out there really traveling long-term. 
    With so many desktop travel writers out there, it’s always rare to come across something that only a true long-term traveler can resonate with. The raw reality of emotion and physicality that comes with such travel. 

    A very different feeling to someone claiming they’ve been traveling continuously for X amount of years. While in reality they work in an office 340 days a year. Or, possibly still with their parents. 

    Jasmine, I can’t give you answers, nor do I know if you are looking for them. I think things like this come from within. 

    But if you do a search for my article “the five stages of long-term travel” it might resonate with you too. And maybe you can get a heads up on what next year will be like :) 

    Again, I really enjoyed reading this.

  • David
    November 17, 2011

    hey Jasmine,

    Bruce is absolutely right. you’re a true inspiration and I salute you for having the guts to follow your heart! 

    To more travels :)

    Slainte

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    November 17, 2011

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for your comments, It’s always nice to know someone can relate. I’ve read your post (http://www.thelongestwayhome.com/blog/how-to-live-overseas/the-five-stages-of-long-term-travel/) which I’ve revisited since the first time and is an excellent resource. I hope you continue updating it so I know what’s ahead :)

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    November 17, 2011

    Thank you! Cheers to that :)

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    November 17, 2011

    Thanks Alex and happy anniversary to you!

    You have some great points here. I am definitely thinking about switching it up and maybe going to Colombia and studying for a year or so.

  • Stephen Dowe
    November 19, 2011

    Wow! I have always
    wanted to do exactly that. Be carefree and do things instinctively. I think
    what you are doing is vey inspiring especially to young people because this
    is a great way to explore new things! Fabulous!

  • Virusa11
    November 19, 2011

    This is truly
    refereshing; seeing a young woman take the dive into the unknown. Very brave
    and it is very rare to meet someone who would take a different course and
    make it happen.

  • Cdark85
    November 19, 2011

    I agree Randy.
    Jasmine is truly one in a million and that is something worth emulating
    especially by young people. Explore and experience the world before settling
    down.

  • Angela
    November 19, 2011

    Oh yeah! After
    reading this, I would definitely want to be a nomad myself. I believe this is
    something extraqordinary and lifre-changing. The world has so much to offer
    and I admire you for taking the steps toward self-exploration in a witty
    sense.

  • Ryen Williams
    November 19, 2011

    I love the way you
    sound. You sound really happy and contented after 4 years of living a nomadic
    life. I think this is pretty cool and I would like to try it out for myself.

  • Milly
    November 19, 2011

    I am such a travel
    buff myself and I share the very same experience of wander and excitement
    whenever I travel to some foreign land. I would love to travel with you one
    day. I think that would be pretty exciting!

  • Curt
    November 19, 2011

    I think it’s pretty
    amazing and attractive for a woman to be as adventurous and so in love with
    life and its surprises. You truly are some girl any guy would want to date or
    even marry. 

  • JARED
    November 19, 2011

    I can see the
    amazement of a child in you. And I wish I could be as daring as you have been
    for the past 4 years. You should never regret doing that; traveling the
    world; because that is what makes you stand out and that is beautiful.

  • Wii Expert
    November 19, 2011

    Pretty exciting
    post! I would love to get lost and find myself over and over again. That is
    the beauty of life; at its most daring sense.

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    November 19, 2011

    Thanks Jared :) I definitely don’t have any regrets about the past four years or any of my life for that matter.

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    November 19, 2011

    Haha thanks Curt, that’s very nice of you to say :)

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    November 19, 2011

    Hey Milly, just let me know if you’re ever in the same spot as me :)

  • Gareth Leonard
    November 22, 2011

    Cheers to 4 amazing years Jasmine! Hopefully we’ll cross paths within the next 4. All the best. 

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    November 22, 2011

    Thanks Gareth! I’m sure we will :)

  • Abhishek Roy
    December 20, 2012

    JASMINE — i cant say how much i envy travel bloggers … just one think i dont understand who sponsors you ??? how the hell you get money to travel ??? pls let me know atleast something … – abhishek.roy0283@gmail.com

  • Jasmine Stephenson
    December 21, 2012

    I work online – you can find out more here: jasminewanders.com/work-and-travel/

    :)

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