Reflections on 3 months of travel - and what's next

When I decided to travel alone for 3 months, I honestly wasn't sure I could do it. I was equal parts excited and anxious - but I knew I would regret it if I didn't try. And I can't describe how happy I am that I gave it a shot! I'm so glad I didn't give into the fear, the anxiety, or the pressure (from myself) to do the adult thing and just get another job and keep working my way up the corporate ladder. It's not going to be the right decision (or even a possibility) for everyone, and there were occasional moments both during my trip and after (when I was 33 years old, unemployed and living with my mom...) when I questioned whether I should have done it. But with four months of reflection - and 2 of gainful employment - there is now no question in my mind that it was one of the best things I've ever done in my life.

Lessons Learned 
  • Perhaps the most important lesson I learned is simply that I CAN DO THIS. I can travel alone, I can make new friends, I can explore the world on my own - and I fully plan to continue to do so. How freeing to know I trust myself now with my own adventures! Friends, that doesn't mean I don't want you to join me! ;-) But I'm so happy knowing that I don't have to wait to find a travel buddy before I go somewhere that's calling to me. 

  • While not a new lesson, still an important one: we live in a world full of media-driven fear-mongering, so I need constant reminders that the world is GOOD. People are good. Not all of them, but the vast majority. As a woman traveling alone, I often felt at the mercy of other people's goodness (or lack thereof) - and wow did they come through for me. I experienced so much kindness and generosity on my travels that it makes me feel bad for ever doubting that it existed. 
Birthday celebration with friends in Georgia.

New friends in Iran

  • It's a small world after all: The more I travel, the smaller the world feels. There is so much beautiful diversity, but we are also alike in so many ways. I traveled in 4 countries where they speak 4 different languages and practice 4 different religions - and yet, I found more similarities than differences. I love the fact that I can be somewhere totally new and foreign and still find things that make me feel right at home, whether it's a familiar ingredient in a meal, a word that sounds the same, or a connection with a new friend over a shared pop culture reference. And now who has the It's a small world song stuck in their head? Just me??
Tea is my universal comfort drink.

Would I do it again? 

If you've been reading the blog, there's no surprise here - in a heartbeat. The more I look back on it, the more I realize how incredibly lucky I was to have this opportunity. I will probably do a few things differently the next time around, though (and there WILL be a next time!).
  • Shorter trip: It was such a gift to have as much time as I did, but I think that personally my ideal trip would be somewhere around a month to 6 weeks. 
  • Smaller scope: Focus on one or two countries at a time. I really enjoyed the 6 weeks that I had in Georgia to get to know the country in greater depth, learn some of the language, and make friends.
Research shows that one of the biggest happiness boosts of vacations comes from the anticipation of the vacation. I did a lot of research before my first stop, Georgia, and spent time studying the language, but each country after that got progressively less attention. I chose to be present in the place that I was in, instead of on the internet doing research for the next place, but at the cost of that joy that comes with the planning and anticipation.

On the flip side, the flight home is normally when I do a lot of processing and reflection of the journey I've just taken. When my flights instead took me straight to a new place to explore, I lost a lot of that opportunity for reflection. I was only a few days into my Iran trip and Georgia already felt a world away. It wasn't until I wrote the blog post saying goodbye to Georgia that I really got to process some of the emotions I felt upon leaving. I tried to do a little better leaving Iran by making space on the flight to reflect, but that was only a couple of hours and then I dove head-first into Turkey.

I travel to experience the world but also to learn things about myself - and in order to do that optimally, I need time and space for both preparation and processing. 

What's Next

In January I moved to Washington DC for a new job with an international development agency. I'm starting to explore the city, and will also be traveling to Ghana a fair amount for work (I'm there right now!) - so I will continue to update the blog occasionally with stories from those and other trips and general musings on life. Also, if there's something you feel like I missed or you'd like to hear more about from this trip  - leave me a note in the comments!  Sign up for the RSS feed (on the sidebar or link on the About page) if you want to be notified when I make a post (I'll continue to cross-post on Facebook and twitter too)!

My main view in Ghana has been that of my laptop screen.
Thanks everyone for joining me on this journey - I've really enjoyed trying to capture some of my experiences to share with you all!

xoxo Mary 


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