I’m a cautious person. I plan things. I plan everything. I’m scared of things. Actually . . . I’m scared of everything. Failing. Heights. Bees. People hating me. Bees. God, I am so afraid of bees. But more than anything, I fear change. So when my fiancee suggested that we spend the first year of our married life traveling, it’s a bit of a shocker that I, without hesitation, said “yes.”
Or maybe it’s not so surprising. As I now know, wanting to see the world doesn’t mean you don’t like your world. It just means you’re curious. We weren’t searching for something we lacked; in fact, we had all the reasons to stay put. We were madly in love, had good jobs, a beautiful home in a wonderful urban neighborhood, the cutest dog anyone could ask for, and an incredible network of friends and family. We didn’t want to “escape”: we wanted to experience. And experience we did.
In our first year of marriage, we went from Kauai, Hawaii to Bangkok to Sukhothai to Chiang Mai to Koh Lanta to Koh Phi Phi to Singapore to Seminyak to Ubud to Ahmed to Candidasa to Osaka to Kauai and back to San Diego. And then we were in Buenos Aires . . . and then to Rome, Umbria, Florence, Liguria, Montepulciano, Provence, and Bologna. We hiked to secret waterfalls and secret beaches and secret caves. We snorkeled with turtles and the most gorgeous tropical fish. We learned to make Thai curries. We wandered markets and tried fruits we had never seen (and didn’t know how to eat). We tried every bit of street food we could find room for in our stomachs. We drank beers with people we would never see again: people from all over the world, and sometimes, who didn’t speak the same language as us. We saw beautiful, majestic, inspiring, and humbling temples and churches.
We walked through a poppy field in Italy during the spring, with medieval hill-towns in the background. We tasted wine with the Andes as a backdrop. We saw monuments, works of art, and buildings that indeed lived up to every bit of hype. We chanced upon festivals in Italian villages where everyone was dressed in character and we felt transported back in time; we accidentally discovered a wine and cheese festival in Tuscany (and another in Umbria) that left us full, happy, and absolutely speechless. (“Seriously . . . what just happened??”) We took horse-drawn carriage rides through vineyards; we hiked through miles of grapevines just to get to a town where someone was happy to serve us his specialty, and just as happy to drive us back home, chatting all the way in Italian. We rode elephants. We rode bikes through ancient Thai cities. We pet tigers. We walked through magical butterfly parks and swam through schools of tropical fish. WE ATE THE BEST CHEESE. We were serenaded by cheesy Italian singers in cheesy Italian restaurants that didn’t seem nearly so cheesy after a few negronis. We walked through Roman ruins and pretended we were traveling back in time; we ate Argentine asados that would make us think twice about every steak we’d have thereafter.
It was a whirlwind, and made all the more special by the fact that we had our little Italian Greyhound, Bella, with us. We were a little family, exploring what Southeast Asia, South America, France, and Italy had to offer. We soaked in every meal, experience, and encounter.
We could have been working on our careers . . . but in the jobs we currently have, we have actually benefited from our travels. In fact, the majority of my writing jobs stemmed from Sedimentality, which was born while we were on our one-year honeymoon. I could have been in grad school . . . but that could also wait. It did, and in the end, it didn’t make any difference what year was embossed on my diploma.
What did matter was the time we spent together, because–and as cliche as it sounds–we are forever aware of the fleeting nature of life and of the concept of carpe diem. Seize the day . . . we have done so, as irresponsible as it sounded to the “planner” inside me. And we didn’t just benefit from it: we thrived.
If you are thinking of traveling: go. Just go. The dream house can wait. The new car can wait. Life, however, will not.