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When you know you're ready to start nesting...

When you know you're ready to start nesting...

When I left my job and the transient lifestyle, a lot of people were excited for me, albeit curious to see if I might get restless or bored in one place. I wondered the same but was convinced it was my time to test this settled life regardless.

Because for years, I struggled to leave my friends and family behind with every flight, even though I knew how lucky I was to be boarding those flights. Even though I liked where I was headed. And it was tiring—physically and emotionally—to pack up possessions that felt increasingly worthless and sleep in one more IKEA bed. Apparently all that movement, all those time zone changes, and many awkward nights of sleep gave me adrenal fatigue, amongst the effects of constant travel that could be measured or pinpointed.

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The irony of my lifestyle, part 5

The irony of my lifestyle, part 5

I am an investor in the ephemeral, that which could be gone tomorrow. This could be deemed true of everyone, but I feel arguably more conscious of the inevitable with the existence of my outbound flight. This ticket away from a nest makes me anxious, makes me analyze my underlying emotions, makes me draw connections to patterns, and makes me look at how those few constants affect me. The moon signifies change; it moves me away from an even keel of emotion and routine.

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The Irony of my Lifestyle, Part 4

Sometimes it’s a mind clarifier to point out the inaccuracies in your own life – that blend of irony and confusion that makes up your unique mindset. Bottom line: I’m all confused. You probably are too. Let’s talk amongst ourselves… There's a phrase I often hear from cowabunga dudes or girls that fill out their customs forms with pink glitter pens...

Live each day as if it's your last.

What a steaming load. I don't like this mindset, nor do I believe it's all that helpful. The premise is somewhat nice, but imagine if people actually took this phrase to heart.

It's Not All About The Thrills

Live to the fullest!

Live to the fullest!

Most people, given unlimited possibilities and no monetary concerns, would live out one ambitious day after the other, leaving monotonous tasks or building block actions to rot in the corner of their consciousness. Believe me, living like that is thrilling but exhausting (cough, cough). Though I do believe you should enjoy your life, very few people would allow themselves the comfort of knowing what they are doing is good enough in the grand scale of possibilities.

Having this motto tattooed to your cubicle wall seems like a dark, English joke of depressing proportions, and writing the same thing, albeit in Chinese characters, across your waistline seems about as ironic as writing, "I know how to live better than you do."

Instead I think there needs to be a rewording of this overspoken - and therefore somewhat redundant - phrase:

Behave as though you'll never get another chance to make things right. Appreciate what wonders enwrap your life today, and find the present peace that can allow contentment to reign supreme in your mind.

Mexican woman cooking in Puerto Vallarta

Mexican woman cooking in Puerto Vallarta

I don't think I live day by day, nor do I feel I live today to the fullest. I guess I do at times, but it's not a rule. If given the opportunity to do something extreme, 75% of the time I do it. But if lying in bed reading a great book and preparing a nice salad for dinner sounds better than flinging myself off a bridge head first or eating bat brains, I won't opt for the seldom done thing just because it's the ever-stated "once-in-a-lifetime experience."

There is incredible beauty in a calm existence - where precious actions of the day have a poetry of their own. We all will stare at the old hands of a Mexican hombre, chopping green pepper and limes, and call it a lovely, timeless sight of a man exercising his family's culinary secrets. If we do something comforting and truthful to ourselves, I feel we are honoring our own lifestyle by saying, "The majority of my pleasures are sweet and understated…I live a good life."

Instead of thinking "live for today," I'd rather think, "live for these next few months." Planning for more than that allows time to slip by unnoticed, and considering only the next few days doesn't give ample time for planning that which makes you tick.

The Nosedive Muse

We're going down!

We're going down!

Though I don't like this "live-today-because-tomorrow-may-not-come" saying, I have to admit that the fuel driving me on these journeys isn't much different. These days, I've grown a little fearful of planes and turbulence and often tell myself, while flying through the sky, "This bad boy could go down in flames...would I be happy with my life if that happened?"

I imagine that moment of realization as the nosedive commences; what would be going through my head? "I never took a chance on that dream experience. Why didn't I ever give that one thing a try? I never did that...or that!" It's a morbid thought, but it somehow taps into a priority list in my brain I'm not always aware of. I can barely pick a destination I'd most like to visit next, because I want to visit them all, but there's something inside me that cares more for one place or thing than another. The nosedive evokes that muse.

This is why I try the trips where the odds are working against me. This is why I don't settle down and get an apartment and a job and a boyfriend the way my family would like me to. This is why I went to Fiji on my own dollar to try and start something that very likely wouldn't work out.

Check My Expiration Date

The problems I face with my mentality are ones of support, or a lack thereof, and time, or my conflicting views of it.

On November 1st, 2009, I looked at my winter and thought, "I have enough money to have an amazing experience abroad, though I have to be extremely frugal. Where should I go, and what would be the best usage of my time?" I felt this was a completely understandable dilemma. Heck, who wants to be here for the brunt of a Midwestern winter anyway? And instead of plowing into the suffering job market looking for something that doesn't make me nauseous, I wanted to go and do something that connected with me profoundly. Makes perfect sense, no? Not if people feel more comfortable with convention and therefore feel less comfortable with your tendency to poo-poo it. It's not tolerance that backs you up; it's support.

Going for it

Going for it

I hate when people say, "Time flies!" No. Time is always the same, and it's just an awareness of it that makes this speedy perception. I plan on living my 20s to the fullest, not in a way that negates responsibility but embraces alternative views of convention to make sense to the individual. I want to try many different paths because geography doesn't have to limit my spectrum. Therefore, I'm out and about, seizing those opportunities that scream out to me in those nosedive musings. And though I know by the time I'm 30, I'll say, "Whoa, I'm getting old, and I'm nowhere near procreating," I will at least be happy with the chances I took up to that point.

Living life to the fullest means having an awareness that you're merely mortal, but as the polarity of my soul drags me toward both adventure and stationary living, I've adopted the idea that I've got plenty of time ahead of me to do everything I want to do. And since that's quite a long bucket list, I need time to space it all out. Here's hoping the nosedive is never real, until maybe my 100th birthday.

Lots of thoughts...would anyone like to add to this conversation? What do you think about the phrase "Live each day as if it's your last"? And how does your expiration date influence your choices in life?

The Irony of my Lifestyle, Part 3

Sometimes it's a mind clarifier to point out the inaccuracies in your own life - that blend of irony and confusion that makes up your unique mindset. Bottom line: I'm all confused. You probably are too. Let's talk amongst ourselves...

Martha Wouldn't Be Proud

No longer housebroken

No longer housebroken

November 24th, 2008: My first day back from the Big Journey. Refusing to enjoy the comforts of home and longing for the road immediately, I decided to cook some boiled eggs - my recovery sustenance after the evil gastro disease of October. Somehow it seemed more comforting than a bucket of ice cream or fried food to sit at home and munch on the simplicity of a jiggly egg.

I put a pot on the stove with water just covering the four rolling eggs. My father told me to put them on high heat. Forty-five minutes later, the fire trucks were parked in front of my home, while I ran outside waving them down with a white dish towel.

Upon placing the pot down on the licking flames, Dad called me downstairs to teach the art of stapling canvases onto frames, since I purchased many abroad for presents and such. After a few minutes, he took off for the gym, and I saw my comfy armchair/office and sat down to continue the work I thought I was doing prior to the art lesson.

I started smelling burnt popcorn and figured Dad had done it again, completely forgetting he took off. Even after the alarm started buzzing from smoke, I figured he was taking care of his microwaving mistake. Eventually, the beeping, the lack of footsteps upstairs, the sudden flash of sulfur up my nostrils, everything came together, and I jumped up so fast I hurdled the couch in my way.

Exploding Eggs

Exploding Eggs

The remains of four eggs were fused onto the bottom of a bone dry saucepan. Bits of yolk and white splattered every surface like shrapnel from the stovetop bomb. Opening up windows and turning on fans, ventilation couldn't happen fast enough. The phone rang. My parents decided to choose a security code we hadn't used since our days in elementary school, but after exhausting all other password choices and calling Dad's unresponsive cell phone for help, the security representative on the other end realized I was telling the truth, that I was legitimately family...and just plain dumb.

The mess was cleaned up by the time I heard the distant fire trucks. A weight pressed on my heart as the sounds grew closer, and I made a plea to the Swiffer in my hands to stop all the madness and embarrassment as I cower in the corner of the pantry.

I'm not often embarrassed. I've tripped, been pantsed, made inappropriate comments and not been as embarrassed as I was when the fire trucks pulled in front of my home. My neighborhood being a clone of Pleasantville, half my neighbors came outside holding their dogs and looking worried.

In a chicken coop

In a chicken coop

Being on the road for so long apparently stripped me of domesticity. I forgot how to be a suburban American. It doesn't make much sense when you calculate the 22.7 years I spent learning such skills compared to the 7 months it took to forget nearly everything.

And you may ask, "What does one have to learn in middle-class American suburbia?" Well, a lot.

  • The correct way to answer the phone: "Hello, Lindsay speaking..." instead of "Hello? I don't know where anyone is...what's the date?"

  • Proper laundry etiquette: wear clothes once, then wash. After months home, I still preferred the sniff test...to my detriment.

  • Bathroom manners: use the toilet. My crazy eyes darted outside often, wondering if the neighbors would see me if I pulled an African overland squat in my back yard.

  • Balancing technology time and rest time: instead of taking breaks and interacting with people on a regular basis throughout the day, I worked online 16 hours a day and forgot how to form sentences verbally.

  • Proper public attire: I apparently embarrassed my mom when I went to the mall to visit her, wearing nothing but cloud print footed pajamas and a Santa hat. I thought it'd be funny.

Travel the world. Learn about yourself. Try new things. Stretch your limits. Come back home with new eyes...apparently to find out you've forgotten everything you once knew and must learn again.

Does any of this happen to you all, or am I the only one that comes home domestically awkward?

The Irony of my Lifestyle, Part 1

Sometimes it's a mind clarifier to point out the inaccuracies in your own life - that blend of irony and confusion that makes up your unique mindset. Bottom line: I'm all confused. You probably are too. Let's talk amongst ourselves...

Carpe Dimes and Nickels

Carpe Lake Tippy

Since I returned from a round-the-world trip on August 17th, I've done very little besides sit in front of screens - computer, TV, what-have-you. I seldom leave home or drive my car unless it's purely necessary. Rarely do I step outside if not to summon my cat in at twilight, and the most exercise I get comes from group fitness classes at the gym down the street. I spent one weekend in northern Indiana with my best friends eating guacamole and floating on one long raft around Lake Tippicanoe, but that certainly can't be all the excitement I can handle over a two month period.

Why do I not carpe the diem when I'm not traveling?

This isn't to say Indianapolis is a humdrum city. Since I've been home, I've been inspired to visit Indy's Fringe Festival and multiple cultural celebrations (including Irish and Greek), camp outside in the brisk fall evenings, take bike rides along the Monon Trail, enjoy the friends I have in town and a myriad of other activities; however, I only managed to accomplish two of these list items in all this time.

National parks pepper the state of Indiana like acne on a teen's face, so why do I not pack up my Coleman tent and get out there?

This is my favorite season and type of weather, reminding me of football season and my affinity for the smell of dead leaves. Why do I never leave the house?

The Imbalance

After spending 2.5 months concentrating solely on experiencing the world, maybe I was burned out and needed some time to document those moments still unprocessed, but I completed my purge of World Traveler Internship memories a month ago and had relaxed my fair share by that point as well. The fact of the matter is when I'm back in Indiana, regardless of season or how many friends I have in town, I live like a hermit but continue to pine for the adventure of another country. And it's not always a desire to romp around the Andes or dog-sled in Siberia; I often wish for the simplicity of a small town in Mexico or reading a book in an Italian piazza - fundamental activities I could easily do at home with the same level of perceived exoticism.

In Alain de Botton's book, The Art of Travel, a man travels around his own bedroom as if it were any other place in the world, where he experience the known as if it were unknown, not just pretending but actually opening the eyes to a new perspective. It's a conscious choice to see your own native surroundings as banal and yawn-inducing, and for those of us who live for the next departure date, making this decision to spent your home days pining will give your emotions a roller coaster ride throughout life. My happiness chart would look like a sine curve - with the peaks occurring on the road and the low points while sitting at home.

Living it up in Indiana

Living it up in Indiana

Indianapolis isn't exactly a hub for tourism. Though we have two (or three) of the five highest grossing national sporting events each year, people don't flock to this area for nature and culture above other locales. But if I were to approach this city (or even state) as a traveler would, I'd be filling my days with gourmet cafes, nature hikes, museum visits, excursions to small towns for chili cook-0ffs and elaborate Independence day celebrations. I'd be jet-skiing across Geist on weekends and having barbeques with friends regularly. Free gallery nights and dairy farm tours, baseball games and tailgating...I think I've made my point. I've been lazy.

I turn my adventurelust on and off as well as my wallet's accessibility at home. In my mind, I can't silence the thought that one night's dinner and movie in Indianapolis could fund a week or more living in India. A cocktail here cost four times as much as one beer in Cambodia. If I were traveling and had no desire to experience anything because of proximity or cost, I'd be pretty darn bored, and most would consider this approach to be a waste of time on the road. So why do I not consider my state a destination?

Thus far, I've failed to mention the activity that does retain my attention day and night while in Indy: computer work. Since August 17th, I've switched to and designed a self-hosted website with (almost) daily posts of various media, read books on travel writing, written articles for and connected with many publications and companies and developed a plan for future humanitarian/documentary work overseas. It's when I'm gone that I wish for the connectivity of free wifi and a good computer at home, so I suppose I try to make the most of it when stationary. But this isn't living.

Am I doing at home what is essential for me to live the life abroad? If I'm desiring to document travel, do I not need to be completely wired and figure out other passive means of generating income online? This is how I justify all the time spent indoors, away from those activities which truly sustain my spirit. In reality, if I consider myself a good traveler, I need to ensure the love of discovery is naturally infused into each day, regardless of location.

In an attempt for equilibrium, I will challenge myself to live a little at home, because I do love the excitement that can occur under these skies. Cornfields don't have to grace your eye with familiarity; they can be just as thrilling as the south Indian farmland. And it doesn't have to cost a trip to Mexico to enjoy the delights of nearby.

Finding Purpose in Culture Shock

Ireland's Coast

Ireland's Coast

I never really know how my travel experiences have affected me until I return to my starting point: home. Flying through various destinations and worrying about logistics sometimes takes away the mind’s energy to process what it’s witnessed until it’s back on familiar soil. And since each trip is different, every time I return home, it’s a brand new feeling, a new form of culture shock I can never predict. Coming home from Italy, I have felt pissed off at my hometown for not being as historical and visually stimulating as Florence. After Semester at Sea, it pained me to be away from the people I grew very close to on board. And with the conclusion of my Big Journey, I think I felt more stable and purpose-driven, albeit more confused, than any previous homecoming led me to feel. I think it all depends on the nature of the journey and where you are in your personal path with self-awareness. Because that’s one major reason I travel: to become more self-aware.

And now with the winding down of the World Traveler Internship, I have a whole new set of emotions and passions driving me. For once, I’ve welcomed the comforts of home excitedly. Man did I love sitting around! And for the last month, I’ve spent about 90 hours a week working on my website, on personal projects, and anything fathomable to get me on the path towards being a freelance travel writer. It was the WTI program that assured me I love being thrown into a new country with a mission of documentation. I’ve learned how I love to travel, where I want to travel, and how to deal with the rigors of this oddball, unconventional, thrilling profession.

Anyone with a smidgeon of wanderlust would adore being a World Traveler Intern, but I can promise you an aspiring travel writer, photojournalist, basically anyone wanting to experience and express as a career will be numbed by how cool is to have this job. Throughout the trip, I sporadically stopped and smiled, so appreciative of the opportunity and fully aware of how lucky I was. And now I look forward to seeing what lucky souls will receive the honor next year. I’m certain they will have the time of their lives and return to their home bases more alive and wanderlust-ful, because as any traveler knows, that obsession never goes away. Travel begets more travel.

And now I apply the heaviest of connotations, the deepest of meaning to these next two words, directed at the lovely people at STA Travel: Thank you.

Sometimes while on the road...you miss out

Spiders with glowing orange backs crawling inches from my nose, building forts across the rock ledge where I sprawled to overlook a 30-foot waterfall. A canopy of greens I'd never see at home shading from a sun that could surely turn me crispy. One rock thrown over the edge to crash dramatically on the mammoth boulder below. Swimming with new friends and little children from a remote Fijian village. Shivering and scaling up a stair-step waterfall where tropical meets ideal. And my friends and family were celebrating a wedding, one I was supposed to be standing in as a loyal maid to the main lady.

I could feel the world's size, the expanses of air between myself and the place I was expected to be. But a job made it possible and necessary for me to be living a dream in the South Pacific. This was June 6th, 2009.

Head of lead in the shadow of a monument honoring the Scottish hero, William Wallace. Having climbed a weaving trail, removing my jacket, putting it back on. Seeing the sprawling city below and angry for the discomfort of my mindset. Watching two Dutch boys throw a neon green frisbee around the corner of the tower.

Could have been a part of a classic scenario: waiting room of the maternity ward, wearing pink for the occasion, and being the token crier of the family when the baby is in sight. New country. Tapping into old roots. Could have loved the day I was living, but once again, it was the visceral knowledge that I should be elsewhere for that moment in time.

However minute or gigantic the moment is, I like to be there, but instead it was August 7th, 2009, and I was living out the World's Best Internship on our second to last leg. I saw my niece's face for the first time from a picture text viewed from the internet. The girls beside me were fully aware that I was crying hard there in the middle of the hostel lobby. I missed it.

As my dad would put it, the opportunity cost of this travel position could be measured in once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I've been anticipating for years and possibly decades. But not only did I have the chance to see what other people rarely get the chance to see, the entire summer was wrapped in a bow called "priceless opportunity" and "dream occupation". After months of work and hope, I received what would soon rip me away from life moments I've been living to look forward to. If I missed this position though, I would have been happy for those few days and depressed for the rest.

I could list the things that have enriched me and my life from this World Traveler Internship, but I think that list isn't realized and cannot ever be completely. In the last three years, I've been abroad for 13 months: 3.5 with Semester at Sea, 7 with my Big Journey, and 2.5 thanks to STA Travel. This is the first time I've missed a main event, but I've never cursed the ground I'm on, the plane that's taking me, the disease I've acquired, the money I've lost, or the waistband of this great globe for being so darn large.

For some reason unknown to me and my surrounding web, I've decided it's okay to miss the things that matter most in order to blaze literal and personal trails towards anything from failure to success. This travel path can sound illogical and like a waste, but when I realize the passions I've acquired and the maturity I've obtained, I fear where I would be without all those 50+ flights to global destinations and potential moments of learning. Learning that people are all the same, but some defy all presumptions and change your outlook towards mankind. Learning that the world can look as you dreamt and can also look like the neighborhood moral pool of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and every fool sans brain or heart. Learning that my mind truly trumps this body, and I can handle much more than I used to. Learning that I've got a massive knot in the noggin that needs continuous care for its eventual untangling.

It's always possible that I could learn while standing at the chapel in Selma, Alabama or in the waiting room of Community North Hospital, but it's a fast track elsewhere, when your support group is distant, and your mind is used to the new. And I always hope this travel "bug" will wriggle free from my weary soul, but that's certainly not the case for one afflicted as I am.

And to be honest, it doesn't matter where I am, I think about where I could be. Luckily tools are available to connect my present coordinates with every other one in the world, and this makes it easier to travel when time is precious. It's not often that people get an opportunity like this to see the world, and when they do, they shouldn't ever say no, regardless of reunions missed and babies unknown. There won't ever be a next time for any of these chances, but there's hope you will learn and grow faster and in time for whatever needs your passion.