I’m walking down the streets of a wealthy east coast suburb with all 40 pounds of my belongings for the indefinite future. The destination? The train station to begin my next journey after a month of wasting away in the United States. I had a really nice time staying with family and seeing some old friends but I didn’t do anything. I had little purpose here waking up whenever I wanted to do nothing but laze away watching TV and occasionally going out. I expected this would happen, enjoyed parts of this, and built up an incredible amount of anticipation for my next trip which as you will read is fundamentally different than others I have taken.
I am trading my usual international travels to live abroad in a foreign country. On this trip I am going to live in Medellin, Colombia for up to four months, maybe more. Then again I could change my mind in an instant to continue traveling.
But this trip is about establishing one of a few potential “home bases”. In the coming years I can’t just keep traveling because as someone much wiser than I wrote, “I’d been travelling for most of the 90’s, and far from becoming the fulfilled, broad-minded person that legend tells us travel creates, I found that I felt like a ghost — seen and heard occasionally, but completely lacking in substance and permanence” –English Teacher X. I am starting to feel similar emotions myself. What I think would be an ideal compromise are a few “home bases” around the world complete with a group of close friends in each city.
As being away from everything I know brings perspective, I am appreciating the importance of family and life-long friends. For so long I wanted to travel aimlessly, leaving behind any semblance of a home base. I wanted true independence, traveling from place to place, only visiting old friends and family on occasion. While I have done this many times in the past I never actually gave up my home base of friends until this year.
I can report back that after four months of aimlessly traveling without the comfort of a home base in the back of my mind, this concept just doesn’t work in my reality. The past four months of travel were the same as any other year. The difference is that after all of these amazing experiences I had few people to share them with that I would ever see again.
What I eventually want is to develop 2-3 of my own bases (friends, apartment, etc.) in foreign cities and split my time in each throughout the year. I’d then take shorter, 1-3 week mini-vacations to new international destinations whenever I please.
Of course what makes me most scared about this trip is the social part. Will I make new friends? If I make new friends will they become close friends? I’m not going into this experience completely cold. I have some acquaintances, both locals and foreigners living here. That includes a girl I dated about 4 months ago last time I was here.
If it all works out like I am thinking within the next few days I will rent a sweet furnished apartment. I’m going to spend US$1,000 plus per month for something really comfortable. I have made a list of appointments to check out apartments that have all the extra facilities like a rooftop pool, sauna, steam room, gym, doorman, maid, security, and so on. Though there is a good chance I’ll go for one of these with a roommate because most I have found so far are advertised by renters looking for one.
Once I have a semi-permanent place to stay I’m going taking salsa lessons. I don’t like playing the “oh I’m a foreigner so I don’t know salsa” card any longer. I like to dance and I am going to learn how even if I don’t have any natural rhythm.
I will also work out often. Besides a two week stint practicing Muay Thai boxing in Bangkok I have not been active for a couple of years. I want to change this. By not constantly being on the move it should be much easier to make working out a routine. As luck would have it an online personal training service I had considered trying for months now wants to exchange services. I will write the owner’s wife a resume and he will create a personalized meal plan, workout plan, etc. for me. I have no excuses.
I would also like to eat better, though this I’m not as serious about. I used to cook for myself about 6 days/week in university and having my own kitchen again will make this easy. Though restaurants are plenty, cheap, and healthy enough so I am not too confident about achieving this goal.
A surprise is that one goal missing is to continue improving my businesses. I never thought the day would come that I would be content with the state of things. I’ll continue to put in the necessary work for them to function well but I can’t see myself putting in all the extra hours finding better ways to increase sales like I used to do.
As it turns out that walk to the suburban train station was awkward as can be. I’m walking around a wealthy suburb past stores like JCrew and Apple, all while carrying my giant backpack. But once again I relished in the thought that I was going to go do something exciting. I am going to Colombia and they are going to…the supermarket?
A $5, 20 minute train ride into Philadelphia and only 5 minutes after I was on a $9 bus to New York City. Of course I pumped out a bunch of resumes on the bus using the free Wi-Fi. Productivity can happen in the strangest of places.
Two hours later I’m outside Penn Station with my next task of getting to LaGuardia Airport. I go down to the subway and jump on what I assume to be the correct train. Wrong. I get off after one stop flag down a taxi all before I could say screw that plan.
The taxi was one of the better ideas because the Spirit Airlines check-in line was understaffed. There was one person manning the entire line and two different people had already missed their flights. One was a non-English speaking Russian man. At first I pegged him as a jackass for trying to cut the line but it turned out he was quite the innocent man. He was too shy to budge but didn’t want to wait either while missing his flight. Plus, Spirit is ultra low-cost and if you miss your flight, that’s it.
Three hours of more work on my laptop with the occasional interruption from more people missing their flight while waiting at the departure gate, I boarded my own without issue.
A few hours later I am in Fort Lauderdale just in time to find a good spot and sleep. I even prepared by bringing my blanket but wasn’t prepared for the ultra bright lights. The floor wasn’t at all like the comfortable bed I imagined it might be. Since I like to learn from my experiences I didn’t use my backpack as a pillow. Last time I did that my laptop broke from the pressure. I didn’t take my laptop out of the bag either because last time I slept in a public place a group of middle aged women attacked me trying to steal my stuff.
At 6AM with no sleep I grabbed my bag and got up because it’s just strange to be huddled in a corner laid out in a busy airport. I walked back through security where I am now at 9:30Am with an hour to go before my flight to Medellin, Colombia. Oh, and by the way, the reason I felt motivated to write this is because the free airport internet has crapped out and I have nothing to do. Travel is far from glamorous.