June 24, 2012

By Popular Demand - My Concerns

Last week, I asked my extended circle (via Facebook) what they wanted to hear about on this blog. Both my mom and my best friend's mom (who is like a second mom to me) want to hear about my concerns for The Trip. I'm guessing this is because they themselves have some concerns about The Trip.

Certainly there are a lot of things I could be worried about. I could worry about money or safety or being away from loved ones. I could worry about getting sick or getting jobs when we get back to SF. 

But I don't worry about any of these things. Want to know why?
I'm not worried about these things now because these are the things Tom and I worried about endlessly in making the decision to take this trip. We carefully weighed each of the above risks. 

Money? We've saved our butts off to make this happen. We have savings for the trip. We have savings to come back and live off of. We have savings for unexpected expenses. And we didn't even touch any of our long-term savings (ie: 401K). So, no. I don't worry about that.

Safety? Nope. Travelling is not really more dangerous than your every day life. For every horror story you hear about American travelers getting hurt or killed overseas in accidents, the equivalent is happening inside our country in droves. In my opinion, the danger in travelling comes from the traveller losing their common sense. You don't walk down abandoned, dark alleyways by yourself at home, right? So why would you do it in Bangkok? When was the last time you got into a car with a complete stranger while in your hometown? Not recently, huh? You probably shouldn't do that in Singapore either. What about getting mugged or pickpocketed? You probably don't carry around every last cent to your name and all your important documents in your pockets, right? That would be risky and stupid. So I won't do that in Saigon either. Sure - bad things happen to people travelling. There are car accidents and any number of freak accidents that could occur. But, if that happens (and I hope it won't and I'm sure it won't), it will not have happened because I was in a foreign country. It will have happened because, unfortunately, sometimes that stuff happens. And I'm certainly not going to live my life (home or abroad) worrying about all those what-ifs. (For a rundown of some of our safety precautions, read this post.)

Being Away From Loved Ones? Concerned isn't the right word. I'll miss everyone - that's for sure. But some of my closest relationships are already long-distance. When I drive through Missouri in September as part of our cross-country road trip, it will be the first time I've seen BFF Lauren since our trip to Russia a year ago. I saw BFF Ashley in April when she came for a visit, but it had been 9 months of missing her before that. And I have confidence in the friendships that aren't already long-distance. We've amassed a pretty solid group of pals, and distance is nothing to a true friendship. We'll see nearly all of our friends and family on our cross-country road trip before we head to India, and we'll see all of them again on our drive back, approximately a year later. In the meantime, we'll Skype (SFSwains) and email...and we'll just deal. (BTW - did you know we have a blog that friends and family can read while we're gone?!?!)

Getting Sick? Sure. That's a little scary. But mostly, it's scary because I think about how different and uncomfortable it would be to get really sick or injured somewhere else. Luckily, we'll have some awesome travel insurance by then! (See Tom's post on the topic here.) There's adequate healthcare in almost every country in the world if you get to the right city/place.

Getting Jobs When We Get Back? Not worried about that either. It will happen. I realize this is an optimistic point of view but, as the sidebar description of us says, "We're idealists," and, like I said above, we've saved enough money to live off of for awhile if we have difficulty finding work. We'll talk more soon about each of our specific work situations. Stay tuned.

So, what do I worry about?

Frank "12 Galaxies" Chu
Local, San Francisco Celebrity
  • I worry that the lifestyle of travelling non-stop will wear me down and that I'm going to be physically exhausted for a year from carrying around a heavy backpack and sleeping on crappy hostel beds.
  • I worry that, without structure and jobs or time obligations and in a lifestyle where the weekends aren't much different from the weekdays, that it will all just mush together - that all the ancient temples will start to resemble each other and I'll stop appreciating them and the other things I see. What if, after visiting 100 amazing places, they all just fade together into one large, vague memory?
  • I worry that I'll miss familiarity of any kind. Not seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, the 12 Galaxies Guy, the Russian River, the Ferry Building, my favorite cheese shop, etc... for a year
  • I worry that I'll wear the wrong things. Is it alright to wear spaghetti straps in India? Is it disrespectful to show my knees in Burma? Some say yes. Some say no. The last thing I want to do is insult a culture or be an "ugly American" traveler.
  • I worry that we'll forget the specifics - that I'll forget how I felt when I first stepped onto a crowded Indian street - or how overwhelmingly beautiful Angkor Wat is - or how wonderfully scary it is to dive with whale sharks in the Philippines. I even worry that we'll forget the funny conversation we have with an 8 year old at a corner market or that the memory of a fellow backpackers funny mannerisms will fade away. I just don't want to forget ANYTHING.
  • I worry that we'll come back to SF and be bored with a "settled" life. What does that mean for us?

But we have plans for most of these worries. We're going to travel at a slow pace so that we can get to know and enjoy each experience and place. We're using travel journals and this blog to record the big stuff (ie: Today, we went to the Taj Mahal) and the little stuff (ie: This guy at our hostel has the worst breath in the world). We're going to sprinkle in some volunteering when we can which will not only be a great way to give back to the areas we visit, but will give us some routine and responsibilities. We're also open to picking up work here and there to supplement our income and to provide us with some roots from time to time. If I've brought all the wrong clothes, I'll chuck 'em and buy new ones from local shops! If I miss familiarity or comforts from home, we'll treat ourselves to an "American" day! We'll feast on Kraft Mac & Cheese from the corner shop and have drinks at a Western-style hotel. We'll don fanny packs and matching shirts for a day! Ahhh...feels just like home! And, so what if we come back and are bored with a settled life and immediately start thinking about our next adventure?!?! That doesn't sound like a bad life at all!

What's my BIGGEST worry? It's funny and silly. I worry that we're taking too much stuff. Soon, I'll give you a list of everything we're packing and, if you haven't done a trip like this before, you'll think it's ridiculously little. But we have to carry everything we need and, considering that pretty much every human on Earth has the same basic needs (clothing, food, first aid, etc...), I worry that we've overpacked, preparing for too many scenarios. In true Stephanie-fashion, I told Tom that I'm worried the other backpackers will laugh at me for bringing too many tank tops/medicines/hair ties/etc... (Those backpackers are jerk faces.)

The fix for this worry? We're constantly reevaluating what we're taking and, if it's still too much stuff when we get there, we'll get rid of some of it. Problem solved.

The thing that doesn't even come close to making my worry list? Regret. I don't think there's any way I'll regret taking this adventure with Tom.

Any specific concerns from friends and family that we should address?

No comments:

Post a Comment