Keeping the travel buzz alive

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I’ve been travelling for over a decade now.  It’s been an incredible, life defining experience, and I’ve loved nearly every minute of it.  I’ve learnt so much, both about the world and about myself.  But you know what?  Some days I wish I could start all over again.

Some days I wish that I could be that naive 22 year old standing at the airport once more, waving goodbye to friends and family for the very first time.  Sweating in an ill fitting suit that I thought would give me a chance of being upgraded to business class (it didn’t) and bursting with excitement at what lay before me.  The words in the guidebook were about to become the sights, sounds and smells of exotic locations.  Languages I didn’t speak, food I couldn’t identify.  Strange looking money, unpronounceable street names, cultures I didn’t understand.  It was all out there waiting for me, and it sure as hell didn’t disappoint.

The sheer amazingness of every new city and country I went to more than made up for the fact that I usually had no idea what was going on.  Being lost all the time meant that I just had the chance to find new places to explore.  Making dumb choices about where to stay, how to get there and what to do every day was all part of the learning experience.  Because everything was so unfamiliar, it seemed that I could almost feel my mind expanding every time I stepped off the bus or wandered into another little cafe.

As the years have gone by, I’ve got better at this whole travel thing.  I don’t make so many dumb mistakes (although I certainly still make a few).  My sense of direction has improved.  I cart a lot less crap around with me, and new situations don’t scare the hell out of me like they used to.  Somewhere along the way, though, I seem to have lost that sense of wonder.

What was once amazing now seems almost mundane.  That beautiful view or amazing waterfall doesn’t set my pulse racing like it used to.  Crazy traffic, foreign languages and hustling vendors just seem part of the background noise of a new location rather than the mind-blowing challenge that they once used to be.  Travel has become a lot easier for me than it used to be – but it seems to have got much less thrilling as well.

Every time I talk to a fresh faced kid on his gap year in Asia, or a new university grad wandering the streets of Paris with a ridiculously large pack and a Lonely Planet, they’re just so damn excited about everything.  A lot more than I am, most of the time.  I’m more than a little jealous of that.

So what am I doing about it?

This gradual loss of wonder is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot in the last year or two, and it was part of the reason why I decided to take off for an open ended trip last year by myself.  The idea of doing that trip made me scared and excited about travel for the first time in what seemed like forever.  It was fantastic to have that feeling back again. I needed to do something that scared the hell out of me to get the travel buzz back again, and it worked really well for several months.  By the end of the trip, though, that buzz seemed to be on the wane again.  I was still having an absolutely incredible time, but the feeling of smashing out of my comfort zone had left me.  What had seemed so difficult when thinking about it six months earlier – sketchy guesthouses, dodgy buses, unidentifiable food – had almost become a bit too easy.

Llama at Machu Pichu

So how am I going to get that feeling back again?

I don’t have anything set in stone regarding travel plans next year, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be trying something different once more.  A long trip through South America is looking good – it ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to new challenges, not least of which is having to learn vaguely passable Spanish before I start.  The dizzying array of cultures and experiences and the challenge of the physical travel itself should get me excited again pretty quickly.  Oh, and I’m looking forward to eating guinea pig as well.

I’m thinking about going to other places I’ve never been as well, particularly ones that will be a bit more difficult than the typical backpacker run through SE Asia (as much fun as that is).  China, the Middle East and parts of Africa are all bouncing around my head as possible destinations.  They all scare me a bit in different ways, and I know that’s a good thing.

More than just going to new and interesting places, though, I think that what I’m after can be summed up in one sentence.  I need to have an ADVENTURE!  So to that end, a mate and I (and possibly a bunch of other crazy travel bloggers as well) have decided to do precisely that in the middle of next year.  We’re going to take part in a rally.  A totally ridiculous rally.  We’ll be driving from somewhere to somewhere else that is a very long way away, with inadequate preparation, in a vehicle that is manifestly unfit for the purpose.  It could be the Mongol Rally.  It could be one of the several rallies that end up somewhere in Africa.  It could be something else entirely.

It will be stupid.  It will be dangerous.  It will be amazing.  It will absolutely be one hell of an adventure.  If that doesn’t keep the thrill alive, then I don’t think anything ever will.

I can’t wait.

So who’s with me?


[Car with phonebox image courtesy of The Adventurists, organisers of many a crazy rally indeed.  Llama image courtesy of NeilsPhotography]

35 Responses to “Keeping the travel buzz alive

  • For sure! Totally get that, as you pass tens of countries, churches and cathedrals and monuments start to get a bit the same. Same but different. I also find I look for more challenging adventures, if it scares the **** out of me, I love it!

    I did South America for 3 months last year, it was fantastic, totally recommend it, could live in Argentina and Bolivia is an experience! Got out of two muggings, had food poisoning, did the death road experience, and had a personal tragedy, but already planning my next trip back there, it’s brilliant.

    • So awesome to hear that despite the hardships, you still loved it … South America is climbing further up the list each day…

  • I’ll just start packing. Will I require a suit for business class?

  • There’s nothing like going on an adventure that pushes your comfort zone to get your travel mojo back. Good luck!

    • Can’t wait! And just think of the awesome new material I’ll have for this site 😉

  • Sounds like a great adventure! And here I am at 22, about to leave for my first solo Round The World trip in a few months 😀

    • Hey, you’re at least 10 years ahead of me when it comes to serious solo travel! You’ll have a totally incredible time for sure!

  • Couldn’t agree more – Ive found recently Ive started to take travelling a little for granted, but I think like you say, we need to be more adventurous and get out of our comfort zones!

    Have a great time at the rally – sounds crazy fun!

    • I reckon comfort zones scare me much more than broken down buses or dodgy street food!

      Getting so excited about the rally already!!

  • Got room for one more crazy kiwi?? South America was so amazing for me that I’ve been twice. It’s a bit loco, definitely edgy and speaking a bit of Spanish just makes it more special. You’ll love it. 🙂

    As soon as I have enough money I think I will go back to South America… I’m trying to plan as much as I can for the summer in Canada so I don’t die from lack of adventure before then.

    • If I wasn’t going to Portland / Seattle / Vancouver in a couple of months I think I’d probably go mad before the end of the year. That trip will be a life saver……

  • I think getting off the banana pancake trail and doing a random adventure is an EXCELLENT idea. Why not do it on a bike, for kicks?

  • Absolutely amazingly written post man. I do not know the feeling you are speaking of from personal experience, being I have only backpacked in Europe four times and my sense of wonderment is still fresh. Heck, I “may” have even shed a tear on the tarmac this last September leaving Rome. But, I do often think back to the weeks leading up to that first trip in 2006 and how wide-eyed and amazed I was. I am actually planning on a 2012 RTW trip, and will likely be starting in Central or S. America, so maybe we will cross paths!

    • Thank you sir 🙂 If I can recapture that feeling that you mention – especially on an ongoing basis – next year, I’ll be one hell of a happy guy!

  • I have just returned from a solo 3 month trip around South America and I can’t recommend it highly enough. And as I don’t speak Spanish, every day was a challenge.

    That said, I totally hear you about losing the travel buzz. I am 39 now, travelled a lot, and it is difficult to come across much new in this small world of ours.

    • Awesome – I’m so looking forward to that challenge! As you say, it’s harder to find it after a while, but I’m still convinced it’s out there…

  • South America is fabulous, as I know you will soon find out.

    The “cuy” or guinea pig is less so. Just putting it out there. Think teeny tiny drumsticks, with rubbery skin that reminds you you’re eating an 8 year old kids pet. Ewww….

    Looking forward to hearing the spanish practice!

  • Come see me in South America, it’s amazing here.

    You know I traveled in my 20s but now in my 30s I’d never go back and do it again.

    • I’d love to come see ya … tho I think it’ll be in North America first, right?

  • I feel the same way sometimes. The more you do it, the more that childlike sense of wonder goes away. I find that either going some place totally new and unknown or taken extended time in one place can help get that feeling back.

    It’s tough but sounds like you have it worked out!

    • Oh I dunno Matt, I’m not sure I ever have anything properly figured out … but this seems to be the best I can come up with for now, at least! 😉

  • Well, I guess you should pack your bag and do time travel 🙂

  • I’m in for a rally of some sort!

    Agree with Matt, I’m pretty bored with most places these days. I will have to sort out a trip to the moon soon to spur up some new excitement 🙂

    • Let me know if you get a two for one Moon Cruise discount deal … I’ll be in! 😉

  • The Mogol Rally is the perfect adventure. We are doing it this year so I will let you know. Great Post Dave!

    • Thanks guys! Really looking forward to reading about your rally adventures this year – it’ll keep next year’s dream well and truly alive for me! Not to mention tell me all the things I shouldn’t do. 😉

  • I did the Mongol Rally in ’08, the same year that those guys in the picture did it! I did it in a 1991 Nissan Micra that we got for $340 on Ebay. It was definitely a proper adventure, though the organization that runs it is a little disorganized.

  • Dave,
    Did you end up finding something to keep the buzz alive? Besides that gf of yours 😉

    Take a look at @TheIncaRally, I’ve signed up. August 2012, Peru.

    • That looks pretty awesome actually, and I need an excuse to visit South America anyway! It won’t be this year, but I could certainly be convinced to do it next year…

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