Next week, I’ll be looking back at my life. I’m attending a reunion with forty people from my Remote Year family, most of whom I haven’t seen in two years.
In typical Remote Year fashion, we’ve rented a 400+year-old castle in France for the occasion, all of us sharing meals and rooms. Also in typical RY fashion, we’ve been asked to create a slide for a two-min presentation on what we’ve been up to these past twenty-five months. For me, it means looking back, finding a highlight, and pondering the future.
Looking Back 2 Years
In the past two years, I spent five months house sitting in the western part of the US, including California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. I also worked for months at a time in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Namibia. I’ve taken care of farm animals and house pets, worked with children, shoveled manure, climbed mountains, managed staff in the deserts of Africa, flown in the cockpits of commercial planes, and driven thousands of miles alone- mostly on the left side of the road. I’ve photographed sunsets and sunrises, the night sky, dry deserts and soggy rain forests, turbulent oceans and calm seas. I’ve fed alpacas and horses in New Zealand, koalas and kangaroos in Australia, and the whole gamut of farm animals in France. I hiked through bear country in Alaska (with a husky/whippet named Moby) and swam in shark-infested waters in both California and South Africa. I tried being a vegan for 4 months before becoming a nearly full-time meat-eater in Namibia. I’ve slept under the stars, but also in trailers, shacks, huts, and tents.
But through all these experiences, there’s one aspect that has been consistent: my questioning of this lifestyle. Is it wrong that I’m happy to travel alone? Should I be worried I’ve never stumbled upon my soul mate (as wrinkles increase with the years)? Isn’t it odd that even though I make close friends as I go, my travel life keeps me wandering? Most of the time, I love the challenge and excitement, and embrace this life to its fullest. But any hint of loneliness, and doubt is waiting for me on the sidelines.
Since every day is different, experiences stack up. Incredible times and scary times equally fight for highlight status. I’ll never forget my 4-wheeler breaking down 12km from my lodge in Namibia and having to walk back alone, in the heat of the day, across the desert plains. Or that time three of us were charged by a bull elephant in musth. The vehicle eventually powered into reverse and we escaped uninjured, but my hands shook for hours. Some of my favorite times in the desert, alone and downwind, were spent watching zebras, kudu, vultures, warthogs and springbok wander within feet of me while I watched from a hide. Another highlight was teaching a member of my staff in just a few minutes- a 40yr-old Namibian man who had never driven before- how to drive stick-shift back to the lodge after a breakdown. But those were just a few moments from Namibia; the highlight reel over the past two years is long.
Where is All This Going?
It was never my goal to continue traveling as long as I have without an end in sight, but now I can’t imagine doing anything else. My future entails my present and its past, learning through exploration- whether I’m moving or staying still. The missed flights are a practice in patience, the wrong turns a reminder to slow down.
As I write this, I’m in Southwest France, on the Mediterranean, in a small port town of 4,000 people, pressed up against the coast by the Pyrenees Mountains. I’m sitting on a balcony overlooking the port while vineyards line the mountain sides next to me.
When I get to my reunion next week, I’ll stand up as my slide is projected on the castle wall. I’ll discuss that the last two years have followed the path I forged while on Remote Year: how to travel creatively, using Workaway and House Sitting. These two years have been about experiencing what life and the world has to offer. I’ll list my highlight as running a lodge in Namibia (something I never dreamed of doing), but the truth is, every moment has been a highlight, even the moments that I couldn’t wait to end.
So as I look back at the past two years, I think about the person I was when I embarked on this journey. I was scared not having a set plan, a 5-year goal, a projected income and wish list, or a partner to join me. I wish I could calm my past self and encourage the joy of the experience minus the anxiety. Of course, that’s easy in hindsight- when we can actually see the path that’s been traveled. For me, looking back means feeling more confident to move forward. It means accepting the fact that I have different life goals from others. And it means being okay with the outcome, however it unfolds.