I feel there are a few things that I should clear up about my trip…
An important item to clarify is that despite the general tone of some of my posts, I am not a masochist. But I do think that it is important to portray the fact that I am neither traveling on an expense account, nor on a trust fund. My family has provided valuable support in various forms including scanning and emailing my W-2’s so I could do my taxes while in Egypt or mailing dress clothes to my hotel Los Angles so I could still go to Machu Picchu before having to head to my conference. However, every last cent of my travel money has come from scrimping and saving in my “everyday” life; not from credit card debt or financial support of others. And while I feel that traveling financially independently is a very important part of the adventure, it does lead to having to “count pennies” where a lot of other vacationers have many more luxuries available. So that while overnight buses are not necessarily my preferred method of travel, it is compulsory in order to see all of the places and do all of the things that my vast travel checklist contains. I feel its a very good trade-off!
Secondly, despite an apparent stereotype of long-term travelers, I can absolutely guarantee that I have not turned into a hippie, living the bohemian lifestyle. I have maintained and probably intensified my strong desire to attend (business) grad school in the fall and my super nerdy reading list over the past several months can definitely attest to that. Additionally, I have successfully submitted and gotten both site and construction plans approved for my civil engineering job (and ahead of schedule I might add, despite being thousands of miles away…). So rest assured that my hair is not in dreadlocks and I haven’t traded in my ratty running shoes for a pair of birkenstocks.
And lastly, is the aspect of travelling alone. When I initially told people about my second trip, they reacted with a mix of surprise and shock, and then when they found out that I was heading out alone I got the distinct impression that most thought I was nuts. Which, yes I realize that traveling like I do is relatively rare in the US, but for the rest of the world I would not be considered nearly as much of a leper. In essence, there are lots of people who traverse the world for extended time periods, and consequently meeting people is relatively easy. Protocol dictates that you hang out with people while your schedules and wish-lists line up, and then move on either on your own or with your new friends. So that while I may be officially traveling alone, you make friends along the way and I don’t spend all of my time alone – though I make certain that I get enough “Jill” (alone) time to maintain my sanity. It does take a certain personality type in order to successfully deal with this situation though because there is no one there to take care of you when you get sick (in India…) or to complain to when your feet hurt because your bag is too heavy. But on the other side, while traveling alone you meet many amazing and interesting people that most likely you wouldn’t have met with the comfort and convenience of a travel companion.