Speed and Travel: An Overland Traveler Explains 4

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A large number of people that I meet traveling are aghast at the nature of my particular trip. The aspect that mystifies them is that I am traveling so fast. They all seem to like the idea of my trip, but think that I should have probably taken two years or more to do it. Or not tried to hit so much in so little time. Or not been such a stubborn ass and taken one or two of those plane thingies.

I have yet to meet anyone that thinks my particular trip is a good (workable) idea, as I am doing it. The fairly universal reaction is that I am not taking enough time to stop anywhere and really get to know a place.

The traveler whose opinion I perhaps value more than anyone else these days is Jodi (and plug for her blog – Legal Nomads — she’s a damn good writer). She has been on the road about eight months more than me and she has taken the time to settle down in spots for months at a time, get to know lots of locals and really learn about a location.

Excerpt from a recent email from her: “Are you sure that you aren’t emphasizing the journey to the exclusion of getting the whole experience?”

She turns a phrase a lot better than I do.

It is a pretty common question, though not often phrased from others nearly as well. Some of the other common variants. . . “You are going to fast – you won’t get to actually know anything about a place.” Note that is isn’t phrased nicely as a question (thank you again Jodi), but a statement. It is fact. My trip is wrong. They are right. I am an idiot.

Somewhat nicer is that “well, I personally wouldn’t do it that way – I like to find a place I like and stay there for enough time to get to know it.” In this variation, it’s just their opinion about what makes them happy. I’m not completely wrong, but then again, there is the undertone that I a bit looney.

The simple answer to all of these people, as I have tried to explain numerous times to little avail, is that they are undoubtedly right. 100% right.

There is no way that I will get to know a place as fast as I am moving. I have met some great locals, but yes, I will not be able to meet as many as I’d like. I won’t know the great little secret places to get a cheap beer in each city or where the best food is. I am missing out on a ton of the possible experiences of an around-the-world trip because of the way I have chosen to travel.

But that is my trip.

I’d love to settle down somewhere for a month or three. In fact, I’m very likely at the end of this trip to come home, sell most of my stuff, and do exactly that. I’d very much like to move to one place for six or so months, learn a foreign language, and actually live there.

Just not on this trip. This trip is about movement. As a matter of fact, this trip is almost entirely about movement.

I am trying to hit six continents, the southernmost and northernmost cities in the world, the longest train trip one can take in the world, the highest mountain in Africa, the iconic mountain of Japan, Mayan and Incan ruins, the Australian outback, camping in deserts in Africa, and a few other things. In roughly a year. Without taking single plane.

Of course I am going to be moving a lot. I’ve made the concession that I can’t manage to do all this in a year, so I’ve slowed down to a fourteen-month schedule. Regardless, it is really not possible for me to stay anywhere for more than a week or so. Just chewing up the miles that I have to do mandates that I make progress on the map fairly constantly. I have no idea, even roughly, what my total mileage will be at the end of this trip, but it is going to be a big number.

The analogy that I pops up in my head is being taken to a huge, huge building, filled with tables of food (and with tons of different wines, of course). I wander around, nibbling a bit of food here and there. There are thousands of different plates of food – from different cooks – with different ethnic styles of food. But I only have the time, and stomach space, to try bits and pieces here and there.

Do I want to just sit down at one great chef’s table, eat his/her food for hours, drink the wines they have paired specially with the food, quiz them about their cooking techniques and influences, and meet all the other people sitting there?

Of course I do. But that’s not for this trip. Perhaps next time.

I love moving. Every time, every mode of transport, every pre-dawn wakeup, every crappy cup of coffee before boarding the bus/truck/train/car. Every single time. . . every single time I am about to move on this trip, I get butterflies in my stomach.

Most of my happiest days have been just moving. Moving somewhere. Making progress. Seeing the world outside the window. I find this truly hard to explain, and I better figure it out a bit better before writing the book, but just the feeling of movement itself is so satisfying to me. So peaceful.

Perhaps I am just still the little infant that just needs to be put in the car seat and driven around the neighborhood to stop my crying and put me to sleep.

I am in a full train compartment right now on a daytime trip from Budapest to Prague (and on to Germany to meet up with the Roberts family). It is a bit cramped in here. Little legroom. IPod is kicking me out some Oingo Bongo. Air conditioning is working just a bit. Seats don’t recline at all. There are no power plugs to recharge my computer. The sights aren’t that great so far. My coffee this morning, indeed, did suck. The guy next to me is snoring.

And you couldn’t jackhammer the smile off my face.

(two posts about my travel times on the trip — part one and part two and what it means to be a “traveler”)

And a bonus, a friend of mine talked about her philosophy of travel in a post that I really loved.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

4 thoughts on “Speed and Travel: An Overland Traveler Explains

  • Colin

    You know what? I think I'm in your camp. Your trip sounds awesome. I always move "too much" on my trips, too (not that any have been as long as yours, but I did Singapore to Hong Kong by land in seven weeks, and many of the parts I still remember best were travel days).Something I think I get from keeping moving is a goal, a destination, a challenge. Also maybe a narrative context to put the whole trip in.

  • Akila @ The Road Forks

    That's great that you recognize that you love movement. It sounds like you have found your own rhythm.A friend of mine absolutely loves cruises. Last summer, they spent two weeks going from Spain to Italy to France to Greece. We spent the same amount of time just seeing a small part of Italy. I find it so ridiculous when people try to tell others that a particular way to travel is "right" or "wrong. Cruising worked for our friends but it doesn't work for ours. At the end of the day, all that matters is that we enjoyed our trips. And, if you're enjoying the movement (rather than the destinations), well, more power to you.

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