Monday, May 4, 2009

Post-Travels: A Follow-Up

I've been back from the trip for exactly a month now and have been busy trying to get my life back in order so I could move out to Colorado again to start my next adventure as a rookie white water rafting guide. Although I'd been making notes all through Australia with the intention of a trip summary, there have been so many distractions that I never got around to it. To be honest, I'm not sure what kind of readership this thing is getting so I didn't think anyone would notice.

Some of the immediate things that come to mind that have been affected by traveling abroad for over 5 months are my definition of the word "clean" in every sense of the word--food, hygiene, living conditions. You name it. Before this trip, the notion of considering anything edible that had previously touched the ground made me cringe. We often cook on dirty picnic tables where birds, flies and who knows what else has been there before us. I stopped caring when some of the pasta would fall out of the pot (back in it goes!) or we'd drop produce from the grocery store on the floor without a way to wash it off before eating it. No problem. That's what immune systems are for!

As for personal hygiene. That's another matter that I'm not entirely rid of my pre-trip sentiments. I lived in Washington, DC for the better part of 4 years and, with the help of my best friend, Michelle, became much more of a "girly" girl than I had ever been. I kept up with grooming: wore make-up, shaved my legs every other day, had manicures and pedicures, wore reasonably fashionable clothes and high heels. Showered daily. You know, the normal city-girl stuff.

Moving to Colorado cured a lot of that in a hurry. I stopped wearing heels (who can make that work in fresh snow and a nice layer of ice covering the sidewalk?!? Trust me, I gave it a go...didn't work.), and I was outside so much that my ski pants, a warm jacket, hat and gloves became choice attire. I essentially stopped wearing make-up except mascara and Burt's Bees chap stick. But I still showered at least every other day and shaved my legs regularly, even though they were almost always covered up. Other grooming became a much lower priority.

But traveling abroad, I was lucky to get a shower (there's almost no such thing as hot water showers in Asia without paying a fortune for a hotel) as availability and droughts in Australia made it a challenging prospect. I almost never wore make-up and Dave and I were thrilled to be able to do laundry every so often since we only had a few changes of clothes. It became all about the simple things, which was profound and deeply satisfying at the same time. I enjoyed being back to basics and refocusing my priorities much more than I imagined I would. I'm proud to say that much of that appreciation remains even though I'm back home where everything is convenient and easy (but I admit to wearing a bit of make-up here). Hopefully it'll stick.

One of the big things this trip has changed is my tolerance with living arrangements other than apartments and houses. My Southern upbringing has taught me to relish a roof over my head and my age has afforded me experiences that make living alone a joy, but Dave and I spent so many months living in shared dorms with other backpackers and then living out of a tent/car Down Under that I began to appreciate the drifter lifestyle. I loved meeting other travelers and discovering that, though we're from different countries and cultures, we've got a lot in common. I also loved camping out in some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. We saw some of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen and would've never experienced had I had traditional housing.

Dave and I are moving to Durango and have no idea where we'll be living. We've discussed buying a camper and living out of it with or without electricity for the summer, as well as camping in people's backyards or in national forests or possibly renting an apartment if we can find something reasonably affordable that will accept a dog. None of these scenarios bother me, but my mom got rather cranky and vocal at the prospect of me being "homeless" for the summer by camping out. Having lived like that for a few months already, the "homeless" comment made me smile. Its really not so bad!

But perhaps the most noteworthy result of the trip is that Dave and I didn't kill each other, are still together, and are still very happy. I calculated at one point that we spent 150 days together, averaging at least 23 hours a day together for the duration of the trip. That's 3,450 hours or 207,000 minutes of never-ending togetherness. My friends joke that it was a crash-course in marriage and you won't hear me argue. All that time gave us uninterrupted time to get to know each other through and through. We've seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I can't lie and say we didn't have a few snags here and there and that we didn't reach points on the trip where we thought the other might cut the trip short and fly home, but we worked through it and came out much stronger in the end. We've heard all of each other's stories, laughed together, cried together and shared experiences that I wouldn't have rather shared with anyone else. Dave is my best friend and my lover and someone I have tremendous respect and admiration for. After all that we've been through together, I am still thankful every day that he is a part of my life and that we're continuing to share new adventures together. These experiences have been so amazing I feel like the luckiest girl alive!

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