Over the years these are two feelings with which I have become well acquainted. I leave for Costa Rica in less than a week and am starting to get that tingling feeling that’s only brought on by the uncertainty of a new adventure. It’s a rush that I will forever chase. My nomadic spirit and my desire to push myself and constantly seek adventure are both a blessing and a curse.
It has been seven months since I set off to backpack SE Asia, spending over a month traveling through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali, and Melbourne. For most people this might be enough adventure to last a lifetime, let alone a year… but not for me. As soon as I got back from Asia I began planning my next trip.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and life in Kansas City, but I will always need to balance the stable with the uncertain. It’s an integral part of who I am, which I have come to accept and even celebrate. There are times when I feel the two parts of myself battling against each other. One part is who I have been for the majority of my life: the planner. The person who was raised in Nebraska with the desire to succeed in the traditional way, to go to a good college, to get a good job, to earn a good living, to conquer the world through some predetermined blueprint. The other person is who I’ve become since I started traveling: the vagabond. The person who lives in the moment and only thinks about what’s in front of him. The one who, regardless of how well I do in my career, will always feel like I’ve failed if I don’t constantly explore the world and challenge myself outside the city in which I live.
There is an old Indian story that goes:
A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.
One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery, and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred, and fear.
The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”
The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed.
This isn’t to say the two parts of me are constantly at war with each other or that one is good and the other is bad. I’ve come to learn that both are equally important parts of me, and it is imperative for me to feed them both. This is why I work hard at Lifted Logic (to grow the company) and why I take time off (to grow myself). I believe both parts of me can coexist as long as I’m equally mindful of each and make sure to never pay too much attention to one while the other diminishes, or even disappears.
Lately, I’ve been feeding the planner. I spend my days helping to run a successful business, managing projects, timelines, coworkers, and schedules. I truly enjoy it, yet clients don’t like surprises when they’re spending money on a new website, which leaves little room for the vagabond in me. That’s how I knew it was time for a trip. I need time where plans don’t exist, where my only responsibility is to immerse myself in something new.
Why Costa Rica?
Recently someone asked me, “Why Costa Rica?” and I didn’t really have an answer. One of my best friends recommended it? I like to surf? Whitewater rafting is one of my favorite things in the world? I want to go somewhere close but that also feels like a world away? I like nature and sloths?
But for real, Jordan is the one who put me onto it. He has been to Costa Rica twice in the past two years and still raves about it. I’m not a competitive person, but when you’re known as “the travel friend” and someone has been to a place as seemingly amazing as Costa Rica and you haven’t, you don’t have a choice but to go. So to Jordan, I say thank you, and we’re even.
In a lot of ways, this trip is the antitheses of my Asia trip. This time I’m going alone, and I’ve done little to no planning. I’m going to rent a car and go wherever fate takes me. I’ve done some general research about different places and activities, but the only thing I know for sure (outside my first stop in Jaco) is that I’m going white water rafting on the Pacuare River on December 7th. I don’t speak the language and have never even met a person from Costa Rica. Unlike the trip to Asia, I haven’t spent hours looking at Trip Advisor or reaching out to my travel friends for advice. I also haven’t created a spreadsheet with set arrival and departure dates.
There’s no right or wrong way to travel. Although I’m choosing to do things differently this time, it doesn’t take away from the fact that my trip to Asia was incredible. I spent a month with my best friends from around the world creating memories that will last a lifetime. But the thing about traveling with a group is, well, you’re traveling with a group. You don’t always get to do what you want to do or eat where you want to eat. You don’t meet that many new people because, honestly, you don’t feel the need to. You have your own inside jokes and your own dance circles, and when you return home you’re even closer to those people than you ever were before. You change your surroundings, but you’re never fully uncomfortable because you always have friends on whom you can rely. To an extent, traveling with a group isn’t as challenging as traveling on your own.
But that’s not why I started to travel.
Why I travel
I started traveling to be uncomfortable, to push myself, to see the world, and to figure out who I am when I’m away from everything I know. While traveling I’ve learned how empowering it is to be completely self-reliant. There is something truly magical about knowing that you can handle whatever comes your way. I keep traveling because of the rush I get when I’m in a new city with no idea what’s going on, and because of the sense of wonder, I feel as a result of the unknown future before me. I will always be a traveler because of the freedom I feel when I meet new people. When you are traveling you have no past and no future; you are who you are in that moment. The people you meet can’t expect you to behave a certain way because they don’t know who you used to be. Without knowing it, they give you permission to be 100% yourself.
The real reason I’m going to Costa Rica? The need to feed the vagabond- the spontaneous part of myself. I need to take a trip where I’m off balance and figuring it out as I go. Where the only plan is no plan. Where I’m in what I call ”seek adventure” mode. The rest of my life I will constantly need to balance a desire to conquer the world with a desire to travel it. But for the next two weeks, it’s the vagabond that gets to eat.