Email/Newsletter Update #20

Lisa and Joel's Excellent Adventure: Issue 20

-On The Road For Three Hundred And Fifty Eight Days-
by Lisa A. Listro and Joel A. Sward

Lisa and Joel at The Ancient Ruins of Ephesus, Turkey

Three hundred and fifty eight days ago, on July 3rd, 2000, we set out, from Boston, Massachusetts, heading in the general direction of west, with the impetus to travel around the world for approximately one year.

Since that time -- armed only with the possessions we carried on our backs, open-jawed around the world airline tickets and what we hoped was enough money to support us -- we have traveled through parts of twenty three different countries or distinct political regions – The United States of America, The Cook Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Hong Kong, Macau, Nepal, India, The United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Kenya, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Russia. We plan on adding The Netherlands, France and The United Kingdom to this list before returning to the US.

Many people have traveled longer than we have and many people have been to more places than we have been, but many haven’t. For those of you yet to, or not destined to, set out on your own adventure we thought we would describe what it is like to travel for three hundred and fifty eight days consecutively.

Physically it is grueling. Your body simply deteriorates. No matter how good your intentions, staying in shape proves impossible. Attempts at working out are haphazard at best and your daily diet is at the mercy of your locale. Mostly you eat junk food and if you are brave enough to eat some dangerous looking local fare (many times you don’t have a choice), sometimes you pay the price with food poisoning, bad diarrhea or worse. Both of us have been sick more than once on this trip and it is not a fun experience.

Don’t drink the water! But sometimes you have no choice and giardia microbes latch themselves onto your insides. It’s scary to think how much bacteria, flukes and other nasty critters are swimming around our insides. Basically, when traveling for lengthy periods, your body falls apart. You get big in all the places you want to be small and small in all the places you want to be big. There is one plus though – we’ve got great tans!

Mentally, it’s an entirely different story. Where lengthy travel can cause physical deterioration, mentally it creates growth.

Everyday you face different and unique mental challenges that must be dealt with and overcome. Everyday is different. Remember when you were a little kid and each day you woke up excited about the possibilities and adventure that was in store for you. That is what it is like when you travel. Especially when you cover a lot of ground like we have. Our around the world airline tickets have been open-jawed and we have spent just as much time traveling over land as by air. Plus we’ve kept moving. The longest we stayed in any one place by far has been eighteen days, while most of the time we found ourselves moving on in a day or two. All this constant change, this perpetual state of flux, forces you to stay on constant mental alert. You have to adapt to survive and your problem solving skills are sharpened to a razor’s edge as a sense of excitement and adventure fills every portion of every day.

Another aspect of mental growth comes from learning about the world. We believe that nature, culture and difference teach us important lessons about ourselves. By traveling for lengthy periods of time consecutively you earn a diploma in life. Have we earned our Ph.D. in Traveling? (Well, at least a Masters.)

Where traveling can be physically grueling but mentally enriching, we believe the greatest benefit derived from getting out there is emotional.

Everyone gets in a rut sometimes. That’s what we felt like before we left. Get up, go to work, have dinner, watch Seinfeld, go to bed, get up, go to work. . . it goes on and on. Where’s the excitement, where’s the adventure? Many of you will dismiss this as a mid-life crisis, but to us it was more than that. It felt like our lives were slipping away into a gray abyss of mediocrity.

Traveling has changed all that. Each day is new and exciting. Each day we wake up eager, sometimes apprehensive, but still enthusiastic about what will happen next. Yes, there is risk involved. By the time this “mid-life crisis” is over we will both have taken over a year off from work, and will be close to being broke and homeless. But, what we have gained is priceless! The lust and passion for life is back and we are genuinely excited about getting back into the “real world”.

This time things will be different. No more hum drum routines, no more selling our lives away. Life is too short for that. We plan on staying true to the heart and doing only the things we really want to do – no matter what the risk. Hopefully, as a result, when we are on our death beds, about to become food for worms, we will be filled with a sense of accomplishment rather than regret. This new found wisdom, this enlightenment, if you will, we owe all to traveling. We knew this experience would be life changing, but couldn’t comprehend the magnitude of the change. It’s a big world out there and we can’t wait to keep exploring it.
(c) Lisa and Joel's Excellent Adventure 2000-2009. All rights reserved.