Posted by: GeekHiker | January 12, 2012

Indecisive Indecisiveness

Today I’m sitting in the quiet study room in a library near The Parentage’s house, where I’m currently crashing for a short time before the next stage of my journey (whatever it turns out to be) begins.  Spread before me is a map of the world.  A couple of notebooks lie nearby, messy notes and various attempts at organization (none of which seems to be particularly successful) in them.  On the laptop, a half dozen browser windows are open, and within each of them a series of tabs.

I stare at the map, and feel totally, completely overwhelmed.

I’m not like my friends, most of whom came to the U.S. from other countries to begin with, and all of whom have already traveled to foreign lands before.  (And we’ll just ignore, for the moment, all the other ways in which I feel totally unaccomplished next to them.)  I’m a total neophyte in comparison, even when it comes to the basics.  My mind is swimming with random information about border crossings, visas, immunizations.

It’s hard not to wish, even at my relatively young (middle?) age that I had done more before.  Taken a gap year after high school or college.  Done a semester abroad from school.  Taken more vacations from work.  Even as recently as a couple of years ago, when many of my friends took time off to travel to Manchu Picchu in Peru and I didn’t, telling myself I couldn’t afford to take the time off work.  But was that really true?  Or was I simply scared?

Now I find myself torn between taking the time to try to do at least some traveling abroad (although a round-the-world trip is likely out-of-the-question financially) and returning to work.  I’m uncomfortable being out of work this long.  It’s just not in my nature.  I suppose to no small degree that’s also part of the indoctrination of American culture: work hard and you will be successful.  It isn’t true, of course, and the odds are pretty much stacked against anyone below the vaunted 1%, but we all fervently believe the myth, whether we want to or not.

I’ve even found myself idly flipping through the library’s copy of “What Color is Your Parachute?” from time-to-time.

As well, I’ve discovered it’s easy to let the time go by, which is why I’m here at the library: somehow, in a home, it’s far too easy to slip into relaxation, simply surfing the web and playing stupid online games.  After a few days in L.A. visiting friends (who filled, nay, over-filled my head with travel suggestions), and a couple of nights sleeping in the back of the truck in Death Valley to attempt to clear my head, I returned here to throw myself into research and planning.  But, while I’ve made a lot of progress and done a lot of reading over this week, it already feels like I’m fighting a loosing battle against time.  “Shit,” I think, “It’s already the 12th.”

I stare at the map and feel totally, completely overwhelmed.  Again.

The world is a very big place, and I don’t know where to begin.

Of course, I want to see it all.  But budget and time don’t allow for that and, unfortunately, I can’t go back in time and give myself the international travel experience I wish I had had when I was younger.  I’m torn (as I so often seem to be) between wanting to see so much (i.e. as many countries as possible) and wanting to see in depth (long times in fewer places).  Which is better: a month in New Zealand, or half a month in New Zealand and half in oh, say, Thailand?  Who can say?

(I’m sure there are those who will suggest that I hop on a plane and “just go” but, while I do take that advice to heart, I’m also pretty sure that just going without a plan is an easy way to over-spend money. Fast.)

So, too, am I nervous about traveling afar solo, remembering the highs and lows of the road trip.  As one website I’m referencing succinctly puts it: “traveling alone is far, far better than not traveling at all.”  I totally agree with that, but as some days over the past few months have taught me while packing up wet tents or being sick in hotel rooms, “you will undoubtedly find yourself in a situation where things don’t go so fantastically and not having someone to share those frustrations with or to lend a helping hand can be a little depressing.”  So true, so true…

Mixed in with it all is a bit of fear, just because I’ve never traveled abroad, really, before.  Mix that in with the wealth of choices the world offers and you have the perfect cocktail for… well, for not knowing what the hell to do next.

So I sit, in a reading room in California, staring at a map of the world.  Indecisive as ever.

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Responses

  1. This is the perfect description of the paradox of too much choice. When faced with just one option, it’s easy to pick it and be happy with it, but when faced with a world of choice, it’s easy to be dissatisfied. I’m running into a similar thing, albeit on a much smaller scale, in trying to pick a place to go with my Mom next month. Mexico? Barbados? Dominican Republic? All-inclusive? Boutique hotel? Cruise? The options are paralyzing! Good luck making your choice.

    Having traveled overseas as a single female, I can say that in my experience it’s a lot easier than it looks. There are certainly moments of loneliness and frustration, but they’re balanced out by moments of wonder and pure pleasure. And traveling with other people isn’t always as wonderful as it’s made out to be – travel companions can be a pain in the ass at times.

  2. What I love about international traveling is the food – even if I don’t speak the same language, if I’m excited about trying the local’s fave dish, then we have something in common. And people-watching is always fun times (for me). Have fun finding what fits your personality best! I would suggest to stop thinking about the destination (location) and focus on the type of experience you want (lots of people/no people, trendy/hidden gems, foreign language/english speakers, etc) and then use your budget to inform the destination choice. E.g. If your goal is being in the outback, but your budget limits you to Sydney, Australia’s not a very good choice, but there might be places in N/S America that are equally desolate.

  3. Wow, there are so many things to comment on in this post!

    First of all, don’t beat yourself up! There are always people that are better traveled, and there are always those that travel less and probably have no desire to leave their home state. It’s just a matter of choice and life circumstances. Traveling more doesn’t make you a better person (just look at all those spring breakers in Cancun — I don’t think they become more world-savvy by just partying up in a drunken haze in a “foreign” land), so relax! What’s done is done — just start building your travel cred FROM NOW ON instead of mulling over what you didn’t do in the PAST. Be excited, not regretful.

    Secondly, you don’t have to fit EVERYTHING into this journey. You have limited fund, and eventually you will have to come back to “reality”, which means becoming a writer, going into a different profession altogether, or resuming your current line of work in a new state (or not), or of course, you can win the lottery and don’t have to work ever again (yay! :-D). Anyway, this is just your FIRST taste of international travel, and you have so many other opportunities in the future to explore more. So instead of overwhelming yourself with possibilities, focus on having an enjoyable first-time experience.

    Thirdly, having a travel partner is totally overrated. Unless you two are compatible when it comes to things you want to do and see, you are prob. going to be miserable having to accommodate each other (unless the other one is your significant other, and accommodation is required :-)), or you will have to go your separate ways now and then to do your own thing, which is almost the same as traveling solo. Plus, there is always the “bubble” when you are traveling in a pack — you tend to stick to things and people you are familiar with and don’t interact with the locals as much. But part of the fun is meeting the locals and seeing a way of living different from what you know.

    Last but not least, listen to your heart, not your head. Guidebooks/sites can only get you so far; every destination has its legion of admirers. Instead of pondering on “Where SHOULD I go?”, ask “Where do I WANT to go?”I am sure there are a few countries or a few “types” of places that you have always wanted to check out, and it doesn’t have to be Paris or Rome, or the Andes, because those are OTHER people’s popular choices, not YOURS. Again, this is just your first trip, so go to a place you’ve always been attracted to.

    Okay, this is becoming a novel 🙂 Anyway, we will support you in whatever you decide to do!

    P.S., if you are really uncomfortable with diving right in, how about going to countries with more English speakers (e.g., instead of Mongolia or Congo, try Australia, New Zealand, and most of Europe), or countries where you have blog readers (local guides are the best!)?

    P.P.S., you can also go with some sort of “outfit” (don’t know exactly how that works, but it’s not a “guided tour” in the traditional sense). The friend I mentioned to you a long time ago, the one that traveled six months to Africa and Asia and climbed Kilimanjaro? He went with a travel “outfit” and had a blast. That would cut down the planning anxiety.

  4. Just wanted to say I have always admired the honesty in your writing, I wish you much luck on the times ahead. It’ll be interesting how you feel about all this further down the road a few years from now. Maybe what seems like a struggle now will be revered for the experiences it brought, who knows? You should put up a “buy Geekhiker a beer” donation button though, maybe some of us can contribute to the journey in some small way even if we’re unable to do more.

  5. I see the beginning of a long line of travels abroad! 🙂 And so it begins…

  6. I don’t have any advice. I just wanted to say this is a great post. I was particular taken with the first paragraph- the description of the notebooks and the tabbed browser windows communicated your mindset amazingly well!

  7. Not really much point in sighing over what could have been, right? I was over 30 the first time I took my first big adventure trip outside the US. I’ve got many under my belt now, and plans for many more. You can’t reclaim the past, but you sure as hell can max out the future.

    You’ve already had a lot of advice, so I don’t want to clutter you up with more. But, I do have two things I will suggest. First, yes the world is a big place. Huge. The options are (almost) endless. So, just pick a place. Really, dude…it isn’t going to matter much because it’s going to be new, different, exciting. You will love it. It just. doesn’t. matter. Pick. Go. Enjoy.

    Second, check out this blog. I stumbled onto it somehow, but it’s a girl who was, in many ways, in the same boat as you. She took a year off (started out as three months) and just went. (http://exploreforayear.com/).

    And, just in case it hasn’t sunk in…Pick. Go. Enjoy. The rest will all fall into place.

  8. Who would tell you to just go?!! Traveling NEEDS planning and desissions. You do sound a bit like you want to do it now or else you’ll never get to go anywhere and, that’s not necesarily the case.

    Anyway, it sounds like you’ve had a wonderful journey, I hope it continues to bring you different experiences and great moments. That’s all there is to it in the end 🙂

    • I never said not to plan. I was making the point that noodling forever over WHICH place to go is futile. Pick a place. Go. Enjoy. That doesn’t mean one doesn’t have to pick dates, buy tickets, secure lodging, etc.

      On the other hand, I’ve picked up with hours notice and just gone someplace, figuring we’d get it all worked out upon arrival. Guess what? Some of the BEST trips I’ve ever experienced. Travel doesn’t NEED planning per se. Certain people NEED planning, and I wasn’t in any way suggesting someone who needs planning should just up-and-go.

  9. I so hear you on that strange feeling you SHOULD be working. It stinks. But I believe you can find a way to do both – like maybe get a freelance writing gig or two. And everyone who wrote before me is right: just go with your gut and choose a destination. Then worry about all the others later. I have a laundry list of places I still want to visit, but you just gotta tick them off one by one. (I have heard New Zealand is incredible, though, so I like your thinkin’ there.)

    I think instinct is your best friend right now. I don’t know HOW exactly to tell you to tune into your gut, but if you’re hearing/feeling little whispers leaning one way, those are probably it.

    Like Hunter, I know of a great blog that a female wrote after she quit her job and started traveling last year. She has since fallen in love and moved to Paris. Crazy. (aftertheartistsway.blogspot.com)

    Good luck! And glad to have you back on the blog!

  10. Hopefully you’ve made a decision by now. If not here are my 2 cents. You may want to look into a travel agent. They will help you get past all the hurdles (visa, immunizations, etc.) They may also know a few things about countries that you may not have been aware of. I suspect you are one of those guys who think they can do it all themselves better but … you sit at a library paralyzed in indecision.

    Since you are a newbie at the international travel thing I would suggest you stick with one country. I like the New Zealand idea. No language barrier. A local blog friend or two. Lots of hiking and nature. Maori culture for an little added spice.

    My last recommendation – don’t over plan. Some of my best experiences were spontaneous surprises. Do the planning you require but leave some room for wonder.

    After you’ve traveled once you will catch the bug. As the Wife says, “Don’t let money and time get in the way. There is always a way if you really want it.”

  11. Definitely NZ (of course I’m biased!!) But it’s small enough not to be too intimidating, and large enough to be interesting, and varied – you can drive to the top to the bottom of the country in roughly two days, and along the way see almost every kind of landscape, community and climate there is!!

  12. So what was the decisions!?

  13. Wow, I am REALLY late to the party. But this is about you…

    My suggestion is to go get a nice fat sandwich, watch some Flashpoint (those canadians kick butt!) and not think about this for a whole day. Let your subconscious chew on it, and when you get back to it, you’ll find that you already have some thoughts forming. Then let us know so we can cheer you on and ask more questions.

    these comments from other readers are AMAZING. I feel completely motivated and inspired just by reading these, don’t you?


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