Growing Old on the Road


A lot of changes have been happening lately. We mentioned a few posts ago that the time has come to wrap up the traveling—for now. We obviously don’t intend on ever leaving traveling behind for good. So stay tuned for the next 60 years as we take on the world!

We’ve recently accepted a job in Beijing teaching English. We’re a little nervous about it, living in such a big, crowded, and potentially expensive city. I’ve also applied to a Master’s program that I’m waiting to hear back from (send good feelings this way so I can get in!)

All these changes and the prospect of actually settling down a bit has got Ricky and me to thinking about the past 7-ish months we’ve spent traveling.  The consensus is that we’ve really “grown up” on this trip.  Obviously, we were already adults who had done adult-y things. We’d both lived away from home, had jobs (though I’d say that Ricky’s job as an assistant manager at a hotel was probably more adult than my custodian gig at college), paid rent, all that. But this kind of long term travel has aged us in ways we didn’t expect.

As a lot of you know, we were affected greatly by tragedies that have happened in so many places. Seeing the remnants of war has given us new views on what we’d only vaguely heard about before. We came to see that what we only sort of hear about on the news has much more far reaching effects on people worlds away. 

This kind of thing ages you. Seeing what war does to people—how it tears apart civilians who didn’t ask for that sort of thing to happen, how they try to adapt and survive, how a city will never be the same—that kind of thing makes you old. That kind of thing makes you think about things that the average 20-something might not be inclined to ponder. It gives you whole new ideas on right and wrong, the value of life, morality, ethics, and loss.

War isn’t the only thing to have changed us. No, every aspect of life in the countries we’ve visited has changed us. The poverty, food and lack of it, community, tribal life, the moments of kindness that have been given to us, and the ones we attempt to give back—there is no way that being in the midst of these things can leave you emotionally or mentally static.

I know that most people throughout their lifetimes experience certain things that help them learn what we have learned, but our process was a sort of high-speed evolution to a certain maturity, a certain understanding of how places outside of our homes really are.  Living it is more than what a documentary on National Geographic can prepare you for.

But it’s not all war and local life that’s given us that adult feeling. We’ve grown in other ways that otherwise would have taken us ages. For example, Ricky, who I like to refer to as Map Brain at certain times, does indeed have a brain like a map. He can navigate us through an unknown city to the section where most of the low-priced hostels are, or find our way back after roaming the town looking for some decent food. I’ve never been so good, but my skills in navigation and recognition of landmarks and directions has definitely improved.

We’ve both gotten better at negotiating prices and being unashamed at doing so. This was a talent I had hoped to work on upon my arrival in China, and I did ok, but I feel like I have mastered the skill as we have haggled for everything from hotel rooms to bottled water. We usually are pretty confident that we get the best price (at least the best prices white faces like ours are allowed). This skill has come in handy as we have interviewed for jobs and negotiated prices and benefits to our advantage.

I’ve never really been good at talking to people. Making chit-chat is my idea of one of the outer rings of Hell.  I often feel I have nothing to say and small talk with strangers is strained and awkward. Well, after being on the road with someone, being with him 24/7 for this long, no matter how much I love him, I (both of us, actually) have craved conversation with other people. Ricky often makes the first move, but I usually have no problem joining in with the conversation any more. I have things to say, newfound opinions, experiences to share, and advice to give. I can contribute. And what’s more adult than having a heated conversation about gun laws where actual facts and statistics are used, as opposed to simply shouting your political preference?

Now, armed with all of our new knowledge, experience, and skills, Ricky and I are ready to begin the next phase of true adulthood. We’re getting ready to sign contracts, rent an apartment, and pay some bills.

Wait..how do I push rewind? I don’t know if I’m ready for this! 

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