I love to travel. Experiencing new cultures, new foods, new smells, new landscapes and especially new people makes me feel alive. And it doesn’t much matter if the place I am exploring is on another continent or in my own backyard: The volcanos and colonial cities of Nicaragua or the woods and springs of the Ocala National Forest. I’m immersed, lost, no longer shackled to the people, places and things that have become too familiar, too predictable.
But travel – and especially extended budget travel – isn’t as romantic as some writers would have us believe. There is discomfort, delay, frustration and sometimes danger. Tonight, as we prepare to wrap up two months of backpacking through Central America, I am ready to be home.
I miss the little things that we in the US take for granted: Air conditioning, for one, though I prefer fresh air as long as the temperature is well north of freezing and at least a bit south of boiling. Meals in which rice and beans are served as side dishes rather than the main course. Windows covered by screens rather than bars. Hot showers, the duration and temperature of which are dictated by personal preference rather than random outages and dubious (and often un-insulated) electrical gadgets hardwired to the shower head. I miss reliable internet connections and the ability to watch a favorite television show in the comfort of my own quiet home. And, after two months of riding over-burdened chicken buses across potholed, gravel studded roads, I am looking forward to driving my four-wheel-drive, trail-rated Jeep Wrangler on smooth paved highways punctuated by stoplights that most drivers take to be more than helpful suggestions.
Don’t get me wrong: I know I am blessed to have the freedom (read time, money and good health) to explore new places for extended periods of time. And I wouldn’t trade the amazing experiences of this trip: sliding down a volcano on a piece of plywood, zip lining through a tropical forest, snorkeling protected reefs and befriending a former Sandinista freedom fighter, for all of the air-conditioned comfort in the world.
But there comes a time for most travelers – myself included – when the siren song of comfort, of familiarity – of home – becomes compelling. For me, that time is now. Sunday, Vicki and I will fly back to Florida, the land of paved highways and road rage; of air conditioning and cookie-cutter housing; of reliable clean water and opponents of the government regulations and taxes that make it possible; of political stability and random, senseless violence. And we will be happy, for a while.
But I know, after 30-odd years of traveling to places new and exotic (to me, anyway), I will never shake the travel bug. Over the past week, as we have caught up on our rest, our laundry and our work, Vicki and I have also been planning new adventures. Over the next year or two, we hope to travel across a good portion of the US by van or RV, backpack across much of Southern Europe and travel by ferry along the west coast of Canada and Alaska. In between will be shorter jaunts; a week in the Caribbean for my younger brother’s 40th birthday, weekends in St. Augustine, camping in the still-wild spots of Florida and, perhaps, a third sailboat trip along the St. John’s River between Sanford and Jacksonville. We are looking forward to those trips and hope that you will join us. In the meantime, please continue to share your own stories with our fellow travelers on www.BudgetNomads.com or on our Facebook page. Thank you and safe travels!
When I retired 3 years ago, my husband and I also backpacked through Central America, and had many of the same experiences as you. It was a wonderful immersion into the culture. Your summary parallels our experience. As for the safety part, we were robbed at gunpoint 10 days before the return home. That experience left an unfortunate scar but we never regretted the trip.
Hope you have safe travels to home.
Sorry to hear you had a horrible experience like that. We have had nothing but wonderful experiences with the people here. There’s always a risk no matter where you are. So glad you don’t regret the trip and we hope you have more happy travels in the future!
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