If you are anything like me, you read blogs like Tynan's because you want to both experience other people’s adventures and you want to learn how to go on these adventures yourself. You likely want to go on your own series of journeys and at the end, look in the mirror and see a seasoned and happy traveler. That is certainly my goal. But have you ever wondered what will happen after you become that person?
I don’t consider myself to be the foremost expert on anything related to travel (there are many more experienced people than myself, especially in this community) but I do look back on my adventures with a smile. I have visited all seven continents, finished 80% of my 150+ item bucket list, ran marathons, published a book, lived in foreign countries, filled multiple passports with stamps and most importantly, met an insane amount of intensely amazing people. I am proud to say that I have become the version of me that I only imagined before I started my travel journey years ago.
My goal with the piece below is to show you how I feel when I travel now. Everyone’s journey is different but hopefully this will help you understand some of the highs and lows that you are likely to encounter going forward.
I am sitting in a tiny pub in Galway, Ireland. In front of me is a crackling wood fire and a half full Guinness. After a long journey, I am am finally feeling like myself again.
Rewind 35 hours.
I arrive at the airport three hours early. This is uncharacteristic of me as as I know it takes me two hours to get from my door in Seattle to the aircraft door on the tarmac at SEA. I am feeling uneven today, I am burnt out from something unknown and don’t feel like my legs are touching the ground. I am technically home but feel far from it.
I keep thinking something feels off. Upon check-in, I find I have an upgraded ticket. That is odd, I check my TripIt itinerary. I bought the plane ticket with miles almost a year ago (this is also uncharacteristic of me) and opted for higher class. It cost me $34. I am happy with the decision but the novelty of Business class has worn away. I am now always more excited for the destination than I am for another airplane ride.
“Feel free to use our Lounge Mr. Dover” the airline employee says overly politely to me. I nod.
This is weird. I usually never fly anything but economy, it is not my way.
Contrary to what my bank may think, the airline employee quickly assumes that I am an important businessman.
I board my flight and sit by the window. I still feel odd.
Two minutes later, a beautiful girl sits next to me. We make small talk and faster than normal, move into actual conversation. She is French but lives in Berlin. She is a nurse and just finished studying in the United States. She is now returning home.
She notices my laptop and asks if I am writer. I tease her about the odd conclusion (there are lots of things to do with a computer) but explain that while I don’t know if I am a writer, I do actually write a lot. She beams. It seems, I was actually the one to come to the wrong conclusion. She is merciless with her teasing.
We chat the entire 11 hour flight.
We land in Frankfurt, Germany (our respective layover destination) and head to the nearest airport pub. We both have flights to catch in less than an hour.
Before I know it, we are kissing. She initiated it. That has never happened before. Her phone alarm goes off and we both look at our tickets. It is time to go. We both linger.
I am the last person to board my flight from FRA to DUB. I am smiling but still feeling hazy. It isn’t jet lag, it something else, something I can’t explain. I sit in my normal window seat (10A )and the man sitting next to me asks if my last flight was stalled (he was wondering why I was late). I described my last seat neighbor. He laughed out loud and immediately started talking about his life prior to being married. He used to be a world leading tennis coach and spent all of his time traveling and training athletes. He showed his balance of airline miles on the app on his phone. 2.2 million.
An hour into the flight, he brought up my late entrance again. You must have a hell of a job. I thought to myself that his conclusion was better suited for himself.
On my taxi ride from the DUB to my hotel, the driver asks me where I am from. I say Seattle and he immediately interrupts me with “Frasier”! (an old TV show based in Seattle) I laugh, I have never got that one before.
He immediately tells me, “I knew it, you are one of those smart intellectual types!”. My immediate thought is “smart intellectual” is redundant. My second thought is I am a dork for thinking that. :-) I laugh and say far from it. School was never really my thing. I just like exploring.
On my way out of the cab, the man slips me a handful of unmarked white pills. What are these I say skeptically?
“Melatonin (sleeping pills), you look tired.”
I take them begrudgingly and without the driver noticing, deliver them to the nearest trash can. The risk is far to high to be worth any sleep reward.
The next day I sit alone in a train on my way from Dublin to Galway. I can’t count how many people have told me to add Galway to my Life List. I go way out of my way to visit it.
Right before the train departs, a group of Canadians’s sit around me. I am feeling exhausted from the long day before and don’t feel like talking. Instead, I open up my laptop and start to write. The seat-mates are polite and leave me alone while still being inviting.
20 minutes before the end of the ride, I finally decide to surrender and join their interesting conversation. I am still not feeling right but decide that that shouldn’t be a reason for me to be anti-social. I learn that my seat-mates are all from Toronto and have just starting a month-long journey of their own. They notice my camera.
“You are obviously a photographer” one of them says.
No, just learning actually.
We step off the train and I start exploring the city alone. I find a pub and sit down. On the TV is rugby and in the background is the distinct murmur of people chatting. I start thinking and writing about the conclusions people have had about me in the last 35 hours.
To them, I only briefly existed as part of their personal journeys.
To them, I was an important businessman, a writer, a tardy youth, an intellectual and a photographer.
To each person who made an early conclusion about me, I occupied a completely different role in their model of reality.
Right as a I take a deep drink of my cold Guinness, a thought grabs me.
Maybe it was I who had made the premature conclusions. Maybe the others were offering insight, not judgement. I, like all people, am actually multifaceted. My understanding of myself is growing but perpetually incomplete.
I am just a traveler. A traveler who is on a journey to define my world by the insights of others. I started my life mission striving to see and understand humanity. Instead, I have learned that I need humanity in order to see and understand myself.
I let out a deep breath. I finally feel right again. I pay the barman and leave the pub. All is right in the world, I have another train to catch.
Photo was taken on Easter Island at sunset of one the legendary Moai. This entire piece was from an earlier collection of mine.
Awesome writing Danny, you obviously know how to put words together to captivate your readers!
I haven't traveled nearly as much as you, but I have lived in other countries and/or cities for the past 6+ years, and I can only say that traveling, learning languages, and getting to meet new people is something everyone has to do in their lives at least once. To me, the short answer to "What happens after you become a seasoned and happy traveler" is "I want more!"
Your stories are really interesting too, will be checking out your blog for sure to get to know your story a bit better. Are you still on the road very often? If you make a tour around East Asia in the near future, let me know.
You definitely the hit jack pot with the premium flying experience. Usually you get to sit next old business men with beer bellies or completely by yourself with the new isolated business/first class seats.
I notice a stark difference how people treat me when I'm flying First class international especially since I'm young. It doesn't cross their minds that I'm using frequent flyer miles since that's only a game a few people in the United States play.
I just flew Cathay Pacific First and had the flight attendent tell me that she and another flight attendent agreed I'm more handsome than the famous guy on the front cover of a magazine. I also had a girl chat me up in the Lufthansa First class lounge in Munich. Had a First class terminal worker loudly whisper how cute I am.
It's a bit of a mind fuck since I'm only using miles, but in retrospect, it gives me a glimpse of what it's like to have wealth and power. My conclusion so far is that luxury isn't really worth the money and being able to taste it for cheap is like getting the luxury vaccine to prevent me from getting lost with the material disease.
But aside from the fancy flying, traveling a lot especially alone in general changes the way your hold yourself. After living India, my friend's Mom starkly commented on how my face changed for the better but couldn't really pinpoint anything specific.
I guess it has to do something with confidence. You are not this naive kiddo anymore, you've seen some shit.
Very well written. I'll let you know what happens to me in 5 years haha. Just started my journey.
Nice read. Can did you end up doing a TED talk?!
Hey Sam! It was kind of a weird thing. Depending on the TED event (ex. TEDx events happen all over the world and are run by different people) the process is different. In my case, the biggest local TEDx community in my area (Seattle) had a committee of people and one of those people had read some of my blog posts. They called me up while I was at HN's Startup School and we did an phone interview. From there, we had another in-person rehearsal, worked with a team to polish my deck and I showed up the day of the talk.
Awesome Danny. Do you have any posts on how to become financially independent?
I do have some posts on the topic but to be 100% transparent I don't feel like I have figured out "the perfect formula". You likely won't find your financial answers through me just yet. That is still a question (identifying a plan that others can copy with equal success) that I am working on answering.
My journey to financial independence has involved a lot of hustling. I took a lot of steps that I don't really think others could exactly copy (the steps were circumstantial).
I always help myself to the student discount when available. Sure, I don't actually go to school, but I still have my UT ID, and I'd argue that I learn more on a regular basis than most college students. Before today I'd never had any problem using my ID.
I'm sitting at a poker table at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. I haven't played in a while, and it's good to be back. I step away from the table to answer my phone. It's my mom and she wants to know where I am. I'm at the casino. She insists that I'm flying back to Austin at 7:30am the next morning. No, I was flying out on Sunday and planned on spending Saturday with the family. She checks, and she's actually right - my flight leaves in only seven hours.
We pile into the car and begin the two hour journey back to my grandparents' house where I'm staying. That gives me about 5 hours to sleep, pack, and leave the house.
Going to Bali is a rite of passage for any West Australian. It is the Cancun of Australia. People go there to party and take advantage of the ridiculously cheap way of life. It is cheaper to get to than Sydney You can rent a scooter for 5 dollars per day, my accommodation was never more than 10 dollars per night, meals were never more than 5 dollars with the cheapest and coincidently most enjoyable being the 75 cent Nasi Goreng (an Indonesian staple) purchased at a sweaty night market outside of Lovina.
But I must say, I hated Bali from the start.
On the Airplane, people were just there to party and have fun. There was total disrespect for the flight attendants and obnoxious behaviour. I was ready to get off the plane and get away from tourists.
Upon leaving the airport I was surrounded by "taxi" drivers wanting my business. A taxi driver in Bali is a guy who owns a car and hangs around at the airport for so long that he forgets where he parked his car while his family is sleeping to earn a few extra bucks. I was told to go for the "Bluebird" metered taxes because there is no arguing about the fare. They were right. I got into an argument with him because he specifically told me one price at the beginning, then changed it at the destination saying that it was his accent. The price difference was the equivalent of $2.20. This is not a significant amount of money to me but it was the principle of the matter that annoyed me. I soon learned that this is common in Bali.