How Has Extended Travel Affected Your Life?

          When asked ‘How has 10 months of travel affected my life?’. I usually ended up saying something short ….“It was an amazing trip!”, and maybe add a few extra words….fun, interesting…. the let my voice trail away as their eyes glaze over. A more meaningful answer takes extra time to describe, as without a doubt, the 10 months of travel had a tremendous impact on my life. It’s hard to know where to begin….

 

          But I think the best ones to answer this question are my two young daughters (then age 9 and 11). For them, among other things, it was a year out of the usual day-to-day school routine although we did follow their school curriculum. They also had hands-on lessons in geography, history, social studies, math (currency conversion), add in impromptu lessons in geology (my background is in geology), biology (field trips with local guides learning about local flora and fauna), meeting and visiting with people and learning about their culture.  Most importantly, and not part of any formal or informal lesson, the kids had an opportunity to meet and live with people and learn about their stories, their culture – daily rituals, customs around meals, families, music, spiritual beliefs. The kids have developed a social conscious – becoming aware that each country in the world and its people are diverse, each having its own history and cultural values  – some of which may appear wrong though inexperienced eyes.

 

          For me – I had not traveled very much around the world prior to this trip, but in a nutshell, travel has had an enormous impact on me.  I’ve gained so much appreciation for the world; seeing, touching, hearing about ancient and more recent history in other countries, distant landscapes, interacting with people from other cultures and making connections with them. Having been there, lived there, seeing, eating, smelling, hearing with my own senses – is far richer in terms of gaining social and cultural wealth than reading or watching a documentary on TV about other cultures. Traveling to distant countries and experiencing different cultures has also taught me about my life. It is as though my eyes are now looking inward – instead of outward. I see and think differently now. Travel has taught me to be more open-minded and ‘see’ new with opportunities instead of simply following the same ruts.

 

          Travel has also instilled a feeling of being grateful – grateful that I am healthy enough to travel, and also grateful that I live in a part of the world where we have the opportunity to go to school, to get an education, to get a well paying job and have the opportunity to travel. In many of the countries that we visited – those opportunities simply do not exist !. Extended travel has also helped me overcome the stresses of daily life. I remember how relaxed other cultures are, whereas back in the home environment, I notice the fast paced and stressful life experienced by my neighbors. There seems to be an endless list of things-to-do, driving kids to and from after school activities, and a fair amount of ’keeping up with the Jones’.  I have simply stopped stressing about many things.  I no longer feel the urge to be always on the go, to rush out to participate in every activity that comes along, or sign my kids up for every activity. Nor do I feel the urge to make a large addition to my house, or even buy a new car, or even buy more stuff.   I have learned to be Content. I have lived with people that had a much smaller house than mine, did not even have a car, had much fewer personal possessions and did not rush around trying to do everything. They were Content. During the 10 months of travel, there were many situations that did not go as well as planned. We had our share of mistakes and misadventures, and my hard learned travel lesson was that patience, acceptance and the ability to go with the flow are the among the greatest of life lessons.

 

          There is a downside however. I didn’t really travel until the age of 46 – much older than most. At my age, it is hard to go back to life as if nothing happened. That trip as caused a mixture of restlessness and contentment. Why didn’t I travel at a younger age, instead of pursuing a couple of academic degrees ?.  If – only I had…. .  That said, I am still young and healthy enough to travel. This first extended travel has teased me into new opportunities. It is now up to me to find a way to escape the need to sit in an office working for somebody else and staring at a computer screen while life passes by. There is now the temptation to quit my “safe and secure” job, forgo the perks of a comfortable chair in a warm office, pension and a medical benefits plan. Big decisions, and there is still the need to pay the bills and make money.  Without a doubt, it is hard to slide back into a regular life after a life-changing extended travel experience. For now, I will use my new-found life skills; Contentment, Patience, Acceptance and the ability to go with the flow – and start planning the next trip.

 

How about you—how has extended travel affected your life?

 

The Post Vacation Blues

Apparently, is is quite common for folks returning after a long journey to experience some “Post-Vacation Blues”, “Post-Travel Blues”, “reverse culture shock”, “re-entry”, even “travel detox”. They all mean the same thing, a type of blue mood or depression. Depending on how hard it hits you – there are a number of things you can do to get back into the swing of things.

Re-live the sights, the smells, the sounds, of your trip by including some culturally-specific motivators into your day-to-day life.

  1. Keep the memories of the experience alive. Reminisce and and be nostalgic. Review the photos and videos that you took during of your trip.
  2. Make a conscious connection to bring the culture of the countries that you visited back into your life. Watch movies or documentaries that show the culture. Eat at restaurants that remind you of your vacation, take a cooking course or cook traditional meals. Join a art class, dance class, or learn the language.
  3. Meet people that are from the countries that you visited. Open up your home to by offering to host travelers, join travel organizations such as www.couchsurfing.com or similar sites. Being around other travelers will help learn about the inside-scoop about those countries and cultures, and can help you get ideas for your next trip.
  4. Volunteer for an organization that works with people from the country where you had a vacation. Whether it is helping a village support a school, protecting wildlife from poachers, or even eventually joining an organization that sends aid workers to developing countries, you will be less of a tourist and more of an overseas friend.
  5. Plan your next trip. Pick the next place you would like to travel to and start dreaming about it. Having a plan for your next vacation will certainly help to overcome the post-vacation blues.
  6. Consider a local adventure. Start in your own hometown and discover places you haven’t see before. Go for a walk on a new route, try a new restaurant, take a bus to a random stop. Open your eyes, and actually ‘see’ the things that you haven’t noticed before. Make it a challenge to observe things that have always been there – but you haven’t noticed. With practice – this will make you more observant, a skill that will help you on your next foreign trip.

 

Personal: To help get back into the routine and back into the swing-of-things there are a number of important You things (physical and mental health) to take care of.  These include:

  1. Go Slow. Slowly ease back into your pre-trip daily routine. Just because there are 100’s of new emails in your inbox – doesn’t mean they all have to answered one your first day back to work.
  2. Take a Break. It is tempting to race to catch-up on the backlog of all the things to do. They don’t have to be done right away. Take some time for yourself. Read a book, take a walk, be sure to resume your usual exercise routines as soon as possible.
  3. Sleep. Get plenty of sleep, you probably skipped a few times zones coming back home. Your body needs sleep.
  4. Eat well. This goes without saying.
  5. Reach out to friends and family. Being away means your contact info (phone number, email) has been removed from all the usual lists, so you might have to ask around to be added back into the lists. Be warned – they will roll their eyes when every sentence that comes out of your mouth starts with, “On my trip I…” or “When I was in…”.  Also don’t expect any sympathy for post-vacation blues – since you were the one traveling and they were stuck in the daily routine. Your excitement of traveling may be met with comments such as …’did you watch the Hockey game last week ? ’. They may simply not be able to make the connection to your experience in a far away place.
  6. Reach out to meet new people. Remember the excitement of meeting new people during your trip. Keep doing it.
  7. Share your experiences. Do a presentation (slide show) at the local library, or community centre. Keep it short, and not too many details. Your photos might be exciting to you, but no one wants to sit through all 1600 of your photos. Post your travel experiences and photos on a blog, or on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

 

How to Overcome the Post Vacation Blues

For some people getting back into the pre-trip routine isn’t as easy as sliding back into the old routines, back into the swing of things, or back into the old life. Some of us seem to be more affected or influenced by the travel experience or the thought of resuming the same life as we had prior to the trip and feel the need to reevaluate the status quo. The actual cause of the need for change might differ based on the actual experiences during the trip, or the realization that you simply do not want to go back the the same old routines. No matter the cause or reason, somewhere deep inside there is a realization that you need to make a change to your life. For these people, the “Post Vacation Blues” may be more than a passing difficulty of just managing a little low spirits after getting back to their pre-trip life, rather it might be a life-changing opportunity for a change.

There may be a one – or several changes. On-line travelers that have experienced the Post Vacation Blues describe this need to change the way they live, how they act, what they consume, who they notice and interact with, re-evaluating commitments, deciding on what is important to their life, eliminating the things that get them down – and adding ‘uplifting’ experiences do their daily, or weekly schedule. Some describe it as a need to give-back (ie. to your community), and a need to make decisions on what to do with this next chapter in your life. Some changes can happen almost immediately, whereas others may require time to soak them in, ponder, and require a long-range plan spanning a year, or even a couple years.

In my case, the immediate change included a de-cluttering of my house and living with less. During the 10 month travel, I discovered that a backpack full of clothes lasted through many adventures. Do I really need a closet full of clothes, or shelves loaded down with books that I haven’t read, or kitchen appliances I no longer use?.  My financial priorities have also changed. Instead of a new car, new computer or new camera, I’ve put my hard earned cash to buying a new bike and a pair of skis. Exercise has suddenly become a priority, which may be a result of returning to a desk-job. Quality time with my children is also more of a priority, with emphasis on short weekly adventures and most of all, having fun – no matter the situation. I have also been re-thinking my passion for photography – not dropping, but changing direction. Another change is wanting to give back, give back to society, and finding ways to give to those that do not have the the opportunity to travel as I did. At some in the future, there are plans for a career change, but that takes a bit of planning…

Do you have any experiences with Post Vacation Blues ?

 

Tags: family, homecoming, reflection, Travel, Life, Post Vacation Blues, Post Travel Blues, reverse culture shock, re-entry

 

 

Post-Travel Blues

Post-Travel Blues

In September 2014, my partner and I put our jobs on hold, pulled the kids out of school, rented out the house, packed our bags, said goodbye to our friends and family and traveled for 10 months.  At least, that’s what I thought.  Little did I know, returning home would be one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I hesitated if I should write about this. I simply wanted it to go away, or be able to ignore it.

At first it was the thrill of departure.  Packing up the house, loading up the car and heading out of town. At the time, I often thought about how life would be different when I returned home. During the 10 month trip we visited 10 countries, very rich and very poor countries, visited very clean and very polluted lands, visited roman ruins and the beaches of D-day, had a water fight with elephants, saw the effects of landmines on young children, visited countless religious sites and monuments, drank delicious french wine, toured UNESCO historical sites in Nepal (many of which are now destroyed). We taught English in rural Cambodia, skipped the western hotels and stayed with the local people, couch surfed in France, and visited with relatives that I hadn’t seen before.

The hardest part of a journey is returning home…

By the end of the ten months, I felt that I was more than ready to return home.  I felt exhausted and excited to start a new direction in my life back in Canada.  The last couple of weeks of the traveling went by fast.  Before I knew it, I was on the plane headed back to my home town.  The first few weeks back were a whirl-wind of unpacking the boxes and re-organizing the house. There was a sense of relief and pure joy of being back in the same bed, and the familiarity with same oddly sloping floors in my old house.  Although I was busy, there was a sense that Everything seemed the same – but everything is different.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  It was the odd things at first. Of all the clothes to choose from in my closet – I was drawn back to the ones that I wore everyday for the past 10 months, even though that I swore I’d burn them when I got home !.

Everything is the same – but isn’t…

It was as if many things in my surroundings had remained unchanged during my time away. Within a few weeks after arriving back home my daily routine had picked up from where it left in September 2014. I sort of felt as if I was back to the same old reality that was there before I left. However, more and more over time it began to be very clear, there were more signs that something had changed – I had changed !.

I felt as if I’ve become a stranger, I felt that I don’t fit in anymore, I was bored, I was restless – not able sit to read a book, not interested in my hobbies and things that I enjoyed before the trip. I had also become withdrawn from my friends, although I was reaching out to make new friends. I was also drinking far too much alcohol and, also experienced a general feeling of being down. There was one more significant change to my life since returning from the trip – but due to privacy, that will not be mentioned.

Now, more than six months after my return – I have figured out that traveling, especially for an extended period of time, changes your thoughts and emotions. I now see everything through new eyes, and a new perspective based on experiencing different cultures, visited the very rich and very poor, learned about the wonders of mankind – and the absolute horrors of mankind, saw incredible scenery, ate stunningly delicious food, and more. Without a doubt, those months of traveling opened up my eyes, mind, heart, and soul. I am changed, and ‘home’ will never be the same again.

The changes that I am experiencing are the Post-travel blues. It sounds like a song but it is a type of depression.  It is apparently quite common among long-time travelers.  It is that dreaded feeling of returning to your normal, and now boring and unsatisfactory lifestyle and routine after a life-changing experience. Add to that, the ongoing struggle of trying to figure out where I fit into the life I had before the trip. Some days, there is definitely a feeling of emptiness and longing to be somewhere else, or doing something different. It’s feeling that I can’t relate to friends or family because they have not have experienced things and changed in ways that I can’t explain.

Yes, the past several months have been challenging, and I did not anticipate that returning home would be one of the most difficult experiences of my life. Despite those challenges, the previous ten months were an incredible journey – it changed everything !. If you are hesitating about taking a long trip – Do It !. If you feel a bit overwhelmed when you return home, just remember there are travelers out there who understand that you have just been through the biggest transformation of your life. I don’t expect any sympathy for having Post-travel depression. It was a privilege to have traveled the way we did, and for as long as we did. But still, it sucks.

Round the World Traveling – Taking it all in

Taking it all in. By now – they are looking forward to being home. In ten months, they have traveled through 10 countries, they have experienced almost everything that the local culture has to offer, they have hiked on the highest mountains, crawled through caves, swam in Indian Ocean, ate fresh croissants in Paris, and deep fried grasshoppers in Cambodia. They have made many friends along the way, and have already made plans to visit those friends in another 8 years. During that time, they have visited many extraordinary places – the temples in Angor, seen re-creations of Roman era battles in a Roman era arena, have seen 1500 year old churches/mosques, visited the sites of ancient battles, and the beaches of Normandy. They have seen the best in human civilization and have seen some of the worst at the Killing Fields in Cambodia. The past 10 months have been an extraordinary journey. Soon we head back to our home in Yellowknife and settle back into a routine to work and school. It simply won’t be the same. They have changed – their world now extends beyond the border of Yellowknife, and most importantly, it includes an understanding of other cultures, other people, other languages, other foods, and how they all blend and work together in our daily lives.

 

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Hot Air Balloons in Goreme (Turkey)

Selected photos of hot air balloons in Goreme, Cappadiccia (Turkey).  All photos taken either while in a hot air balloon, or balloons in-flight – me on Terra Firma.  If you get the chance – do it !

Click on a photo to make it bigger, then click on the small arrows to move to the next photo.

 

 

Around the World with Fuji-X series (X-Pro & X-E1)

A post about camera gear.

I’ve dreaded writing this post for fear of being ‘labelled/classified’ as one of those camera gear – type people.

This post in reply to the emails and Facebook messages lately asking what camera gear I am using while travelling around the world for 10 continuous months. I have both the Fujifilm X-series X-Pro and X-E1 cameras, and the answer to the other question. No – I am not selling my Nikon camera gear. There, two questions answered !.

Those that know me, know that I have a large collection of Nikon camera gear. So – why not bring my usual Nikon gear ?. Travelling for 10 months to foreign places is the ultimate photo opportunity. By experience, I have learned to always carry two camera bodies – each body with a different lens; one body with a wide angle lens, and the other body with a telephoto lens. Having two bodies, also provides the security of a backup if one camera breaks (lesson learned). Although the D700 and with a (14-24mm /17-35mm) wide angle lens, and (85mm / 70-200mm) telephoto lens combination is absolutely fantastic, I did not want to be burdened with the size and weight of all that camera gear. I wanted to travel relatively light, and not be overly noticeable as a photographer with camera gear dangling from my neck, or carried in a specialized camera bag that seems to advertise ‘steal me / rob me’.

Based on the anticipated use during the travels; predominantly street, with some landscape and general travel documentary photography, and after researching other brands, I settled on the Fuji X system since these cameras are an excellent compromise between size, weight, features, and quality. As per usual I bought two cameras – the (at the time flagship model) X-Pro, and the X-E1. Between the X-Pro and X-E1 there are a lot of similarities; both use the same sensor (I cannot see any difference between the images taken using the X-E1 or X-Pro), both use the same battery and flash, the camera controls are almost the same, and both cameras are roughly the same size and weight (although the X-E1 is a little smaller and lighter). The biggest difference is that the X-E1 has a tiny (but effective) pop-up flash, and the X-Pro is slightly larger and has a hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder.

For lenses, I brought the Fuji 14mm f/2.8, 18-55mm f/2.8-4 and 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8. I would have loved to have brought the Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 as well. Enroute, bought a Samyang 8mm fisheye mostly for panoramas and street photography (this lens is manual focus; whereas Fuji lenses are all fly-by-wire and re-set each time the camera is turned on/off). Compared to the Nikon lenses, the Fuji (and Samyang) lenses are light-weight. The two cameras fit in a non-descript, black Timbuk2 saddle bag with room to spare for one extra lens, extra batteries, extra memory cards, filters, lens cleaning cloth, a water bottle, notepad and pen, water bottle, sunglasses other smaller items …and a 6-pack of beer !.

Complete list of camera gear:

  • Fuji X-Pro (with hand grip)
  • Fuji X-E1 (with DIY hand grip)
  • Fuji 14mm, 18-55mm, 55-200mm lenses
  • Samyang 8mm lens
  • Fuji flash X20
  • 5x batteries, and charger
  • UV filters for all lenses, except 8mm
  • Hoya 8xND and circular polarizer
  • Manfrotto tripod head (494RC2), Cullmann tripod (Nanomax 260) – carrying it almost got me shot !
  • MacBook Pro + 2x external hard drives
  • Lowepro soft lens case
  • Lowepro hip pack (fits inside the Timbuk2 bag)
  • Timbuk2 shoulder bag
  • SD card reader, lens cleaning cloths, Arctic Butterfly sensor cleaning brush

Thus far, at 7 months into the journey my camera gear has travelled through humid jungles of Thailand, high altitude mountain treks in Nepal, in the hot and dry Australian outback, dropped in sand on a beach in Turkey, and my camera bag has been thrown aboard busses, trucks, trains, rickshaw, and on the roof of taxis (not even tied down). I have leaned a lot about how well the X-E1 and X-Pro perform in these diverse environmental conditions – for the most part they performed well, although not without flaws. On a couple of occasions gigantic blobs of dust appeared on the sensor, and could not be removed by the built on sensor-shake-cleaner, requiring a cleaning with an Arctic Butterfly sensor cleaning brush. Autofocus is slow, though this has been greatly improved in X-E2 and X-T1 – so do not plan to use the X-E1 or X-Pro for sports or nature (e.g. flying birds) photography. Both the X-E1 and X-Pro have EV-compensation dials that are easily rotated off ‘0’, resulting in over or under exposed images. Neither cameras weather sealing (X-T1 does), so use a clear plastic bag when photographing a water ballon fight (e.g. Holi – Festival of Color in Nepal). Burst shooing at six frames/second ? – forget it, unless you want your camera to lock up for several minutes while the camera writes the images to the memory card. The weirdest glitch is between the X-E1 and 14mm, they are simply not compatible !. With the 14mm lens, the X-E1 camera locks up, the LCD goes black and flashes. When the camera is turned on/off it repeats. I removed the battery, upgraded the firmware on both lens and body, no effect. I just plan to not use 14mm on X-E1 !.

Using a Fuji X-E1 or X-Pro is unlike using a DSLR; the entire process and feeling is different. Simply- you have to enjoy using the cameras, and know what you are doing, and adjust your photography technique. Read other blogs, and read that some people have a ‘Love Hate Relationship’ with their X-E1/X-Pro. For me, it is the right tool for the job; I love the size, I love the weight (or lack of weight), I love the ergonomics of the X-Pro (whereas my D700 feels like a 5 pound brick), I love the colours of the photos, and I love that the images do not need much post processing. An added advantage of the smaller X-Pro and X-E1 cameras is that they are far more discrete that a full-size DSLR, I never stood out as a photographer, and blended into the role of tourist giving me far more freedom and access than if I had a large DSLR around my neck.

Will I sell the Fuji cameras when I get home and go back to Nikon DSLR, or keep the X-E1/X-Pro and sell the Nikon ?.

Neither – I will keep both the Fuji cameras and the Nikon. My style of photography is quite diverse; ranging from landscape, portrait, sports, wildlife, private and commercial work. Both the large Nikon and small Fuji are capable cameras, though both are completely different in capabilities. Choosing one or the other depends on the requirements of the situation. One blogger even referred to the “thoughtful” shooter – that is, you take the time to compose your image properly, check your settings, etc.

Should you buy a X-E1/X-Pro ?.

No – I’d recommend getting either the X-E2, X-T1 or waiting until the X-Pro2 is released.

Bottom line. I am very happy with my Fuji cameras and lenses, they may not be the ‘best’ travel cameras – though they are significantly smaller, and lighter than large DSLRs, and produce beautiful pictures time after time.

 

Foreign Travel & People Pictures

SHSB7122During the past 8 months we have traveled through Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Nepal and Turkey.

I have taken 100’s of thousands of photos; landscape, architecture (modern to ancient), street photos, markets, farmers fields, cows, horses, farm machinery, beaches, sunrises, and sunsets.

In amongst all those photos, there are a couple of people pictures – a couple. Early on, back in Thailand (November 2014) I had the balls to smile at people on the street and point to my camera and to them. Usually, they would get the idea and smile while raised my camera and photographed them. By February (2015) in Nepal I had virtually stopped photographing random people – Why ?. People represent the culture of a nation …… Why did I stop ?.

The people in Thailand and Cambodia were friendly and so beautiful. In Australia, the people we so friendly and beautiful too – though very similar to my own culture (I am Canadian). People in Nepal seemed shy – on many occasions they would turn away, or use their hands to wave me away. I suspected, that they were tired of being attacked by camera toting tourists (paparazzi). I could have switched to a longer lens and stood back – though I don’t feel comfortable being a sniper.

Now, here in Turkey, I am trying to build up my courage to ask – either with words, or hand signals. Why not – Turkish people are beautiful too, and they – their personality and their clothes tell so much about the culture and spirit of the nation. Wish me luck !.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

This collection of images were taken at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi (the capital the United Arab Emirates). Architecturally stunning and large enough to accommodate 40,000 worshippers, the mosque was constructed from 1996 to 2007. There are 82 roof-top domes, more than 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers, and contains marble stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. and the world’s largest hand knotted carpet. Photo technique: All photos were taken handheld (tripods are not allowed), with the camera braced against a wall or column. Three long exposure photos (-1, 0, +1 exposure) were combined to ghost the other visitors. Photos combined in PhotoMatrix Pro. Fuji X-E1 with XF 18-55mm lens.

Click on an photo to make it larger, and use the arrows to move to the next photo.

 

 

 

Rainy day Randoms – on the streets of Kathmandu

This small collection of images is from a walk in the Thamel district of Kathmandu (Nepal) in the rain (March 2nd, 2015). Most of my walks in Kathmandu have been in hot-dry and dusty conditions, walking in the rain was so refreshing, though slightly treacherous on the muddy streets.  All photos taken using a GoPro Hero 2 and (over) processed in Lightroom. Images were intentionally not rotated to ‘level’- random images at random orientation.

Click on the first thumbnail and it will enlarge. Form there you can scroll through the larger images to see the whole collection.

 

After the strong (7.8) earthquake that struck the Kathmandu Valley on April 25, 2015 and the many aftershocks, many of the modern and historic buildings and roads shown in these photos have been extensively damaged or destroyed, and thousands of deaths and injuries.

 

Being away…what happens when I come back ?

I am almost three months into a 10 month journey.

Long flights, bus rides and train trips have given me time to think

Sometimes to think about nothing, let my mind decide

Sometimes conscious effort and thought.

I’ve thought about home, friends, where we have been  and where we are going

Also, in a selfish way, I’ve been thinking about me.

What do I want to remember about this trip, how will it change me, and will I simply slide back into my past life  after leaving for 10 months ?