So, full disclosure, the truth is I’m rather uncomfortable having a blog. Don’t get me wrong, I need it. I need the outlet. I need a way to process my thoughts and feelings. I need a way to put down my observations and experiences, I need a supplement to my memory and I do enjoy having the motivation to write. All that is great, but it often feels like a lot of work as well. Work that I mostly enjoy but work nonetheless. And I often feel this internal pressure to deliver, to work on it, to update it. I mean, even if this is just for me, still, what’s the point if I’m not regularly posting stuff? Already sometimes I go a few months without posting and in that time, the number of things that I think and experience that I forget, is quite sad. I do take notes on a regular basis, but even at that, the time between the note taking and the actual act of writing means a lot of the salient details are lost, the emotion slightly muddled and blurred. But I just don’t make the time as much as I’d like to, or feel I should. But that’s not really even the biggest part of it. The thing is, it’s the act of this being public that makes it hardest. Again, part of me loves the idea of sharing this with my family, my friends, but the other part, a large part has a hard time with it as well.
There are a number of things I enjoy talking about, but myself isn’t particularly one of them. It feels awkward and the fact that I am a terrible story-teller certainly doesn’t help. I am trying, not just for the purposes of creating a more interesting blog, but because it’s something I think I should work on. But at no time does it feel particularly natural. I do want to have this sort of journal that I can come back to and not just remember what I did, but how I felt. That’s become more and more important to me as I go along on this lil adventure of mine, but it also means making public some emotions that I’ve never been good at expressing. Some of you might be thinking, “well, just make the blog private”. Ya, I could do that. I’ve certainly thought about it, but that also feels like a cop-out and I know that some people actually want to know what I’m living, and are interested in not just my experiences and thoughts but my feelings about the life I’m living, the places I go to, and the things I do. So, no, the private option isn’t particularly attractive. In the end, one of the goals of traveling for me was to discover aspects of myself I wasn’t in touch with, grow in ways I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to tap into from home, and create an environment where I push my boundaries. Well, this is one of those boundaries I need to push through. It helps knowing that there are literally only like 9 people who read this, half of which are family and the remaining are my closest friends. It helps knowing that pretty much no one will find this blog through some random web search, but still, it’s… uncomfortable, to share some of the things that I do.
A couple months ago I posted in celebration of a year on the road, and I listed all the things I’ve done. I felt like a kid trying to overcompensate for something, rattling off all the cool things he’s done to gain favor with an overbearing authority figure who had little faith in him. It felt wrong. But on the flipside, I wanted to write that post. I wanted to have something that 5, 10 years from now I could look back on and read and say “fuck, I remember that year. My first year travelling. That was a truly incredible year.” And yet here I am in some way justifying it. It’s strange. On the one hand I’m proud of the risks I’ve taken and the path I’ve set myself on, and on another I’m ashamed to take any pride in it. But, I’m here to push beyond that and do things I wouldn’t normally do, say things I might not normally say, and over the past year I’ve been doing more and more of it, and I’ve been learning to appreciate myself for it. I’m learning to compliment myself and to accept those compliments, something I’ve never been good at. So on that note, let’s begin.
A year is a long time. It’s also nothing. But a year like the one I’ve just had stands out, forces things to the surface whether you want them or not. It tests you, nudges you, encourages you to ask questions of yourself and others. I’ve done a lot of that. I think even just rereading some of these posts, I see this thread of questions that really starts after my breakup at the beginning of the year, when the tone of this blog changed pretty drastically and when I began to use it for me rather than to provide tools, updates, and resources for others. I still plan on including some resources and sharing certain things that might help remind me of how I manage certain logistics, and the hostel reviews aspect of the site will make sense down the road, but in the end it’ll still just be for me, cause really no nomads will ever find this blog. But all these little thoughts I have I’d like to put down to try to record the range and totality of my observations for my own posterity, to track my growth and my changes, my faults and my strengths.
For now, I just want to go over a few of the observations about what’s changed within me and my life; not in terms of the things I’ve done or places I’ve been. I’m more interested in jotting down some of the things I’ve noticed about where I’ve allowed myself to go both consciously and unconsciously.
I talked a bit about loneliness and aloneness in a couple previous posts. A couple of you contacted me to ask if I was alright. Hehe. Made me laugh, but it also illustrated that I likely didn’t make the point I was trying to make. I didn’t mind and I don’t mind, neither the loneliness or aloneness. In fact, I like the solitude. I do have some concerns that I am keeping an eye on, but I think I’m doing well and have found a nice balance. I’m living a life I’m proud of. I’m learning a lot, I’m being productive and I’m still managing to have some memorable and unique experiences, some with other people, most alone. All in all, I can say I’m really quite happy. I made the right choice and I keep making the right choices. Sure they are interspersed with a bunch of bad choices here and there, but that’s part of life and most mistakes end up bringing me some interesting surprises and new learning opportunities. Even when I mess up, somehow it turns into an adventure, a chance to learn a new word, a shot at seeing a new part of a city, an impromptu meeting with someone interesting. I never know. And I’m less concerned about making mistakes than I’ve been in the past. I’m not carefree or careless but I’m less concerned about being careful and that has provided a degree of liberation that I am enjoying.
When I was younger I was annoyingly conscious of other people and how they viewed me. It meant I lived in this self-imposed prison, the bars of which were my conclusions of what others thought of me. It shaped every single thing I did, said, wore. It wasn’t healthy and while I got over much of it long before I started this lifestyle, it’s something that has stayed with me a long time and indeed is still with me. I’ve been shedding it more over the past year than ever before. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that it doesn’t dictate my behavior as much. I’m much freer than I’ve been in the past. I’m still concerned with what’s right and wrong, but much less concerned with how right and how wrong. I’m enjoying the gray areas more, recognizing that people just don’t care what I do. As long as you’re not pushing things too far, as long as you’re not being an asshole, hurting or disrespecting anyone, you have free reign to do whatever you want and it’ll either be ignored, laughed at, or forgotten immediately, all of which I can live with. So, the guy who was once incredibly easily embarrassed is now enjoying embarrassing others and himself and purposely doing so just because. It’s fun. I’m fun. I’ve never felt this fun before. Not consistently but ya, in general, for sure. I’m more open, I’m more talkative (when I get started), and I’m both changing more and not as much as I expected. I know, makes no sense, but hopefully I’ll get into that in a bit. I make a bunch of mistakes every day. Little ones, sometimes using the wrong word in Spanish, or choosing the wrong restaurant out of laziness, or overspending on something just cause I’m caught off guard and unprepared to negotiate. Whatever. I do a few things every day that make me shake my head at myself, but it’s ok. It’s more than ok, it’s good. My Spanish has improved massively, I’m more playful even when asking a simple question, and I’m a lot sillier than I’ve ever been, at least in public and I like it.
But those are trivialities. They do point to some sort of change but I can’t necessarily pin it down either. My goal isn’t to change. I’m certainly not opposed to it, but I’m not trying to either. I like who I am. I’ve always liked myself. I’m imperfect but I think I’m also worthy. So it’s been interesting to see the small differences in the way I do things crop up on me. It’s interesting to see how much more responsible I am without being rigid. I always feared growing up because I thought it meant being less fun, less flexible. That was ignorant and naïve. A lot of things were naïve. I never wanted to be an entrepreneur cause I thought it would mean I’d turn into a power and money hungry son of a bitch, but that was also naïve and baseless. I never wanted to be ambitious because I thought it would blind me from living and loving the present and the simple things. I never valued the past because I thought it would keep me from enjoying the here and now or looking forward to the future. All just stupid conclusions.
Truth is, lately I think about the past way way more than I ever have. I’m appreciating it in new ways and that’s part of why this blog has taken on a new life. I want to continue appreciating the past and I know one day this, will be the past. As soon as tomorrow, this will in fact be the past and I want to remember it all, as much as I can. I don’t want to hold onto it with white-knuckled anxiety or live in it, but I want it as a companion, a friend to make me smile, shake my head, comfort me, and teach me. Part of it is being alone I think, missing friends and places, but part of it is also recognizing that half my life is over. That’s not a sad realization, just a realization, and one that motivates me to try to preserve more of it than I have before. But in addition to gaining a new perspective on the importance of the past, I’m also much more realistic and ambitious about the future. I’ve always lived my life in the present with dreams for the future but never any real plans. Sure I had some goals, almost all work-based and that’s still the case, but there’s a new passion and energy now that I don’t believe was there before. The truth is, out of nowhere I’ve become extremely ambitious. I’m taking on personal projects that I never would have dared to consider before. I can see that it started a couple years ago, but over the past few months, it’s exploded in a way I never knew I was capable of.
The last few months in Montreal I read an article about this kid, in his 20s or so, who was a digital nomad and who set a goal for himself of creating 12 apps/services in 12 months while traveling. He’s a programmer and all his services were tech related; an app, a game, whatever. On the one hand I thought that was kinda stupid. Why work on 12 projects at the same time, and while traveling to boot? Focus on one or 2 and do them right. On the other I had to admire his ambition and his ability to structure himself despite being in an ever-changing environment. And now, a bit over a year later I’m finding myself in much the same position. No, I’m not creating 12 businesses. I still think that’s a bit ridiculous but I am pushing the limits of my potential in new ways. I’m running my business as I always have, I’ve set up another business (Projectstork) which will be launching as soon as I can finalize the last bit of funding. I’m working on software products (a Media Gallery & an Image viewer) that I’m selling on an online marketplace and am in the process of finalizing another major upgrade to the gallery that I dare say I’m really proud of. And I’m preparing the other product for market (should be ready within a month). I’m in the process of finalizing the research and design phase of a 3rd business, more complex and ambitious than any before it (that I’m not ready to talk about just yet), nut already have an investor lined up for, which was really encouraging. And as if that weren’t enough I still have a 4th business that I regularly think about and plan on starting as soon as the others are launched. All of this while I take on more complex projects than ever before with Vij’n. It’s pretty damn cool and really unexpected. I was never like this before.
The thing is, all of this is because a few things have changed already. I’m way more confident than I’ve ever been. I can’t say it’s specifically because of traveling. I think there are a few factors involved. Sure traveling and being forced to adapt and manage my life on my own in foreign places has bred a new sense of accomplishment and competence but that’s not the only thing. Part of it is being a bit older, feeling as though I understand things better and that I’ve have found a place for myself in the world. Part of it is that I feel more creative in different ways than I ever have. And part of it is, I’m getting so much better at so many things than I was before. I believe in my ability to manage multiple things simultaneously now, that I never could before. I have a much more intuitive understanding of what I’m good at and what I’m not. I’m much better at delegating those things I am not good at, and much more prepared to start immediately on the things I am good at, no procrastinating, no hesitation, I just feel like I can do it and more importantly can do it well. This combination has meant that yes, I’m working a ton, investing in myself, tapping into my workaholic tendencies, but I’m really enjoying it. I’m loving the creativity, I’m loving the productivity and while it means I may be exploring my surroundings less than I could or maybe even should, it also means I’m working towards things I believe in, and it’s all feeding into a feeling of worthiness and in turn helping me be more confident. I don’t believe I would have gotten here had I not spent so much time alone. I think that’s really key. I read an article at exactly the time when I noticed how much my creativity had increased alongside my ambition and productivity. It resonated. You can have a look here if you’re interested: article. But all this happened when I was essentially completely alone for a couple months. And it wasn’t just creativity, I became more imaginative as well. The kind of imaginative I imagine occurs to prisoners incarcerated for long periods of time, confined to the box; or the kind of imaginative I attribute to a hermit just shy of the line of insanity. I mean I talk to myself a lot more, I sing out loud in public (not loud, but still), I make sounds while working regardless of whether people are around or not, and I have random thoughts and feelings that I don’t really remember having before. I’m quicker to come up with little funny responses, quicker to do something silly and strange. I’m not necessarily quicker at saying something intelligent, but I’m no slower either, so I’ll take it. But given a bit of time, I’m much better at problem solving in select areas. It’s all created this perfect storm in terms of how I approach my life and my future, my career and my objectives, and it’s just fun, exciting and full of hope.
I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to get lonely, to be alone, to really experience the lack of support and access to all the people who had always been around me, entertaining me, supporting me, recharging me. I wanted to go through that loneliness, survive it without hating it, without resenting it, without fearing it, without trying to escape it and see what lay on the other side. I am certainly on the path to find that out. I will have a really hard time over the next few months. I can feel it. Things are about to get really really dark and heavy, but I know in my heart that this will be temporary and something is waiting for me on the other side.
I’m the same guy I used to be. Some things have changed. I think those who knew me less might find me more… spiritual? Dunno, not sure that’s what I mean. More emotional? Not quite that either. Certainly more expressive. But I’ve always been like this, I just never expressed it (hehe, is that irony or just contradiction?). I still don’t, really. Not in person anyway. That’s why this blog has become so important. I think to some it will show what they think is a new side of me, but it’s not new, it’s just public for the first time, and that’s new. I am becoming more transparent I guess (though I’ve always considered myself pretty transparent). Certain dormant traits are being activated, traits I never knew I had, but the rest, the core, hasn’t changed at all. At least I don’t think it has, and I hope it hasn’t but I don’t know for sure. I guess I’d need an old friend to look and see. Where the hell will I find one of those?
So, all this to say, I’m not different, but I think I’m a bit better. That’s all I ever want. To be a bit better every day while still being me. I hope I’m achieving that. It feels like I am. Would be nice to have a check but I feel pretty confident that I can see myself clearly enough to not have reason to put on the brakes and just let myself roll down this beautiful hill.
But there are still things that plague me. Areas of my life I haven’t really managed to make much progress in. Nothing too major, but still important nonetheless:
While I read tons, I’m not reading books as much as I’d like, maybe one a month or so. I’m generally reading a dozen or 2 articles a day but in terms of real literature, it’s really inconsistent. I wish that weren’t the case and I make efforts here and there but just have a hard time making it happen, but I want to and I think reading helps put things in perspective, helps fuel my own creativity and helps sharpen my incredibly rusty writing skills and lost vocabulary.
Being soft. I have learned how my tendencies for diplomacy and my fear of hurting others can get me into trouble and I’m more conscious of that than I have been. It’s by no means a solved issue, but I’ve also noticed that I handle those moments better for the most part, with a few exceptions here and there, like overpaying for something small even though I know I could get it for less, simply because the person was nice, or the person would be disappointed otherwise. Things like that and even bigger things, in conversations if I know the person is wrong and should be corrected but I don’t think they’ll appreciate being corrected, or in asserting my own needs for anything from what I want out of a tour or what I need from a hostel. Sounds silly but these are important goals for me and things I’m actively focusing and working on because they do have impacts on my life and specifically on how I feel about myself. Most importantly, I know I can do better. I’ve seen tons of progress but I know there’s still much further to go.
Exercise, it’s super sporadic. I have short periods where I exercise daily followed by long periods of nothing. I compensate a bit with an impromptu activity here or there, some hiking, white water rafting that requires a good deal of actual rafting, maybe some kitesurfing, occasional runs on the beach or in town, whatever, but those are very inconsistent and can’t be considered compensatory for regular exercise.
I still smoke. That’s probably the biggest thing. Hard enough quitting when your life is stable, try it when things are all up in the air, including where you live, or while dealing with the stresses of work (specifically the lack of internet access), or debts, or general uncertainty. So that’s something I will need to handle but when, I really couldn’t say. The good thing is that I feel quite healthy. I do get a cold every few months, which sucks, but no other issues. I pushed myself on my last hike and outperformed guys half my age (OMG, am I that old that I can say half my age and be talking about 20 years olds?, god help me.) I will say, that felt awesome though, I have to admit. Getting to the top of that ,assive cliff at high altitude in less time than anyone else felt like an awesome achievement for this 40 year old body, especially when I know others were pushing just as hard. Then again, my first 2 days back at kitesurfing made me feel very VERY old and don’t get me started on surfing. So, ya, I have my ups and downs in terms of my body cooperating, but all in all, it all feels good. All this to say, I’m liking where I am, how I am, who I am, but as always, there’s tons of room for progress. I’m hoping to continue making some as the months progress.
Now, here’s where this becomes typically Sasha. All of the above is how I feel but there’s a flipside to it as well. Because while I’m full of hope I’m also full of dread. I’ll get into that in a following post, as this one has gone on long enough, but suffice it to say, there’s a duality to all of this, a sort of contradiction. People have always told me I was complicated. I never saw myself that way. I still don’t, but I understand now why they do. Duality isn’t easy to process. Contradiction illicits suspicion. It’s confusing. I don’t know why that is. I don’t have that view on it. Thing is, I don’t see why I have to be content or unhappy. I’m both. Why do I have to be lonely or full of love? I’m both. I’m excited and I’m exhausted. I’m scared and I’m hopeful. I can be both of those and I find no real contradiction in any of it. Maybe that does make me complicated, I don’t even care anymore. To me, it’s simple, I own nothing but have everything I need. I am broke but live a rich life. I’m learning so much but have gained no wisdom. I have a plan but I’m completely lost. I miss my friends and all the people I’ve ever loved, but they never leave me. None of it matters anymore. This is my life. Raw, imperfect, unstable, scary. This is my choice regardless of the consequences, of which there are tons, but this is enough for me. I never wanted perfect. I never wanted normal, I never needed safe. I just wanted to know I was following my heart, no matter where it lead me. The road I’m on is often dark and I can’t see far ahead. I know it’s going to get even darker before I come out the other side. This is the beginning of the storm and I won’t lie, it scares the hell out of me. But I didn’t set out for a good time, I set out for a real one. What life has value if there’s no real struggle, no challenge, no obstacles to clear? I don’t know yet, but I’m about to find out. I suspect the posts to come will prove to be considerably heavier than any that have come before.