Around the World and Back Again

I’m in the travel state of mind. It’s not only because I have been traveling a lot as of late, London two weeks ago, currently in North Dakota (yes, North Dakota). I’ve also been pretty inspired by a pretty impressive lady who did what many of us would love to do…we dream of doing…but never do. Joslin Higgins picked up, quit her job and traveled around the world. In fact, she left just about a year ago.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the amount of guts it takes to travel abroad alone. A lot. Then there’s the reality of leaving a good job (one that she is really good at, by the way). In this day and age when we seem so focused on getting ahead professionally, that takes a tremendous amount of bravery as well.

I felt so much better when Joslin admitted what I had been thinking since she set out on this trip, which is the definition of the word “adventure.” “It’s easy to say you’re going to do something. It’s another to actually pull it off,” she told me. But pull it off she did. She saved and planned and made her dream a reality.

For a planner like me, that phase of the adventure would be crucial. For Joslin, the serious planning began when someone told her about the around the world airline ticket, there’s a bunch of them out there, but she quickly realized that she did not want to be constrained to travel solely in one direction (i.e. east or west). What’s the fun in a straight line when you can zigzag I say. So Joslin decided to plot her own points. And here is how it came to life:

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“When I decided to quit and travel, people asked me why I was doing this. Eventually the only answer I could think of that was honest and encapsulated how I felt was, ‘why not?’ Joslin told me. That became her approach to everything on the trip—why not skydive? Why not go spearfishing? Why not swim with dolphins? Why not eat crickets, frogs and duck bones?  This became her mindset for everything on the trip.

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She set some things up in advance (teaching English in Thailand for two months) and she was just winging it for others (as she traveled through Europe she visited friends she had met on the first part of her journey), “No one has everything figured out, it doesn’t have to be the perfect thing,” she told me about her trip. Regardless of where she was or what she was doing she says she was present, and really living, each and every moment. She told me that she cried every time she left a country

The children Joslin taught in Thailand

The children Joslin taught in Thailand

It’s a huge understatement to say that Joslin learned an immense amount on her adventure, but two things really still sand out to her today. One is “how truly warm people are across cultures,” she told me. She only visited four English-speaking countries. In each of the other countries she had, at times, to rely on strangers for assistance. She said she was always met with a warm smile and generosity by people who had very little in common with her, the biggest difference being language.

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

After speaking with Joslin and looking through tons of her pictures, one thing struck me about the overall benefit of international travel no matter how long or short your journey is: how much understanding it provides. Things that are foreign to us, cease to be “weird” and just become different, as Joslin aptly put it. When we travel to other countries and meet new people, we gain an understanding of other cultures we do not get from sitting on our couches. Our world view changes and broadens, and we can better understand and sympathize with the world and our fellow inhabitants. How many conflicts could be avoided if we took a little bit more time to understand the others’ point of view, background or beliefs?

Joslin doing yoga in Thailand.

Joslin doing yoga in Thailand.

After 22 countries, four continents and nine passport pages worth of stamps, Joslin is back in the States now, but only temporarily. Having traveled around the world, she realized she wants to live abroad. So now she is back at the planning/saving stage, plotter her next point and planning her next adventure.

“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be pretty amazing,” she said. Truer words were never spoken. You could be talking about an around the world adventure, a vacation, your life, or one day in that life. What’s your dream? Is it a trip around the world? Starting your own business? Writing a book (guilty)? What’s holding you back?

That’s right. Nothing. Let’s get to it.

 Many thanks to Joslin for sharing her stories and pictures with me.

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Adventures on the Other Side of the Pond

I am very lucky that I really like my job. Of course, I have moments when I get frustrated who doesn’t? But I don’t dread going into the office every day and I actually enjoy what I do and whom I do it with. One of the biggest benefits of my job is that I get to travel across this great country of ours. I have visited places I never thought I would (Cheyenne, Wyoming) and spots I never knew existed (Salina, pronounced seh-LINE-a, Kansas).

Last week I was lucky enough to be working in the UK. I have been to London several times, a dear friends lives there with her adorable family, and it is one of my favorite cities on earth (I have a few more to cross off my travel bucket list before I declare an absolute winner), so that was a treat. But I also got to explore the English countryside, appropriately armed in my Barbour jacket and Hunter boots. My London-based friend gave me the tip that “Hunters are only for the country.” Thankfully the country is where we were headed.

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Bury St. Edmund Cathedral

We spent an afternoon and evening in to Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, which is about two hours north of London. This village (technically it’s a town, but for an American audience it is best described as a village) is known for its abbey in the center of town. The town is named after King Edmund who was buried at the abbey after being killed in 869. No, I did not leave out a digit…869. That is the aspect that I get most excited about when traveling through Europe; everything is so old you start to appreciate how young our nation is. Comparatively speaking, we are a tween with an attitude. Not to get political, but many people talk about “American Exceptionalism,” but have we really been around long enough to be deemed truly exceptional? Maybe we are just having a 200-year hot streak before we burn out. Too much, too soon…or something like that. I digress.

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Ely Cathedral on a typical English (i.e. cloudy) day

We also went to the town of Ely (pronounced E-lee) in Cambridgeshire. Like many other older societies, towns here cropped up surrounding abbeys, and were–and still are–if not the center of activity in a town, at least the literal center of town. Ely is no different. The Ely Cathedral’s scale is so large I couldn’t capture it in one frame. It was built in 1083.

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When we ventured away from both Cathedrals narrow, cobblestone, often winding streets allowed us to imagine what it may have been like to live there hundreds of years before because at times it doesn’t seem as if much had changed. And just to remind me we were in the country we ran into these fellas.

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Another part of this adventure was the experience of driving on the other side (not the wrong side) of the road. I had not driven in a car in the U.K. since college, and the perspective of being in the passenger’s seat on the left side was unnerving. I kept trying to use the mirrors that were not meant for me to use. Although I had total confidence in the skills of my trusty driver, I was still gripping surfaces, gasping and letting out periodic “oh my goodess-es.” It nearly blew my mind when I realized there was a glove box at my knees (I have no idea why) and when we saw a child, likely 12, pull up beside us we all gasped…we all had a momentary lapse and thought he was behind the wheel. Nope, he was just fine. We were the crazy ones.

I’m so thankful that we did have that car and drove through countless towns and villages on this adventure. The U.K. is not known for its sunsets, but we were caught quite a few amazing ones.

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sunset max

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When we arrived back in London, I was excited when people I spoke with had never heard of these tiny villages, and some and never even been to Suffolk or Cambridgeshire. Maybe even a day at the office can be an adventure…it just depends on your outlook.

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