In a year of traveling around the world, we’ve met a lot of people, many of whom are fellow travelers. We’ve found the majority of them to be fun, interesting people. We’ve shared some good times with them and, in some cases, exchanged info in the hopes of one day meeting up again. But every once in a while, you meet a bad egg. There’s lots of things that can spoil a person in my opinion, but there’s one thing, above all, that I can’t stand: a superiority complex. Just a tad too often for my tastes I find that long-term travelers develop this notion that they are somehow superior to the family and friends they left back at home.
To paraphrase them: “I’m out seeing the world. Every day is a challenge. I’m learning so much, doing so much, growing so much. They’re all just sitting at home, their lives the same today as they were yesterday as they will be tomorrow. They’re not changing at all.” To my never-ending amusement, I usually hear this sentiment uttered by a person sitting at a hostel watching television and drinking beer.
Most of the time I don’t waste my breath with such people, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to tell them off. Yes, Jeff and I have had an amazing year. Yes, we have learned all kinds of things—about places, about people, about ourselves. We’ve challenged ourselves physically and emotionally. We’ve grown. But so have the people we left at home.
Sometimes when we answer people who ask how long we’ve been traveling, we’re told that we’re “brave.” I usually just smile and feel awkward. We could probably just as easy be called “selfish” for saying screw it to everyone and everything and disappearing into the world, or “stupid” for giving up good jobs just as the economy crashed. We obviously don’t think it was selfish or stupid, but we also don’t think it was brave.
Brave, I’d say, is choosing to bring a new life into the world, something many of our friends and family have done this year. Brave is going back to school in your thirties to completely change careers. Brave is saying that your dream job is no longer going to be just a dream. Brave is giving up a job you love and a salary you very much like to stay at home with the kids you love more. Brave is giving everything you have to a relationship but knowing when enough is enough. Brave is promising to spend the rest of your life with the person you love.
No, our friends’ and families’ lives have been anything but boring, static. They have completed degrees and taken first jobs. They have moved to new cities, and they have bought homes. They’ve been promoted at jobs they love and left jobs they didn’t like. They have said, “I will” to the question of “Will you marry me?” and “I do” to the question of “Do you take?” They have become moms and dads, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas. They too have traveled, some acquiring a passport for the first time, some going to places that we dream of one day visiting. They have grown and changed and been challenged, just as we have.
When our plane lands back in the States and we again get to see our family and friends, I hope that they ask about our trip. I hope that they want to hear about our year. But I also hope that they will tell us about theirs, that they too will have stories they want to share with us and pictures to show us. Because if this year has taught us only one thing, it is that our world is an interesting place because of our differences. How boring the world would be if we all chose to walk down the same road.