climbing mount batur bali, indonesia

A friend asked me, how have you changed since you’ve been abroad?

I started to think about how 3 years of traveling the world changed me. The image of myself packing my oversized pink rolly suitcase covered in hearts 3 years ago came to mind. With my mother, I had picked the biggest rolly suitcase on the market. I wanted the pink one with hearts. My mom had an old backpack from her journey to Japan in the 80s and I scoffed at the idea of taking it. Over the couple weeks before my journey, she kept pushing the blue backpack towards me.

“It smells like cat piss, I’m not taking it!” I cried over and over.

The first things I packed in the pink monster were my Jeffrey Campbell highheels, my realistic mermaid tail and a 2 litre bottle of Sky Vodka (the maximum I could bring into Australia). On top, I stuffed my whole wardrobe, makeup, hair straightener, everything. Then I realized, I have to pack the shoes so I finally succumbed to my mom’s heavy duty blue backpack. I stuffed it with 8 more pairs of shoes and I was set.

The first year in Australia I was mostly the same girl from California. I was a typical 21 year old who picked up a few bad habits and continued my excessive coffee consumption in university. It was all very exciting in Australia and I loved every minute of it. I did learn a few things about American behavior which I could see in myself. I found that Australians were never complaining and if you did complain to them, they’d quickly encourage you to shrug it off. I’m not even sure how to explain it. Maybe, I’m having problems with my phone company for instance and I’m getting overcharged. I’m complaining to my Australian roommate who replies “That’s terrible mate. What’s on this weekend to take your mind off it? Drinks on me!” Being a complainer or a sook as the Australians call it, is not a good let alone common thing in Australia. Soon I could spot the American from a mile away, my ears would perk up as I heard them complain about the food, the weather, their friends, whatever they could complain about.

My mindset and approach to life changed as the months and then years went on.

I didn’t mean to stay abroad for 3 years. I was just a newly graduated student who wanted to explore Australia. Along the way, I met so many travelers of all ages who had lived and traveled in ways I could not fathom. In a way that is not propagated by anyone in America. These people, many Australians, many French, some very down to earth Japanese, nomadic Estonians, new age gypsies from all over the globe, were not afraid of the world and lived in many different countries for long stretches of time. They lived in India for 6 months at a time, in Thailand for years, they moved around South East Asia. They just went to a country without fear, found friends and started a life. They learned how to earn a living or simply be in whichever country their heart called home.

I was inspired and soon I found myself following my heart for once and it led me to my dream world. With every day that passed, I realized that more and more I was being true to myself, really back down to my roots, like the young 8 year old activist Sasha who stood up for animal rights, making a pact to become and stay vegetarian for the rest of my life.

My mindset and approach to life changed as the months and then years went on. 

As I traveled across the seas and to what we call 3rd world countries, I profoundly realized the impact of my individual and our collective actions on our vulnerable planet. This same realization is collectively being had around the world at this time as we move into new a state of being.

I started to notice the effects from my individual actions like everything completely wrong with my normal everyday purchases – the one use plastic straw that came with my coconut, the plastic wrap around my groceries, the chemical dyes that made my clothes pretty to the palm oil in my chocolate and toiletries. The more I traveled the more I noticed and I noticed the huge piles of plastic waste decorating what would be beautiful beaches of Bali, the plastic bags tickling me in the water, the polluted rivers from the factory runoff and the deforestation of Borneo, our oldest rainforest, for my oily potato chips and shampoo.

So how has 3 years of traveling the world changed me?

I’m writing this now in Northern Italy, close to the Alps. I’ve ditched the pink rolly suitcase and solely use the 37 year old blue backpack. I own what my back can carry. I’ve lost those bad habits including the excessive coffee drinking and anything to do with Sky Vodka. I’ve evolved a tooth for hot milky, honey-sweetened earl grey (that happened in New Zealand) and I can’t get enough. Backpack and earl grey aside, you could say 3 years of traveling the world changed me by transforming my whole mindset and approach to life. I’ve become more conscious and present, more grateful and happy, more forgiving and empathetic. I’ve accepted the gift of happiness and freedom as I continue to explore life.