Lost On The Road: How To Find Direction When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing Anymore

I won’t lie. In the last couple of weeks I have started to feel a little lost. It is something that happens to all of us when we spend such a long time travelling. For me, I will have been on the move for fourteen months now and I still have three more to go.

The idea of getting up in the morning and having to pack my bag is exhausting. Having to go through the same monotonous “get to know you” conversation with everyone you meet is boring. Doing the same activities day in day out and spending half of your waking hours on the bus is tiring just thinking about it. So what do you do? Pack up? Go home? Forget the dream and pack it in? Or keep going in the hope that something will ignite in your soul and give you the fire back.

For me it took having a rest. I went to a small little community in the hills of Ecuador, checked in for five days, did yoga every morning, sat in a hammock and read, had an afternoon nap, and had a massage every other day. And I didn’t much speak to people. I read about mindfulness and neuroplasticity and tried to apply some of these principles to my everyday life. One of the quotes I read greatly resonated with me:

“Being lost is greatly underrated. It can mean you are in a place of unknowing where the rational mind cannot go. In the way that we need darkness to see the stars, we need unknowing to become a beginner again and engage with the mystery and wonder of it all.”

And so I took from this that it was ok to feel lost. It was ok to feel like I was floundering. Because somewhere underneath the struggle, there was something to learn that I do not yet know about.

But as always and in the meantime, as I figure out what these things I am supposed to learn are, there are things that I can do to make life a little more interesting. And as they say, change is as good as a holiday from your holiday.

1. Take a detour

If all you are seeing right now are cities, go to the mountains or the beach. If you spend all your time looking at churches, go to a museum. Templed out? Go see something different. Doing the same thing repetitively isn’t exactly inspiring after a while. So change it up.

2. Treat yourself

We forget as backpackers on the road to do things for ourselves because we are so hellbent on saving cash every single place we turn. Take some time for you. Go out for a really good meal for one at a restaurant and savour every bite. Have a massage. Go to a yoga class and stretch your body. Have a manicure. Do something that makes you feel like you’re investing in yourself.

3. Ask different questions

One of the most mundane parts of meeting people is the same bloody questions and answers over and over again. So develop an arsenal of different questions that enable you to crack through the surface of people quickly to see what they really are about. It will be more interesting than the “where are you going?/where are you from?” bullshit that you encounter everywhere you go and will allow you to make better connections.

4. Pay attention

People miss the small things in life. Sometimes it is nice to sit back and really take in what is happening around us. Attune your ears to all of the sounds about you. Observe the different colours and activities of people around you. Observe your own body moving through these environments and how you react with them. It will create a peace and a feeling of being one with where you are and will help with feeling lost and detached by rooting you in your environment.

5. Slow down

Sometimes the pure pace of travel will wear you out and drain you of your enthusiasm for things. If it is a luxury you can afford, slow down. Stay in one place a little longer and get to know the place and the people a little better than normal. Remember that it is ok to take a day to do nothing and just sleep, read or rest. We all need to be grounded and centred in one place at times to get the rest and recuperation that we need to move on.

6. Reflect

Especially on long bus rides with nothing to do, it is nice to just stare out the window and reflect. What is it that you are feeling and where you think those feelings are coming from. Having an inner awareness of self allows us to process and find the solutions that we are looking for. It allows us to think, feel and then grow. And as mentioned in the quote above, you cannot see the bright and beautiful stars in the sky if not for the darkness. Sometimes it is good to not know everything. Sometimes it is good to not even know where we are going. It is even better if you can learn to let go of needing to control these things and go with it. The world will often take you to where it is that you need to be to learn the lessons that you need to learn.

So have faith and trust. Feeling lost is yet another type of speed bump in the emotional roller coaster of life. But if you are good and kind to yourself, try new things to stimulate your brain and remember to rest, everything else will eventually become clear. You will find your purpose and direction again, and when you do, you’ll never have to question it, because you’ll have worked hard on the process towards knowing.

 

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The Backpacker’s “Fuck no!!”

As a follow up to the Backpacker’s “Fuck yes!!” I decided we would then explore the other side of the fence with those moments of travel where you are thinking to yourself ‘you’ve got to be fucking kidding me!’ also known as “Fuck no!”

  • Waking up in the morning with explosive diarrhoea when you have a flight to take or a full day on a bus. Yeah, this is going to be fun, time to go get myself an adult diaper and hope that I don’t manage to shit myself in front of a whole bunch of people in the process….. “Fuck no!”
  • When you don’t make a reservation for a hostel and roll into town to discover that everywhere is booked out and you wind up sleeping at the bus station or on the floor of a random hostel that is kind enough to let you have floor space. “Fuck no!”
  • When you get your money and credit cards stolen. “Fuck fuck fuck! NO!”
  • Better yet, when you get your passport stolen. “Seriously? Fuck no!”
  • When you smash your camera or your phone. Guess that means no more pictures. “For fucks sake! No fucking way!”
  • When you get to the bus station to take the last bus for the day and they tell you that it is full and there is no more space…. “Fuck…. no……”
  • When some arsehole decides to turn the light on and noisily pack their bag at four am to leave without consideration for those who are sleeping. “Are you fucking kidding me? Seriously, fuck no!”
  • When you get stuck sleeping in a room with someone who either smells. Can you please not invade my sense of smell and leech your horrendous body odour into all of mine and everyone else’s stuff. Go have a shower filthmonger! “Fucking hell no!”
  • When you meet some arrogant fucker who wants to tell you how good they are and they keep following you around when you’re trying to escape. “Fuck no!”
  • When someone you don’t like tells you they are coming to spend the day with you….. Can’t I just run away? “Fuck no!”
  • When the bus leaves you on the side of the road in the middle of the night because this is the final destination. Where the fuck am I and how am I supposed to get anywhere from here? “Fuck no!”
  • When the travel agents try and extort more money out of you for shit that you have already paid for. “No fucking way! Fuck no!”
  • When your legs get mauled by insects and they wind up getting infected so you walk around for a month looking like you’ve got measles from the waist down. “Fuck no!”
  • When a rat chews a hole through one of your bras…. not your average thing that happens to normal people but it happened to me and what did I yell? “Fuck no! Are you fucking kidding me!?”
  • When you accidentally leave half a pizza or other really good food in the hostel fridge and are half way down the highway before you remember. “Fuck no!”

For anyone who has travelled, I am sure you can relate. Chuck us a line if you think of anything else x

The Backpacker’s “Fuck Yes!!”

As a long term backpacker, life is very different from the ordinary life. There are different things that we learn to appreciate that people in ordinary, everyday life wouldn’t generally get excited over. So here is a non-conclusive list of “Fuck Yes!” moments in the life of a backpacker. Feel free to add your own “Fuck Yes!” moments in the comments below if I have missed any.

  • Finding free food in the free food bin at the hostel! Now I have free pasta for dinner and I don’t even have to go outside or contemplate what the cheapest thing for me to eat today without dying of a heart attack is. A huge thank you to whoever left it there! “Fuck yes!”
  • Finding a half bottle of awesome shampoo that has been left in the shower when you’ve just run out of shampoo. Nuff said! “Fuck yes!”
  • Getting to the bus station five minutes before the next bus leaves when there is a four hour wait until the next one. And getting a good seat. “Fuck yes!”
  • When you have been hunting that animal you really want to see in the wild across an entire continent and it has evaded you for months and then suddenly…. Whoop! There it is! “Fuck yes!”
  • When you are in a bar dancing about sober as a judge because there isn’t enough money for drinking in the budget this week and a local person you’ve never met hands you a shot of rum or whatever other hard liquor they are passing around and then adopt you as their friend. “Fuck yes!”
  • When the taxi driver gives you a fair price straight off the bat and you don’t have to argue with them for half an hour about what is a fair price. “Fuck yes!”
  • When you find money in the street. In anyone’s world, this is a “Fuck yes!”
  • Meeting really awesome people that you hit it off with immediately. Friends for life biatches! “Fuck yes!”
  • Checking into a hostel to find that the bed is the most comfortable, fluffy and awesome cocoon that you’ve ever slept in. “Fuck yeah!”
  • Hot water when there usually isn’t any to be found anywhere. “Fucking awesome! Yeah…..”
  • Sleeping in a room on your own. Nobody else has checked in…. looks like I’m sleeping naked tonight! “Fuck yes!”
  • Going to the public toilet to find that there is actually toilet paper in the cubicle. Even better, finding it clean! “Fuck yeah!”
  • When everyone else eats in the restaurant and you eat dirty street food and everyone else gets sick but you. Arsehole, I know, but “Fuck yes!”
  • When people give you directions and they are actually the right directions. Sometimes, especially in the Americas and Asia, if they don’t know they make it up so as to not look ignorant. You can literally wind up anywhere. So if the directions are good…. “Fuck yes!”
  • When free breakfast is included in your stay and it’s full on massive buffet! “Fuck yes!”
  • When the museum or attraction entrance is free… “Fuck yeah!”
  • When you go home looking so dishevelled that your mum shout’s you a free haircut! “Fuck yes! Look at me I’m a human again!”

Such an easily excitable breed us travellers….. until the next!

Shit I Learned In Ecuador – Part 2

In a follow up to Shit I Learned In Ecuador – Part 1, most of which was fairly ridiculous, I would like to touch on some other interesting shit that is not so ridiculous in the funny sense (and then maybe round it out with some more ridiculous in the funny sense).

Politics

  • According to the last census the country had in 2010, Ecuador consists of 70% mixed race populations (Spanish and indigenous mixes), 7% indigenous, 4% Chinese and 2% white people.
  • Ecuador prospered under their president, Rafael Correa, who put a lot of money into the development of roads, hospitals and other social programs in Ecuador. But then, like all good politicians, he realised, “Oops, I fucked up and spent too much money… what am I going to do to get it back?”
  • The method for making back the money was to then kick all of the indigenous people off their land so that the government could then go in and mine it for oil and minerals…….
  • The country had a referendum and decided that as a country they did not want this because Ecuador is known for its biodiversity and they don’t want the government going about fucking shit up for everyone and kicking people off their land because they are greedy bastards looking for the easy option.
Some jungle that will fail to exist if the powers that be start digging

Indigenous Tidbits

  • The indigenous community of the Otavalos in the north believe that hair contains their energy. Cutting the end of your hair off is bad news, whether you’re a man or a woman. Looks like when I go home I will just tell my mum I’ve become Otavalan to avoid a haircut. Though it does tend to break a lot…. I wonder if that means bad energy for me.
  • The reason that many of the indigenous communities here have such fabulous fabrics is because the Spanish used them as slaves to weave fabrics.
The Nizag people of Alausi doing traditional dance
  • They teach the Quechuan language in schools to help maintain the native language here. It is the native language of the Incans though there are different dialects throughout. Some Quechuan words that I learned are:
    • Mama – mum
    • Wawa – baby
    • Achachai – how cold
    • Ararai – how hot
    • Chichaqui – hungover

Random rituals

  • So it comes to be in a random shaman’s office in Quito that I am introduced to what my guide calls “the shrunky head” or more officially known as a tzantza. So, in the Amazon, it was a rite of passage to sever off your enemy’s head, peel all of the skin off, chuck it in a pot with some herbs and other shit to shrink the skin, then carefully remould the facial features so you can put your new little totem on a stick and carry him around with you everywhere. Not joking. Apparently carrying such heads of enemies with you is good luck and shrinking them means the soul can’t escape and wrought revenge upon you……
A fake ‘shrunky head’
  • On New Years Eve there are loads of different rituals that people partake in for different reasons. If they want more money, they wear yellow underpants. If they want to find true love, of course, red underpants. If you want to travel then you pack your suitcase and cut laps around the block with it to bring in the new year. Oh and you make twelve wishes by stuffing twelve grapes in your mouth, making each wish as you jam it in there.