It was about 12.30am and there were five of us sitting in a bar in Sucre, Bolivia. We were chatting about why we were in Bolivia, what we were doing, where we'd travelled, and where we were going next. We talked about why we'd packed up, and left home behind. Why we were travelling for six months, 12 months, 18 months.
Standard backpacker conversation 101.
Out of the five of us sipping on Bolivian beer, four had left jobs, the other one was on extended leave. We were all between the ages of mid-20s and mid-30s and many of us didn't really know what we wanted to be when we 'grew up.'
This shouldn't be surprising though. Each month we read that millennials will barely keep a job as long as an Olympic cycle, let alone a couple of years. We're not the most settled bunch, like generations past. 'I quit my job to travel, and you can too' is the newest 'How To' craze. Career breaks, life breaks and find ourselves breaks are the new 'It' thing.
"When I left, I thought traveling would help my figure out what I wanted to do in life, but all I've figured out so far, is that I really like to travel."
These words came from a traveller sitting with me that night in Bolivia who'd left his 9 to 5 job to explore South America, and the questions that have remained in my head ever since are: why are more and more trading it all in for a rucksack and one-way ticket? Why do we jump on that plane or in that car or on that boat? Why do any of us travel?
To escape? To party? To find love? To find a career? Because that #inspirational travel quote finally made us take the leap? Why have I been travelling?
About 230 days before sitting in that Bolivian bar, I was on a plane. My partner Sam and I had left Australia, Bangkok-bound. The chaotic Thai capital, stop number one on our 18-month round-the-world trip.
I was 22, Sam was 25. I'd recently graduated from my bachelors degree, Sam had graduated from his masters. Neither of us had clue what we wanted in 'real' life, so we left.
Fast forward nine months and there we were in that Bolivian bar discussing life and travel.
I'll be honest, a part of me left home hoping for a journey of self-discovery, for that 'light-bulb' moment. I thought it rude that the meaning of life didn't appear in front of me as I trekked the Himalayas; I was disappointed I didn't find an unknown passionate love for ancient history in Peru; or that the closest I've come to my Eat Pray Love moment is reading Eat Pray Love (in India of course).
However, tomorrow marks 12 months on the road and I have figured something out...
I travel because I love it. I travel because it can - as cliched as possible - speak to your heart, and sing to your soul. I travel because it's my lifelong selfish love.
You'd think that would've been obvious to me, but I never thought of it that simple. I love it, and that's enough of a reason to do it.
I didn't work seven days a week saving thousands of dollars to spend it on 'finding myself;' just like my dad didn't spend money on a microphone and a amplifier to become a mid-50s rockstar. We do things, crazy things, ridiculous things, the best things, everyday of our lives sometimes just because we love something, not always because we want to become something or discover something.
Sam and I had food poisoning on an overnight bus in Myanmar. We were heading from Yangon, to mystic-filled Bagan. We arrived at 4am after nine long hours, 540 minutes of well, you know. Both of us. No toilet. But that first night - after a day of recovery - we went to go watch the sun set over the temples. We dragged our exhausted selves out of bed and on to the back of electric bikes, and soon we were watching the sky change from blue, to orange, to black. We were sitting, laughing, talking, admiring and I thought: this is life. This is love.
Our bankcard got stolen from us in South America. The thieves got hundreds of dollars from us days before Christmas and we spent the day Spanglish-ing and bumbling our way through police stations, and banks, and interviews, but we did it with the help of our Spanish teacher who we'd known for only a few days and who'd given up hours of his Saturday to help us. After, I thought: kindness is global. The generosity we've received in every country, in every city, isn't a rarity, it's a constant. A daily constant.
This is why I travel.
I travel because it allows me to do what I love: explore, question, photograph, write, problem-solve, budget.
I travel because this trip has brought me life long friends. Because it's taught me languages. Because I've been able to admire the Taj Mahal, motorbike the borders of Northern Thailand, and snorkel the oceans of Colombia. I travel because one day I'm getting lost through livestock at India's largest Camel Fair, and the next I'm taking in the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge. Because it makes the smallest gestures with strangers, the most warming moments in life.
This is why I travel.
Why do you?
As I said, tomorrow marks 365 days since that first Bangkok-bound flight and you know what I've learnt?
I've learnt exactly what that traveller said in the bar. Like many before me, I've realised travel won't me grant wishes, or show me the way to the holy grail. My 101 moments of self-discovery list will have to wait, and I still don't have much of a clue of what to do in life. What travel has done though is guide me towards the exciting unknown, towards an adventure. Like all great loves, it doesn't have all the answers, but it has firmly, solidly, found a forever place in my heart, and from now on that's enough. I'll travel because of that, and nothing else.