Why A Trip Is Like A Trip

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During my recent travels, I had a random (and arguably unimportant) realization—that two of the main definitions for the word trip were extremely interrelated:

Trip (n):

1. an act of going to a place and returning; a journey or excursion, especially for pleasure
2. a hallucinatory experience/an exciting or stimulating experience/a self-indulgent attitude or activity

As I was breaking the plans to friends and family last summer about my recent adventure, I was fortunate to receive their near-unanimous support.

However, on the trip I met many people that weren’t so lucky, and where they expected or needed encouragement back in exchange for their news, they instead received accusations of selfishness, neglect, or even abandonment (of career, relationships, etc.).

Because long-term solo travel, like going on a trip of another sort, is seen by many as the ultimate form of self-indulgence.

Similarly, despite its proven benefits, tripping in a different organic fashion is seen as similarly hedonistic, and comes with its own batch of warnings (both warranted and unfounded), stereotypes, and judgement.  

But both, if done safely, can take you to places you’ve never been before, then return you with a cleansed lens of perspective, allowing you to see the familiar in a completely different light.

Once you get past both the external pressure (real or imaginary) and build up the courage to let yourself fall down the rabbit hole, travel and trips usually earn their reputation of being that stimulating, eye-open, and paradigm-changing experience.

(And after meeting many serial travelers on the road, some of which had ended up neglecting or abandoning another life back home, I’m not so sure travel couldn’t be classified as a drug, too).

I remember vividly being at the top of of La Piedra Del Penol near Guatape, Colombia when this thought forced me to scribble fervently in my notebook.

A 7,000-foot tall rock unlike anything else around it, climbing 740 steps rewards you at the top with a breathtaking view to take in as you try and catch your breath:

...to the Rock

Overlooking the series of lakes that once housed a lakeside getaway of Pablo Escobar (who probably enjoyed a few trips in his lifetime), I felt…light (beyond just my brain being 7,000 feet shorter on oxygen), reflective, and sentimental. Trying to take in every ounce of the view I could, I began to think about how different the first six weeks of my trip ‘felt’ so different compared to the current stage of my trip.

Although the beginning of my travels felt precarious and wobbly at the time, I realized at the top of The Rock that even though everything about my travel life that autumn was new and shiny—novel places, people, and experiences in every direction I stepped—the memories of the first six weeks especially felt this way because in a way, I was blind.

These early memories seemed ‘faded’ in my head due to of course both the passage of time and ignorance to my surroundings, as well as because the flash of the novel was everywhere, to the point where I often felt overwhelmed and many times, vulnerable. It was so much to take in, it was difficult to remember.

Travelling solo (or even with someone, really) you have two choices: remain in the dark and reject this blinding, new reality around you by doing the most familiar things you can find in an unfamiliar world. The upside to doing this of course is that you are less likely to get yourself into a compromising situation.

Or, you can be so open to the experience that you temporarily blind yourself as a whole new realm sinks its way into your skull. You can use your ego as a shield and remain unchanged, or ditch it entirely and willingly grope blindingly through the world as you regain your senses (or some illusion of them).

In my limited experience with trips, those options are options are mutually applicable.

Long-term expats and serial travelers would probably attest that truly adjusting to a place takes a lot longer than just a few weeks. Instead it takes months, years, or possibly, a never-ending process of both macro-adjustments (like figuring out how to order something in a restaurant), and less obvious micro-ones (like the adjustment of your tone and mindset when greeting someone).

Conversely, veteran psychonauts would probably affirm that their kind of journeys also take a certain amount of preparation, education, healthy fear, and of course open-mindedness to get the most out of them.

Both also take a combination of mental calibration with a heavy dose of concession and surrender to your new, and ever-changing environments. As you start to adjust and learn bit by bit about the new world you are in, you start to piece together clues about where you are, and then, who you are.

These stages in a trip of course can often coincide with our location as we move around, but the passage of time is often also marked in our memories with other things too such as mood, time of year, or learning something that brings us a small epiphany.

Which makes sense, as the end result of trips is seeing and experiencing the world in ways you could never imagine, and in ways you could never explain accurately to someone that wasn’t there.

Banner photo credit: Adrian Valentin

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