I spent the first month of my South American trip in Colombia. It was a beautiful, yet difficult time. I met dozens of people from all over the world, swapped stories, advice, danced until dawn, hiked to the horizon, experienced views and flavors that don’t exist anywhere else. Yet there were times when I felt stressed, confused, didn’t know which way to go and even wondered why I had chosen to make my life so difficult, instead of staying in the comfort of my own home, with the people I love. But the Universe always has a way of working itself out and so around Christmas, when I was feeling the pain of nostalgia stronger than ever, I got back into the swing of adventure.

The travel spirit
Looking out into the jungles of South Ecuador

The Travel Spirit

Describing it seems almost as impossible as painting a picture of love. You recognize the feeling immediately, you can sense its essence, but it’s so difficult to put into words. For me, the travel spirit seems to come when I’ve accumulated enough experiences – they suddenly fit together, like a jigsaw, and the whole picture starts to make sense. Until then, it seems like I am up against random, unrelated chaos. But once the travel spirit comes back, I regain my sense of unity with the road and its intricacies, so instead of fighting against it, I go with the flow and enjoy whatever happens. It took me a while to figure out that fighting the road is like denying the finality of everything in life, getting anxious about events that will occur somewhere in the future, instead of enjoying Now. As if trying to sail against the current, instead of using it to get to where you need to be. That’s often different from where you think you should be.

Through the desert of North Colombia
Through the desert of North Colombia

Motorcycle in the desert

The travel spirit sinks into your bones gradually, like a good idea. Once it’s there, you seize to plan with a guidebook in hand or worry about buses being late. Instead, you pick the brains of other travelers about what they’ve seen, where they’ve fallen asleep at night, and what’s happened in their hearts. You finally understand that biting your nails is not going to make the bus go any faster and more importantly – you start living that way. What the travel spirit gave me was peace – I saw that everything would be alright one way or another, as long as I could relax and find a way to enjoy whatever is happening, rather than force it.

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Cuenca, Ecuador
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A maloka structure in the jungles of Ecuador
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Flooded forest in the Amazon rainforest
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El Cajas National Park, Ecuador

Is It Just on the Road?

I suppose that many people manage to find this feeling even with a stable domestic routine. But during the months between my last two long-term trips I had lost the spark. When I rediscovered it, it was like digging up a memory box, covered with a thick layer of dust, and fishing out a well-loved but long-forgotten piece of life. At home, I felt like Peter Pan’s Lost boys who forget how to fly once they grow up. It just seems to too safe and comfortable for my own good sometimes. And the people I spend my time with, despite being absolutely wonderful, are my comfort zone bubble. Traveling, on the other hand, has you dealing with obstacles you never thought you could handle. You hear and experience so many human stories – enough to fill a library. Add in otherworldly landscapes, a bunch of quick decisions, endless new opportunities, and the result is a serendipity cocktail, a magic potion that helps you see how the world doesn’t need to be safe or predictable to be beautiful. That’s the travel spirit, at least to me.

At the end of my South American trip I bought a bunch of hand-made local products to bring to Europe. But the most valuable souvenirs remain the lessons I learned, as cheesy as that may be. One of them is what I tried to describe here – things rarely work out in alliance with our plans or desires, but instead of getting frustrated and angry with the changes, it feels way better to embrace them. Because what is the alternative?

What did the road teach you? Please share in the comments below 🙂

The travel spirit
A sunset over the Caribbean, Colombia