Travel and Transformation

Suzanne Bigelow, Bardia National Park, West Nepal

Suzanne Bigelow, Bardia National Park, West Nepal

How does it really feel to be a global nomad?

Now 6 weeks in to my Big Life Pause, I’m surprised to find myself already heading home again. Eager to return for a little work and family time, I’m also reflective after this first round of globetrotting – what exactly have I learned out here?

When I sold all my belongings and left for SE Asia I was all in for a life of slow travel. Living the dream, making the leap.  The reality is that this Pause has included both the best of times and the worst of times.

Logistics: What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know …

In making the loop from Portland, OR to Bali (Ubud, Pemuteron, Changgu and Sanur) to Singapore and then Nepal (Kathmandu, Nepalganj and Bardia). That’s a lot of territory to cover, and has been a resiliency practice of its own. From humidity to dust and everything in between, each transition requires attention to plane reservations, lodging, Visa requirements, banking and phone service. 

The experience of country hopping has taught me that yes, travel is hard work. Outside of the Insta moments, there is plenty of grumpiness and discomfort. Technical difficulties, times when I’m too tired to make a sane decision or should have done more research up front. As someone inclined to “seat of her pants” travel, I’m steadily learning the benefit of a little level-headed planning to avoid general wear and tear.

Neural Plasticity in Motion

This morning, I can see that I’ve actually learned quite a lot. I now know to hit the ATM machine at the airport, use Grab or GOJEK for online taxi service, and remember that Google maps works anywhere in the world. In the moment online research can save your hide, and managing electronics is a priority. I finally have all the cords and adapters to keep my gear charged, and know to alert the bank and credit card company every time I move to avoid declined transactions. 

My brain is benefiting from all that adaptation, growing new neural pathways, staying flexible as I navigate each new challenge. It’s like learning to spot all the animals that blend into Bardia National Park – you start off blind, but by the end of the day your eyes are already finding the subtle movement of spotted deer in the brown grass, can tell the difference between the Bee Eater and the Kingfisher.

Get a Grip: Faith, Ox Carts and Hand Plows

Despite all the lonely hours, all the uncertainty and ineptitude, the weekly wakeup waves of “where am I and what have I done with my life?!?”, I truly am having the time of my life. 

It feels pretty fabulous to be doing things I’ve always wanted to do, like Scuba in Bali and Tiger Trek in Nepal.  To know that I am making the most of this one wild and precious life by opening up to experience and trusting in Outrageous Openness.  I’m incredibly grateful for my practice, for the ability to Pause and re-center no matter where I am.   And I never for one minute forget how privileged I am to be able to travel.  This morning I’m sitting next to family farm plots recently plowed by teams of Oxen, in preparation for hand planting the monsoon season rice crops. 

The Heart of Travel

But the most memorable moments along the way have been heartfelt moments of connection. Both awe-inspiring moments of connection to nature and wonderful kindness and authentic transparency from people everywhere I go. The coming out story of an Asian man, the healing touch of a Shamanic practitioner in Singapore, the mindset discussion with a nature guide who survived severe burns at 5 days old and then a Tiger attack at the age of 35.  

People are people, and good people are everywhere. A genuine smile is the most valuable travel accessory I’ve got. An open heart and a level head is the optimal travel state. 

With gratitude from the great beyond - Suzanne