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new york jfk airport terminal

That is a question I get much more often these days – or notice more now – after 3 years of hopping around the world. Initially when this adventure began my internal reaction to the question was a rebellious “as long as I damn want.” I’m not sure if it’s because some people seemed excited by the idea that I might fail in the beginning; one of the ways to overcome that obstacle is pushing the momentum hard in the other direction. Or it may be the high concentrations of semi-lethal, slightly intoxicating stubborn floating through my veins.

Basically, I don’t know the answer to this question that bleeds into large parts of my life and work. Yet, it’s an inquisition I no longer dismiss outright but contemplate now that there’s plenty of road behind me and a path to build ahead.

What Am I Really Being Asked?

The word “travel” obviously means different things to everyone and my demented little version involves a visit to every country on Earth; at a rate of about 10-20 new nations a year. So while that’s one way of defining travel it’s not the sole (or common) one obviously. There are planned vacations from set homes, fewer trips, and different objectives. It’s all travel baby, sitting along a spectrum. In my mind the question isn’t whether I’ll stop traveling but rather when my lifestyle will shift somewhere else along those infinite avenues.

Same Destination, Different Roads

My goal is to visit every country in the world but I don’t have a set time limit to wrap things up. That’s about as close as I’ll plan anything; if you’ve ever taken a look at my upcoming stops you know I change my mind frequently. It’s not a race to every country, it just helps set some incredibly vague boundaries my mind can accept as flexible plans.

Even if I could snap my fingers and have spent just a week in every country right now (about 4 years total travel) I still will have missed most of the world, it’s inhabitants, wildlife, foods, wilderness, and cheesy tourist traps. Earth is too big to see it all in a lifetime. Forget that I just glossed over the oceans too – 67.5% of planet’s surface containing 1.3 billion cubic kilometers of water – and who knows what’s really down there. Even though I’ll likely see more of this oxygen-iron rock than many, I’ll have missed most of it.

earth from voyager 1

A good reason not to be in a rush; it would be like counting to infinity as fast as you can in hopes of getting done sooner. Being a facts and figures kind of person, looking at my current rate of movement and the number of countries left, I’ll have visited each one in a little under 7 years. That assumes a generally constant rate of travel and I’m more like a variable in most equations.

games santiago chileA Travel Blogger In Motion Tends To Stay In Motion Until They Have To Blog

One of the misconceptions about travel blogging is that I’m constantly moving. I certainly move around much more than the average person but slow down for stretches at a time to write. It is a delicate balance between traveling, blogging, and poking my head up every once in a while to take a look around. That second part of the recipe, “blogging,” forces my travel patten into rotating cycles of fast and slow. Sometimes too, I just like a place and stay longer; Egypt was that way. I go back to places too.

In other words, the more I physically travel, the less I can spend online to convert those stories for sharing. Photos, nomadic soccer matches, drunken nights; they all accumulate and before too long I’ve got to stay in one place to process it all.

The Second Law Of Travel Thermodynamics

There is an interesting concept in physics known as the arrow of time. In short it means as time goes on, the entropy of the universe increases. A scrambled egg cannot be remade whole, a dead tree alive, and when it comes to traveling extensively it’s impossible to see the world the same again. The excitement, senses, and understanding you gain from long-term travel changes you. So while you can change the way you actually move, the amount you fly, and how many places you visit, it is impossible to return to the person you were before.

In truth, I don’t know how long I’ll travel in any specific way. I like routine but crave change. I have been traveling in various forms for most of my adult life. I don’t believe I’ll ever stop traveling. How I go about it will invariably vary. Perhaps a better question is how long will you be a traveler? Now that’s an easy one – as long as I live.