Travel Bags

Travel Packs | Moving Peaces

Okay, I’ve been pretty clear that the last six weeks have been nonstop travel. So much so that sometimes I’ve not even unpacked my bags before loading up a new one. I love to travel, but it has been a little much for me lately. Thankfully, I’m a light packer, otherwise it could really get out of hand. Regardless of where I’m headed, I tend to take about the same amount of things. Which means, my trip to Argentina, road trip across the South/Midwest and this trip to the West Coast all consisted of one carry-on sized bag for my clothes and belongings.

I know this sounds crazy, but it’s true. And you can do it, too. You learn to color coordinate, wear the same thing twice, and pack with intention. There’s other tricks I’ve used like rolling clothes or bringing laundry detergent to wash clothes in the sink, but I don’t even think it has to be that intense most of the time.

With more and more experience, I’ve found my go-to bags for such occasions and have gotten a lot of questions about them. So here’s my inventory of travel bags and suitcases that I use regularly.

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack 

This is my newest bag…the one I spent hours researching. Thankfully, it’s been a great bag to have. This was first purchased for our two-week trip to Argentina. This easily fit in buses, taxis, and overhead bins, so I was never worried that it would get lost somewhere. I would highly recommend it for anyone who will be traveling repeatedly in a short time. It suits my short size well and doesn’t allow me to overpack (which is a good thing when you’re walking around with this on your back all day). I use a packing cube, which helps keep my clothes contained and organized, but it isn’t a necessity since the bag has straps to go across it. This zips fully from top to bottom, so you have full use of the bag when packing. The sides are extremely flexible and lightweight, so it forms around what you pack without any extra bulkiness to it (the downside can be…you have to pack thoughtfully so you maintain a good balance within the bag). It has a great hip strap that gives a lot of support, but also has a cover that you can zip around the straps when you want to use it during transport (note: you have to have all straps out when you are carrying the bag on your back).

What’s the difference between this and a regular backpack? This would never be something you would want to take to school. This is not a book bag, it doesn’t have the proper structure or form for that. Likewise, a school backpack doesn’t have a structure that is incredibly conducive to great packing for travel. This is for clothes and toiletries and the essentials you need on a trip, while keeping it manageable to carry and small enough to fit on an airplane. For me, it has been the perfect travel backpack.

Osprey Farpoint 40 | Moving Peaces

Open Osprey Farpoint | Moving Peaces

Dockers Carry-On Luggage

I’ve had this bag for awhile now. My mom may or may not originally claim it as hers, but I’ve been using it nonstop since college so it was soon mine for good.  Now, why would I use this instead of a travel backpack? Convenience. Ease. Looks. There are plenty of good reasons to use a normal carry-on roller bag so don’t let some trendy travel site well you otherwise. This is the bag I pack when I don’t want to think as much about size constrictions and what goes in which pocket. I like that mine is a dark brown so it’s a bit easier to distinguish from all of the others out there, and the darker color keeps it from looking beat up too quickly like the lighter bags tend to do. It’s great for a trip to a hotel or one place where toting a roller bag around is easy. I wouldn’t recommend it for a trip that consists of multiple modes of travel or running through the streets to catch your next bus. But for a lot of trips, this works just fine, especially if you want to look a little more professional with your bag and have less wrinkles in your clothes. You don’t want to travel by backpack? Totally understandable. But in most cases I would still say you should be able to limit your items to a carry-on sized bag.

Dockers Carry-on | Moving Peaces

Osprey Porter 46 Travel Duffel Bag

Alright, in honesty this is not my first bag of choice, but it is my husband’s (as shown above). Let me be clear in saying this is a great bag! It is set up in a way that holds the sides a bit more structured so you get the same nice form that a roller bag might have but the lightweight and backpack advantage of a travel backpack. It zips open from top to bottom, so you can lay it on the ground and pack it like you would a regular suitcase. It’s still carry-on sized so it can fit anywhere and travel easily.

So what’s not to love? For me it was too boxy. I’m 5’2″ so I felt like a turtle with too big of a shell on my back. Because of that, it didn’t allow me to move easily (which is a problem when you plan to do a lot of walking) and the support straps did not help me out. For him, this bag has been awesome. He’s about 6′ tall and the straps work great. This bag was created for all forms of travel so this is his go-to bag in any situation since it provides the best of both worlds. If we’re going on a quick weekend trip together, this is the bag we’ll share (ha, that way he can do all of the heavy lifting!) since it packs easily and fits a lot in it.

That’s really ALL that you pack?

Yes and no. When we travel, we put everything in one carry-on, but we do each pack another bag inside. I use my Keen purse during the day as it has just enough room for everything from a water bottle to a light sweater, without lugging around a big backpack. This has great pockets for a variety of items to be tucked away safely. I use it in every day life, so it doesn’t feel too out of place for me to use during the day wherever I’m traveling to. While it has somewhat of a structure, I use all of those pockets for things like my travel documents, snacks, and music I want to easily access while on the plane/train/bus. I pack it on top so I can quickly remove it from my backpack while that is stored in the overhead bin.

Keen bag | Moving Peaces

He packs a Hikpro Daypack for anything he needs, from the camera to a rain jacket. The beauty of the Hikpro bag is that it really does fold up to sandwich size bag, so it’s easy to fit in the bigger bag until he needs it. Despite it’s portability, it has strong straps and a respectable size once it’s open…that way he doesn’t feel like he’s wearing a kid’s backpack or something when he does use it. By bringing these bags, we can leave our bigger bags at the hostel, hotel or couchsurfer’s house (and lock ’em up if we feel the need).

Hikpro Bag | Moving Peaces

Ta-da! Once you have the right tools, it really can be simple to pack light. Admittedly, some of these bags were expensive, but when you think about the fact that we never pay a baggage fee (ever), it quickly pays for itself. Not to mention, the peace of mind of always knowing where your bag is and the lack of extra useless stuff to lug around on your journey.

Affiliate links were used above, which does provide me a small commission if you use them. All of these items were heavily researched and were purchased completely with our own money. In a few instances above I bought an item years ago, so the link goes to the version available. 

Trip Log: Des Moines to Raleigh

Trip Log: Des Moines to Raleigh

Due to popular demand, I am telling you all about my solo road trip halfway across the country and back. This is the third part, starting at mile 1,681.5 because yes, I kept track of all my major stops. If you want to catch up on the miles before now, here’s your chance: Miles 1 through 465.9 and Miles 466 through 1,440.4. Otherwise, let’s get back on the road!

1,681.5 miles Des Moines, IA: I arrived to the place I called home for several years and the clock started ticking. We’ve taken a few trips back in the past, and it always feels like a race to see all the people we love in the amount of time we have (oh yeah, and I kept working during the day on this trip). So, I saw a LOT of people and was so glad to do so.

Mason City, IA: I arrived in the area and then promptly headed a few hours north. I don’t have the miles because this time I got to ride instead of drive to my next stop. A few friends were headed to Minneapolis, MN and I caught a ride to Mason City, IA, which was on the way there. This is where the real surprise was planned.

There’s a reason I didn’t post much about this trip until after it happened. My mom has NO idea I was coming. I thought maybe this trip would line up with Mother’s Day, but when it didn’t I decided not to tell her anyway. There was a part of me that wanted to record the moment, but then I decided to experience it instead. Her jaw dropped as soon as she saw me and this is her trying and failing to reenact the expression. Just know that it was worth it. After the surprise had subsided, she showed me all around her new town as I had never been there before.

Surprised Mom | Moving Peaces

Music Man Square | Moving Peaces

Me & Mom | Moving Peaces

Ames, IA: On the way back to Des Moines, my mom and I swung through Ames to visit my alma mater. It’s funny, when I was in high school, I refused to even visit a college in Iowa because I was so bent on moving, which is why my first year was spent at Missouri State before I transferred to Iowa State. Now I am so grateful for my experiences at Iowa State and proud to be a Cylcone, even from afar.

ISU | Moving Peaces

Des Moines, IA: Are you ready for a whole bunch of pictures of people I love and far less description of how my week went? Good, because that’s about to happen. In summary, I spent the week working during the day like a normal person and then using the rest of the time to catch up with great friends over lunch, coffee, dinner and dessert. I stayed with friends who are new homeowners, held tiny babies, checked out the new building of my old workplace and celebrated the next season in life my friends are entering in to. Des Moines was beautiful all week and I kept feeling like a tourist who wanted to capture all that is great about that place. Somehow, there are several more people I got to see and spend time with but didn’t get a photo with this time.

Michelle | Moving Peaces

Emily | Moving Peaces

Jen | Moving Peaces

P. Family | Moving Peaces

Carrie | Moving Peaces

1,817.1 – 2,467.4 miles Clarksville, TN: In one day, I traveled 650 miles by car as I went from Des Moines to Tennessee. While originally planned as a two-day trek, this is another one of those plans that just changed and probably for the best. Luckily for me, it went incredibly quick as I had a co-pilot to keep me company all day. When Nancy and I realized we were thinking of going back to Iowa around the same time, we coordinated our trips so that we could do part of the journey together. She is another friend about to enter into a new stage of life as she was 30 weeks pregnant at the time, and I am so excited for her and her husband to be parents.

Nancy | Moving Peaces

2,516.3 miles Nashville, TN: I got on the road thinking I might simply wave hello to Nashville and be on my merry way. Originally, this was to be a stop-and-stay-with-a-friend location, but when you’re on a road trip you’ve got to be flexible and ready to shift plans around. Once I arrived, I realized how much I still wanted a chance to stay for awhile. So, I did. One might think it was for reflection on this trip before returning home and in a way it was, but the reality was that I finally finished journaling about our trip to Argentina earlier this year. It gave me the chance though to let some of my thoughts flow from pen to paper and was just the rest I needed before driving the remaining 450 miles back home. I’d just spent time with a lot of people, heard a lot of truths and challenges and traveled almost nonstop for a few weeks and had a lot to process, so I was grateful for those last few hours driving through the mountains alone on my final stretch of the journey.

Journaling | Moving Peaces

Nashville | Moving Peaces

Mountain Driving | Moving Peaces

Sunset Driving | Moving Peaces

3,066.3 miles Raleigh, NC: Home at last.

Trip Log: Birmingham to Kansas City

Trip Log: Birmingham to Kansas City

I’m telling tales about my solo road trip last month, which took me from Raleigh, NC to Des Moines, IA and back. Clearly, this is in the middle of those two places, so feel free to start reading about the first leg of the journey if you haven’t already.

638.0 miles Birmingham, AL: After a few hours of travel, I was thrilled to stop for coffee with the ever-so sweet, Jamie Golden. A friend introduced us on twitter, so when I realized my travels would take me through Birmingham, I was feeling bold and thought I’d reach out. Jamie is a podcaster, cake pop maker and simply all-around fantastic person. We talked for a few hours and laughed like we had been friends for years. We told stories, she shared some wisdom and told me about a podcast I had to hear. Our conversation carried me through the rest of the day as I drove through big rainstorms, flash flood warnings and parts of Mississippi.

New Friend - Jamie Golden | Moving Peaces

879.8 miles Memphis, TN: You heard me set the scene there, right? “It was a dark and stormy night…” and then I arrived in Memphis. Well, okay. So I didn’t have the best set-up for my destination, which just isn’t fair to this fine city. On the trip, this was the part I was most on edge about beforehand and ended up being my least favorite. I did stay with a couchsurfer, who just wasn’t quite how I had hoped or expected based on her profile. But when it’s late at night in an unknown place, you roll with the punches and decide that you can make it through the night, so I did. The next morning I woke up bright and early, determined to work in a few places that would change my outlook. Thankfully, a blogger sent me some good recommendations of local coffee shops which helped a lot. I think Memphis likely has a lot of awesome things going on, but I didn’t get the chance to experience them this time. At the end of the day, I decided to keep on with my trip and embrace the next place, but I truly believe many will visit or live in Memphis and love it.

Coffee Shop in Memphis | Moving Peaces

Memphis Mural | Moving Peaces

1,037.9 miles Little Rock, AR: I had no idea what Little Rock would be like. I knew it was a city in a state that has some natural beauty and lakes in it, but didn’t know much else. This was my final stay with couchsurfers on the journey, and they were as kind as can be. Immediately upon my arrival they greeted me along with all their friends before we headed downtown to eat some fried catfish. They really tried to convince me that not all of Arkansas was about fishing, but they sure did talk about it a lot. The whole group seemed to love being outdoors, whether that meant hiking or kayaking or exploring. Unfortunately, I had arrived too late to join in for any of those activities, but I so appreciated being a part of their group of friends for just an evening as we walked along the Big Dam Bridge downtown after dinner.

Big Dam Bridge | Moving Peaces

Michael & Mary | Moving Peaces

1,257.4 miles Bentonville, AR: This is the point in the journey where I felt like I had arrived. Hardly my final destination, but this is where I would stay for a few days with my dear friend, Angela. Do you ever have friends you can talk to for hours and then still want to call them again tomorrow? This is that kind of friendship. We’ve been friends for over a decade and to this day, she’s one of my closest friends. The funny thing is, we haven’t lived in the same place for more than half of that time and hadn’t seen each other in over a year. It was so good to see where she lived and get a better feel for what her life looked like (not just how it sounded over the phone). We both worked during the day and then at night we would explore the town and a few museums. Bentonville is a small town, but it’s also the home and birthplace of Walmart, which makes for an interesting mix of bigger city culture with a small town size. We walked through Crystal Bridges, ate dinner at her favorite restaurant, browsed some antique shops, visited her workplace and toured the propaganda Walmart museum, where I proceeded to eat the tiniest ice cream cone that has ever existed.

Angela | Moving Peaces

Tiny Ice Cream Cone | Moving Peaces

1,440.4 miles Kansas City, MO: Okay, this is where the trip took a bit of a twist. Kansas City was a planned stop… and then it wasn’t… and then it was one anyway. Angela and I originally talked about visiting the area together and finally decided to go together for just the day but in separate cars. About a half hour into the trip, she called saying her car needed repair, a bit unexpectedly (it’s a long story), and she had to turn back but to keep going without her. At that point I figured I would just drive straight to Des Moines since I didn’t really have any real plans in KC and had been there before. Then I saw a sign for the Kansas City Zoo in one mile and on a whim took the exit. You see, my freshman year of college I actually went to a college in Missouri and still had a few friends in the area, one of whom happened to work at the zoo, which I knew thanks to social media. So I showed up at the zoo asking for Janna and was sent in towards the new orangutan exhibit to find her. Knowing I lived in North Carolina, she was quite surprised to see me for the first time in over five years. This was not the KC visit I planned, but it was the best kind of detour.

Janna | Moving Peaces

 

And then I kept driving. More to come.

Trip Log: Raleigh to Atlanta

Trip Log: Raleigh to Atlanta

In May I had the opportunity to drive halfway across the country and back on a solo road trip. Over the course of more than 3,000 miles in 17 days, I saw and did quite a bit. It’s hard to sum it all up. In some ways I am still processing that it happened, because my life has pretty much gone back to normal since then. No one piece of the trip was especially amazing or impressive in itself, but the fact that it all happened amounted to something. There were little moments and stories that may never be retold or remembered, but it was a trip that I’m glad I took.

For those of you who want to road trip vicariously, you’re in luck. Below you will find a true and accurate account of the places I went and the people I saw. What I cannot share is the subtle moments of impact or the absurd amount of ice cream I ate (sorry).

176.8 miles Charlotte, NC: An early morning start was well worth it after attending the Creative Women’s Summit, where I found myself overwhelmingly inspired by each speaker. A few others had traveled to get there, but this was the start of a journey for me, and I wanted to soak up every moment, despite not knowing a single person there. The girl sitting next to me was on a continuous journey herself as the traveling wife of a caddy. She had an hour before dashing back to Florida, so we shared a quick lunch and meaningful conversation. I don’t know that our paths will ever cross again, but we became friends right there, totally unexpectedly.

Lisa | Moving Peaces

Believe it or not, this was a working trip. So throughout the trip, I worked during the day like I would back at home. I may or may not mention it as a part of my journey but that was a big part of my trip and how I was able to have the time to do it. Just imagine me working here, because I did. 

I don’t know much about Charlotte, but do I know two households of wonderful people who call that place home. Erin was a good friend of mine in Des Moines who recently moved to the Queen City, so we spent hours catching up over dinner and dessert in the ever-so trendy arts district, NoDa.

Erin | Moving Peaces

Then there’s the home I stayed in, a place that has become our Charlotte home base of sorts, especially for trips to the airport or Ikea. But this is so much more than a place to sleep–the family is dear to us and also started a friendship formed in Des Moines. Julie is an ever gracious host whom I respect and admire. Julie sent me on my way with encouragement, laughter and tightly-squeezed hugs.

Julie | Moving Peaces

314.8 Greenville, SC: All the love and friendship found in Charlotte gave me enough moxie keep on with the road trip. I arrived after dark on a Friday night to stay with couchsurfers for the first time as a surfer instead of a host. They greeted me with open arms, and I found myself soon at a bonfire of close friends and felt right at home. The next morning, the husband set out for another trip while his wife and daughter showed we around downtown Greenville. We walked through the farmer’s market and the beautiful Falls Park right in the middle of town while sharing about each other’s lives before I moved on to my next stop.

Farmers Market | Moving Peaces

Falls Park | Moving Peaces

Raquel | Moving Peaces

465.9 miles Atlanta, GA: There’s a lot happening in Atlanta, so I didn’t even begin to see it all in my short time there. I was taken by just how big the skyline was (I realize that makes me sound like a simple, small-town girl, but it’s true). Again, I stayed with couchsurfers (this time literally on a couch in the living room, whereas in Greenville I had a guest room) who welcomed me into their lives for the day. Both pursuing work in the film business, I learned a lot about the industry and what it meant to go after such a dream, the drive it took and the sacrifices it required, while we walked around exploring the area. I ended my time in Atlanta visiting Louie Giglio’s church on Sunday morning before heading on my way, with plenty of audiobooks and wandering thoughts to keep me company.

Zak & Erin | Moving Peaces

Bridge Art | Moving Peaces

There’s a lot more trip to recount. I’ll be adding part 2 tomorrow, promise.

Solo Road Tripping

Solo Road Tripping

Here’s the deal: I’m out of town right now. Yesterday I posted a video about our trip to Argentina, because well, it was way past due. The thing is, I’m currently road tripping and have been gone for the past two weeks. What!? Crazy, right?

Turns out that going out of the country and coming back to normal life can make you go a little crazy, which is exactly what happened to me. It was a (mostly) good crazy that caused me to hope and dream for big things. Before I knew it, I was planning a solo road trip with 45+ hours of driving over the course of three weeks. I visited towns I’ve never been to, stayed with couchsurfers along the way (aka former strangers), saw dear friends and surprised my mom upon my arrival. Believe it or not, this trip isn’t even over yet.

Here’s the route: Raleigh, NC>Charlotte, NC>Greenville, SC>Atlanta, GA>Birmingham, AL>Memphis, TN>Little Rock, AR>Bentonville, AR>Kansas City, MO>Mason City, IA>Des Moines, IA>St. Louis, MO>Nashville, TN>HOME

Road Trip Route | Moving Peaces

I kept most of the details pretty hushed online up until now because I thought it would be fun to surprise my mom and she, being my mom, reads my blog. The shocked expression on her face was totally worth it. But now, I can’t wait to share some of my experiences along the way with you!

So far, the route has gone through a few changes since I first dreamt it up, but since I started the trip it has followed the final plans fairly well. The first few days were quite possibly my most adventurous. Not only was I couchsurfing, but I was also visiting a bunch of cities I’d never been to before and had no idea what to expect. On top of that, I’m also working remotely during the week days, so my time and experiences may be limited in all of these places but I still get a glimpse of things along the way.

In case you’re wondering…my husband is not on the trip, primarily because his work is not remote, but also because this trip made sense for me and not for him this time. He got to stay home and work on some of his big dreams and goals. We knew this was a matter of pursuing opportunities as they come–for both of us.

I have taken photos, made memories, thought through life, shared meals, visited dear friends, and become friends with (otherwise) perfect strangers. I definitely hope to give you more of a destination by destination summary later on, but for now, just want to share a few basic things I’ve found along the way… 

  • Context carries a lot of weight. When I had an introduction or someone mentioned my trip, suddenly I was an interesting person with a story to tell but other times I was just another girl in the crowd whose story appeared boring and ordinary.
  • Creativity can strike in the most bizarre places…and it won’t run out if we use it.
  • Everyone has a messy house. Maybe you’re that one weirdo who doesn’t have laundry or dishes or a pile of random things on the counter, but you’re in the small minority. Seeing a lot of other (normal) homes has me convinced that it’s okay to have a house that looks well, rather lived in.
  • There are a lot of (dead) armadillos by the side of the road in Arkansas.
  • The culture changes in different parts of the country. Different pasts, different stories, different thoughts.
  • A lot of people think they know how you should live your life. The ones that admit they don’t know the answers but are striving to do their best with what they’ve got are the ones I trust the most.
  • Some parts of the country just simply aren’t great places to visit.
  • No matter how nice you are, you might say the wrong thing one day. It feels like the worst moment ever as soon as you realize you hurt someone but had no idea at the time.
  • Some local coffee shops are amazing, others leave a lot to be desired.
  • There’s a ton of gospel music on the radio in the South.
  • Late nights paired with early mornings will catch up to you.
  • Solo road trips are more rare than I realized. I’ve been told a few times that I’m brave for going at this alone, especially as a woman. Maybe that’s true and in some ways this trip feels meaningful but in a lot of other ways, it feels pretty average. I am only driving between two to six hours at a time and for a big part of the trip I’m with people I know. The fact that I had the opportunity to do it makes a huge difference, but what I’m actually doing is not epic in itself.
  • Travel isn’t for the purpose of merely “seeing all the things and going all the places.” It’s to gain perspective and understanding, all the while challenging yourself.
  • I love to travel, but there’s more to life than traveling. If I had to give up everything to travel, I don’t think it would actually be worth it. My relationships, friendships, home, skills and goals hold huge value to me. I think sometimes travel seems glamorous, but it can come at a cost to other aspects of our life.
Argentina Trip – Video

Argentina Trip – Video

Okay everybody, I think it’s high time we shared the video montage of our trip to Argentina. You know, that trip we got back from two months ago. (How has that time gone by so quickly?) At first we were stressed as we threw ourselves back into our daily and creative lives. Then it seemed like maybe I would post more photos after a quick post on Iguazu Falls. Instead, let’s get a better view. Without further adieu, here’s the video recap of our trip through Argentina in March 2015.

I think it’s quite clear, but in case you missed it–Argentina was amazing. My husband did an excellent job putting together a video that shares a glimpse of our time there. Of course there were several more moments and memories, but sometimes you just have to experience things firsthand and not bother with the camera.

We spent several days in Buenos Aires as we flew in and out from there and used it as our jumping off point to get to places like Iguazu Falls and Mendoza. Buenos Aires was the big city (that never sleeps)–the place where we walked until our feet were covered in blisters, saw a bunch of museums, tried to tango, experienced city life, attended an incredible drumming performance and met some amazing people in the various hostels we stayed at.

Iguazu Falls was a tiny town in the middle of the jungle where we mainly explored the trails and walkways near the falls but also stopped by a wildlife preserve to see some local animals. It took an additional flight to get there, which unfortunately was canceled and later rescheduled due to an airline strike that day. Thankfully, we got everything sorted out, and it was more than worth it. Iguazu Falls is quite possibly the most epic natural wonder either of us have or ever will see.

Mendoza was a medium-sized town near the Andes. We actually took an overnight 13-hour bus ride to get there and back from Buenos Aires. After a morning to get acclimated, I quickly decided it was my favorite city of the three. Set right next to the Andes mountains, it was a gorgeous area which we got to explore by horseback, kayak, raft and bike. It was a lot of activity but in the most restful and wonderful way.

Finally, we took a short day trip to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, which is just a short ferry ride from Buenos Aires. We were glad to get a quick view of the country, learn more about its history and dream about what life might be like there.

All in all, a great trip through a beautiful country. We were so grateful for the opportunity to go, the time together and the experiences we shared. 

Wondering about Wanderlust

Wondering about Wanderlust

My passport is still sitting on my bedside table.

You know, the table that holds a little lamp, the latest book I’m reading, my (cheap) jewelry, a few hair ties and whatever I may empty from my pockets at the end of the day. Oh, and on nights that I can’t sleep or have a little cough, there’s also a glass of water just waiting to be tipped over when I reach across to silence my alarm in the morning. This is not the proper place for a passport to rest.

Passport Ready | Moving Peaces

Upon returning from a recent trip to Argentina, I immediately threw all of my clothes in the wash, but the rest of my bag and all of its contents lingered. I removed my passport out of my purse and probably just placed it on the table in passing before returning it back to its rightful place in the safe. But now I just can’t bring myself to do it.

It feels like putting it away is acknowledging that a chapter of my life has closed. The chapter where I travel to different parts of the world and experience all sorts of new things. Whether that’s true or not, I do not know. Without a firm answer to that question, I cannot bring myself to tuck it away. Every morning, there’s my passport…simultaneously inspiring me and taunting me, suggesting there’s more to explore and another adventure yet in store.

I’m not sure what I’m more afraid of: the end of an era or what it would take to call myself a world-traveler.

I love to travel. I love learning about another culture and talking with people who live in an area so different than my own. This isn’t a quest for a nonstop vacation or spending time in countless resorts. To me, travel is about exploration…in hopes of bettering myself and the world. Hearing the stories of others, challenging myself to go outside my comfort zone and helping those I encounter along the way.

But when do we know it’s time to stop? When is it time to focus on what’s in front of us instead of constantly searching for more? When is it pursuing dreams and when is it discontentment or worse, disillusion? What if a pursuit of travel is far from meaningful–barely even personal development and merely selfishness in disguise?

What is it that I am trying to accomplish? Is it worthwhile? Is it necessary? Is it beneficial? At what cost?

I’ve wrestled with these questions constantly, leaving me unsettled and almost frantic for some sort of resolve or conclusion, to no avail. Hence, my passport and I maintain our standstill, unable to move forward and unwilling to turn back.

Why? Why is this my response? Normal people can take a trip for two weeks, show off the photos and talk about how they had great a time before returning to regular daily life. Either I’m not normal, or I don’t want to be.

Call me naive, but I so desperately want to be intentional with my life–to do something, to make it count. At home it seems that I can’t help but fall into a routine between work, friends, a few hobbies and some TV. Maybe that’s why travel is so appealing to me–it forces me out of that routine. It asks so much more from me, and I eagerly comply.

I see travel as my opportunity, my challenge to do something more than live a predictable and average American life. What if I set foot on every continent, learned another language and propelled my life towards a bigger story full of excitement and uncertainty? A few weeks of travel here and there over the course of a lifetime hardly feels like enough time to embrace and understand another culture. What if I challenged myself to leave everything I’ve ever known for some sort of unknown across the world? What a life to live, what a story to tell…isn’t that worth pursuing?

Conversely, what would I be leaving? Career aspirations, friendships, community, roots. Would the pursuit of international exploration risk or overlook my commitments, lasting relationships or long-term investments? Could that leave me feeling empty and shallow, despite the collection of incredible photos?

I was given this life, my life, and I can’t stand the idea of just letting it slide on by. I don’t want to “play it safe” and gradually surround myself with comfort and routine, yet I don’t want to chase a life of adventures merely for the sake of a bucket list or another story to tell while potentially undervaluing commitment, consistency and responsibility.

Maybe it’s not one or the other. Maybe there’s a balance to be found in it all without compromising one or the other. For some, perhaps the answer is more clear, but for me it continues to be a struggle. So, my passport, a simple booklet with a few stamps, sits by my bed and waits while begging the question: what’s next?