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The Sense of Loss in a Big Adventure

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An unexpected thing happened on the streets of Seoul, Korea.

I’ve been to Seoul several times, and don’t really feel anything special about it. It’s not a bad place in any way, and perhaps I’d like it more if I spent more time there. I just don’t think of Seoul in a special way, as I do with other Asian cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok.

That’s why the thing was so unexpected. All of a sudden while riding along in the interminable airport shuttle (the main airport is more than an hour from the city), I began to feel sad. I looked around and realized that even though I didn’t love Seoul itself, in the near future I would greatly miss this experience.

For more than ten years, I’ve been actively traveling in all parts of the world. For the past four years, travel has been a near-obsession. I’ve been in at least 20 countries every year, often more like thirty-five when you consider all the transits and stopovers.

There hasn’t been any time when I haven’t been planning at least one big trip. I’ve had multiple, ten-segment itineraries open at any given time. I’ve spent thousands of dollars in processing fees and FedEx charges sending my passports back and forth from D.C. and various embassies, often receiving them back the day of my departure before rushing out to the airport.

And on this trip, I realized for the very first time … that one day, before too long, it will be coming to an end.

168 countries down, only 25 to go.

I remember my visit to Sri Lanka, country #100, so clearly. I was jetlagged and made the mistake of taking a nap at 4pm. Waking up before midnight, I spent the rest of the night writing the original Working for Yourself guide and walking on the beach outside my hotel.

It feels so recent, but that visit was actually sixty-eight countries ago. Life has been flying by so quickly.

***

The quest to visit every country was always personal—I knew I’d do it even if no one cared or noticed. But when I started writing about big adventures (and YOU started reading), things changed a lot, mostly for the better.

At almost every book tour stop, meetup, or speaking gig over the past year, someone asked the question: “What will you do after you finish seeing the world?” Other people would nod, as if they were wondering too.

After a few false starts, I developed a good answer: “Well, I have no plans to stop traveling. I’d like to go back and revisit some of the places I especially liked.”

I also said that travel is only one part of what I do. I write books, start businesses, host the World Domination Summit and other events, and… a lot more. None of those things are coming to an end anytime soon.

These answers—I’ll keep traveling in some form, and I do more than just travel—are both true. But now I understand something that perhaps many of you already knew when you asked the question: the answers were true, but they weren’t sufficient. There is a real sense of loss as a big adventure comes to an end, and I should be prepared for it.

***

Assuming all goes well, the adventure is coming to an end over the next 16 months. There’s still a long way to go, but I can finally foresee a time when there won’t be any more stressing over visas and hopping off to random countries that I knew nothing about until a few years ago. I probably won’t sleep on many airport floors, and won’t likely maximize a 10-segment itinerary to get to as many stops as possible.

I don’t know what comes next, and the thought of coming to the end feels like a real loss.

An actor friend gave me a metaphor: when a show closes, the actors all experience a feeling of sadness and loss. This is usually true even if they didn’t especially love the show, or even if they’re all ready to move on to something else. You still have to say goodbye to an intense period of your life, and that’s always tough.

So now, after failing to grasp the problem, I suddenly get it. I felt like crying on that airport bus from Seoul, and it wasn’t because I wanted another day in Korea. It was that I’ve been working for something for so long, and now that it actually seems within reach, I don’t know what to do with myself.

Of course I’ll still travel and write after April 7, 2013. I’ll start more projects than I can finish and say yes to things I’m excited about. The best is yet to come. But I do understand… this is a problem I don’t yet know how to solve.

***

From Seoul I went down to Uzbekistan, a quirky little country in Central Asia. I’ve always been intimidated by the region before, mostly because I didn’t have the greatest experience in Russia. The lingua franca of the region is Russian, a language I know nothing of, and the administrative process in many “stan” countries resembles a Soviet Union that only exists in memory and excessive paperwork.

But this time, I began to see a key difference between a place like Uzbekistan and Russia itself. They are quite different, and I prefer Uzbekistan. I went for an hour-long run and returned back to a breakfast at my guesthouse with a large group of Indian travelers. Several of the people were quite loud and kept shouting to the waiters. “Hot milk! Bring us hot milk! Napkins! Omelette!” The waiters, who didn’t speak English, kept nodding and running back and forth to the kitchen. It was all quite hilarious and reminded me of why I travel.

I could have stayed longer. I would have enjoyed taking a tour to learn more about history and art. Of course, I had to move on after a brief stay, and that’s OK. No regrets. But when my taxi driver deposited me at the Tashkent airport, I motioned to him to stop outside the parking lot so I could walk in.

The driver, who told me had been taking English classes, phoned in to the dispatcher to find out how much the fare should be (another odd, bureaucratic system). He came back and quoted a figure that was a couple bucks more than I had been told to pay at the hotel. I explained what I had been told, and asked if I could pay the lower fare.

“Sir, I not lie you!” the driver told me. He seemed genuinely distressed about my concern, and genuinely honest. I gave him the higher fare, along with a small bit of extra cash that I wouldn’t be needing anywhere but Uzbekistan. Nice guy.

Then I took my time in walking to the terminal, stopping to watch the sunset and the crowded group of people waiting to greet arriving passengers. Another guy approached, offering another taxi but also just wanting to chat. We had a comical, one-sided conversation in English and Russian (guess which side I was) that ended with me flapping my arms to indicate I didn’t need another taxi because I was preparing to fly away. He smiled and waved me off.

Inside, I did the same thing … no rush, no hurry. Soak it all in, I told myself. Don’t forget this time and place. You’ll never be back, so hold on to whatever you can.

***

On the way home the following week, I got stuck and had to detour for an unexpected three-day stay in Sydney. I ran in the gardens, went on a walking tour, drank Australian pinot noir. It was beautiful and once again reminded me of all the things I loved about travel when I started.

Then I flew home via Melbourne and Los Angeles, and then it was over. Sure, I have five open trips planned—sorting out my visa for Eritrea is the problem of the moment—but all is on track.

Only 25 countries to go. And then what? Only time will tell.

###

Image: YST

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73 Comments

  • Aaron says:

    Here’s hoping for a trip to Turkey in the next year. I’ll buy you lunch.

  • Jim Johnson says:

    Relating it to closing a show is very understandable. I’m an actor and a voice and dialect coach, so I’m often working on multiple shows at once and a number of projects outside of those shows. I’m often so grateful for the closing of one job that I don’t notice for a few days how much I’m going to miss those people, my family. It’s intense, so you have fast, intense relationships. The same has happened with my travel, and happily some of the people I’ve met on the road have come back to visit me later (especially Aussies – What’s up with them?!)

    You’re also reminding me of the thoughts of Steve Jobs that have been all over lately reminding us to let the ever-present ending make us acknowledge the bliss of what we’re doing right now. You’re on a good ride. Enjoy it while it lasts.

  • Jennifer B says:

    There will be another challenge that piques your fancy – you just haven’t figured out what it will be yet.

    Maybe it will be running the entire coastline of the US. Maybe it won’t have to do with travel at all. Maybe you’ll find something that you liked or found interesting to compare in all of the countries you visited and you’ll find a way to go back and document (such as pictures of a typical meal, the belongings of a typical family as in “Material World”). Maybe you’ll start taking select groups of people on “tours” of places that should be visited more often but no-one goes there.

    But I’m guessing it will be something entirely different and uniquely yours. I can’t wait to hear what the new challenge turns out to be!

  • Patricia GW says:

    It’s always sad to come to the end of a great project, especially one you’ve put so much energy and heart into. As they say, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

  • Reaching the end of a once seemingly impossible journey does cause moments of sadness. Hope you are able to enjoy those last 25 countries to the fullest — and be thinking of your next big goal to attack as soon as (or even before) you complete this one.

  • Shari says:

    Chris, I’ve really been extra-appreciating your posts lately. It seems that as you get closer to the end of your journey you’re getting more introspective (and maybe more open and honest?), and it’s really effective and helpful. So thanks for letting us see so much of you as you see so much of the world. Also, sidenote, just finished reading The Sex Lives of Cannibals and learned a ton about Kirabati – good luck with that one – heh. =)

  • Momekh says:

    What are you talking about?! You love to travel, that is obvious. The ‘every country in the world’ bit was the ‘intense period’ that is about to be over. But here’s a prediction for you, o seeker, ‘you will travel in the near future, and also in the not-so-near future’.

    I miss the few places that I have visited, wanting to visit them back. I can’t even imagine how you’d decide WHICH ONE to visit back.

    You are doing great man. God bless and good luck!

  • I can so relate. You and I had chatted previously via email re. my own big adventure…I took time off from my medical practice and lived in PV and Cabo in Mexico for four years, where I lived on the beach for peanuts and had my own flamenco dance company, it’s the happiest I’ve EVER been. The most surprising and beautiful things emerged from that adventure – I ended up dancing for and even teaching celebrities, became a life coach, wrote my book, created a speaking career…all these things I’m still doing, but the Mexico chapter itself ended 2 years ago. I’d love to go back to that time or recreate it, but as they say “you can’t go back”. So now I’m searching for the next one…haven’t found it yet but I know my story can’t be over yet! In the meantime, like you, I’ll keep writing and doing (and earning blessed income from!) the things I love that emerged from the last great adventure : )

    Que vayas con Dios!

  • Kate says:

    It’s hard to believe you’ll be done that soon. I just started reading your blog over a year ago maybe a little longer. I bet it will seem sad. I remember staying 3 months in Japan and dying to go home, but when I left I was sad because a chapter was over and it was time to move on. That’s how I think of any situation I go into I think I’ll enjoy the now and I’ll bare the upset later, but it will be worth it because every experience makes you wiser or so I’ve been taught and the price of that wisdom is often better than any amount of money you could have saved in the long run or made for that matter. I hope in the next year I get to travel more. It’s been a rough year for sure, but I’m determined to get back on track.

  • Ron says:

    Great goal almost accomplished…have you thought about your top 100 cities in the world to visit. Maybe even seeing a few that you want to return to visit again. Keep inspiring us!

  • vina lustado says:

    you will always find adventure in life. i guarantee it. as a rock climber, i find that it’s not about getting to the top, but really, it’s how you get there…relish the countries you have left to go, and look forward to planning the next big adventure.

  • I understand what you’re going through. After six years circumnavigating the globe in my own sailboat, I struggled with sailing back underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and completing the journey. I write about this in my book as I share my personal journals and expose my anxiety during the last year to two years of the trip.

    The answer of course is that we are never done with our journey, no matter where it takes us. Lately I’ve been enjoying being a tourist in my hometown, San Francisco and loving it. I hope you’ll grab a copy of my book, or epub version, I think you’ll find it inspiring.

  • Heather says:

    i loved this post Chris. i’ve been traveling regularly since i was about 8 and your comment about soaking it all in….not forgetting this time and place…is something i’ve always done. (and i’m SO thankful for it!) i have amazing memories that i embedded in my brain like standing in the courtyard of a remote monastery in Tibet with the sun on my face and three dogs playing at my feet. i remember the smell in the air, the *feel* of the atmosphere…every single colour and sound. or sitting in a rock pool in Bainskloof, South Africa after a day long rock-hopping hike with a friend. every cell in my body can go back to that moment if i want to. it’s like taking your travels with you. i feel like my brain has become a Choose Your Own Adventure book! thanks for sharing ~ this post is excellent.

  • Ellen says:

    Love this post, Chris. It is so true and I’ve found myself in that space so many times – in traveling of course, in finishing an art piece that I’ve poured my soul into, and even when approaching the end of a really good book. I always consider it a sign that I’ve truly been living in the passion of the experience. And I can feel myself wanting to both launch into another passionate experience AND relish in the afterglow of the one I just completed. I admire you for being so conscious of all of this and for being willing to just sit in it and take it all in while you sort it out. A great lesson for me.

  • alain says:

    Hi, new here – just started following last week – love this blog and from link to link a quote just dawned on me…….”every path I take is perfect”
    it’s not an end, simply a part of something bigger. I’ve learned in science the ”Gestalt” principle, the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts, those countries will add up into a project not yet determined (I say will, not might)
    I’m at that point that it is obvious that all that happens does so for the best of reasons, that I like or not is irrelevant!
    Alain

  • Christy says:

    Usually when one big adventure ends for me, I already have another one planned. Which, I’m sure, you will have many more adventures to come even when you have already visited every country in the world!

  • Chris Walter says:

    “It was that I’ve been working for something for so long, and now that it actually seems within reach, I don’t know what to do with myself.”

    This is such a strange concept but I think it’s true. Setting goals is not so much about accomplishment but more about giving us purpose in the moment. We need purpose even if that purpose is invented by ourselves.

    We can create our own realities!

  • Sara Stroman says:

    Chris! Thank you for this. Your post could not have been more timely. I have 26 days until my last marathon and I wrote a blog about feeling scared, excited and nostalgic for the running I’ve done the past 5 years.

    Next adventures await!

  • In less than 30 days we leave for a 3 year around-the-world by road trip we’ve been planning for two years. Everyone says “we must be so excited” but the reality is we are so stressing about the work needed to do to get going we are not taking the time to enjoy the last 30 days in our current lives. While its a backwards analogy, I liken it to your challenge just the same. Achieving your goal is in some ways scary – because you are standing at the edge of having to rework your entire mindset. what we do all day, the things we worry about and the big fat hairy goal has shifted from “get out the door” to “get moving and going.” Thanks for the insights as always!

  • Scott Meyer says:

    Thanks for the post Chris. It is truly sad when an adventure ends, but everything you’ve learned from the travel will make future adventures that much deeper. Just keep your eyes open and you’ll be able to enjoy the coming year and find your next adventures, which i’m sure will be no problem for you 🙂

  • Anum says:

    This post really exemplifies how I feel when I’m at the airport, leaving one country for another. I have family all over the world; my dad lives in the U.A.E. and I travel there maybe once every two years. It’s just not the ‘physical’ notions of being in a different place, but rather the bonds and the emotions you felt that you subconsciously think you are leaving behind. Even if this chapter of your life is ending, there are always new adventures that await, and more opportunities to build on the experiences that have shaped who you are. I wish you all the best, Chris. Loving your posts lately.

  • I loved reading this — i like getting a peek into the emotional side of your travels

  • I love that you shared these thoughts & feelings. I think the lows of our adventures are just as important as the highs. When we spend so much time on something it’s inevitable that when it comes to an end we’ll feel a sense of loss. Even if we know we’ll continue to do new and exciting things, a part of us still needs to mourn the end of something we’ve started.

  • Jaton West says:

    So, if a new country emerges (e.g., a country splits into 3), will you need to then visit all 3 to keep your list complete?

  • Chris says:

    I’m not sure about the long-term future, i.e., what will happen if there is a new country five years from now. But in the short-term, yes, if there is a new country then I will try to visit it before April 2013. This happened recently with South Sudan.

  • Randy Moe says:

    I do love your travelogs. They are good for you and many others. Here comes the “but”, I like little journeys and find pleasure very close to home. I learned some things from Tom Brown Jr, also known as the tracker. He tells explorers to mark off 1 square yard of their outdoor environment and study all the life contained in that space. There is a lot to see and remember everywhere an inquisitive mind travels. I guess I am just saying, not every one needs jet airplanes. I prefer small motorbikes!

  • I don’t think the sadness is in the ending, it’s in the day after when you feel like it’s all gone. The best part though, is the day after that when the next idea starts percolating…

  • Rose says:

    I started reading your posts about a year ago, when my sister forwarded me a forward from a friend of hers. My sister thought I’d like to read your posts because I had recently embarked on a rather fuzzy mission: to take something I really love and find a way to make it a career. Its been a hard year and a half now of being a parent, a volunteer, a wife, a freelancer (to pay the bills), and sometimes unemployed, to get me where I am now. I *think* I’m now at the top of the roller coaster, heading into the big plunge, and it seems like everything I’ve been working for may start falling into place very soon. I wonder: once I get what I’ve been working for, how long before the bloom comes off the rose and I have my first complaint about my dream job. I laugh about it because it is inevitable: someday I will complain about some part of it, but I honestly will never regret the amount of work I’ve put in to making my passion my living.

    I told my neighbor once that I’d be done improving our back yard soon, and she laughed at me: “you’re never going to be done”. I’ve loved reading about your journey, and I have no doubt you are the kind of guy who will never be done.

  • Great update Chris. Thank you for your candor. You story is inspiring.

  • Karen says:

    Well, I’m two days into reading your missives Chris. I am so ready for MY Walkabout. For over 10 years I have had the desire to buy an RV and just hit the road. It is always in the back of my consciousness. It may be time to follow this dream now. Just have to sell a condo (Telluride, if anyone’s interested!) I hope to earn gas money by plying my trade as I go: Exercise therapy for chronic pain. I can do this…… right?

  • Anita C says:

    Thank you for sharing this story. It is difficult when good things come to an end, even if it is time, especially when you are not sure what to focus on next. I am sure the message will come to you about your next challenge when the time is right.

    After a 14 year relationship ended, I didn’t know what to do. As soon as I finished moving to my new place, I decided to go camping in the wilderness and spent several days in silence walking through the woods and writing. I had several days more planned but one morning as I sat on the edge of a lake looking at the water, I heard (felt?) a voice tell me that it was time to go home. I left earlier than I planned on, with a certain peace of mind that I was doing the right thing, to get back to work making a new life for myself. Now my life is better than ever!

    As motivated and inspired as you are, I am sure that no matter what your next new adventure is, it will be a good one! I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

  • Patricia says:

    Amazing how fast time goes by when we are having fun. Your life will continue to fly by, just as I feel my life is starting to go into hyper-speed (especially since meeting the man who is now my husband), but that’s really a testament to the joy we are experiencing.

    You are already mourning what appears to be the end, because life is so joyful right now and it is going by so fast. But when one adventure ends, it gives the opportunity for the next one to begin. Just the thought process and soul searching will have their own excitement and rewards, especially for a creative person like yourself, Chris.

    Onward to the next adventure!!! More joy, more LIFE.

  • Wonderful post Chris. Seoul is high on my list, but that’s because I’m a Korean Drama lover. If you haven’t seen one yet, check it out at http://www.mysoju.com. If you get back to Korea, it will bring new meaning.
    Overall, I feel you’ll always be a world adventurer. As they say, “keep on truckin’ “

  • Walt says:

    my unsolicited advice is to start thinking now about what your next big adventure’s going to be (maybe learn to fly those planes you’ve been spending so much time on?) and when you’ve decided on it, don’t stop there, but go on to plan a few more great adventures, so that you have a list of three or so. then after you complete one, add another to the list, and so on. that way, while you’ll probably still feel some sense of loss as each adventure comes to a close, at least you won’t have to feel, on top of that, like you don’t know what you’re going to do with yourself until you dream up your next great adventure.

    thank you for this blog. it’s great. quite unlike anything else i’ve encountered.

  • Jason says:

    Is Montserrat in the West Indies on your list?

  • Chris says:

    No – it’s a British territory, not a country.

  • iain h says:

    So when are you coming over our way (Vanuatu)? Look forward to hosting you.

  • So glad you “get” the bittersweetness of travel: 1) each time you visit any place may be your last (the better) but 2) when you unexpectedly return to a place you love (lucky you back in Sydney mate!), it’s doubly sweet!

    My guess is after this, you’ll appreciate all your journeys more.

  • Steven says:

    Not that it’s my place to tell you what you should do, but find another adventure damn it! Climb the tallest peaks on every continent…or SOMETHING! I can’t imagine you just doing “nothing.” What’s your next love?

  • PoemCatcher says:

    I pitch for a teeny weenie amount of funding tomorrow. Its not a life line and It doesn’t contract me heavily – but it is the moment where i get to stand up and say farewell and hello. An end and a beginning and damn its hard.

  • Tristan says:

    Nice to hear your thoughts on this huge adventure Chris. I’m sure you’ll be doing great things for a long, long time, even after you’ve been to all 193 countries (for the first time 😉 ). I think many of us go through this feeling towards the end of a big trip. Just means it’s time to start planning the next one.

  • Jasmine says:

    I can relate to your dilemma a lot. After I figured out how to fund my nomadic lifestyle and achieved my goal, it was like, “Now what?” I hope you find another big adventure to plunge into that excites you like this one.

  • What’s the saying? “All good things must come to an end” I remember watching a TV series about the life and adventures of Marco Polo. Of all the forgotten scenes that weren’t imprinted on my memory the only one that did was when he disembarks from his ship at port in Italy after many years of traveling and adventures in Asia. The actor portraying Marco Polo was able to capture and convey exactly that same sense of the end of an adventure as he slowly walks down the gangplank with the realization that this is the end of one period of his life and looks around at his familiar surroundings, listening to the sound of his native Italian spoken everywhere and anywhere. Perhaps Odysseus felt the same way when eventually he left Circe’s island. Maybe that’s the moral of that particular story. Those ancient Greeks knew a thing or two. Here’s some Walt Whitman to light your way to your next adventure:

    Listen! I will be honest with you;
    I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes;
    These are the days that must happen to you:

    You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,
    You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
    You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d—you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction, before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart,
    You shall be treated to the ironical smiles and mockings of those who remain behind you;
    What beckonings of love you receive, you shall only answer with passionate kisses of parting,
    You shall not allow the hold of those who spread their reach’d hands toward you.

  • Sonja says:

    Anytime there is closure, there is a sense of loss. I was just informed this week that the company I’ve contracted with for 14 years is changing its business model and no longer needs me. Yes, it’s bittersweet. I no longer enjoy the work, yet, there is a sense of loss that what I’ve known for more than a decade will no longer support me. I have to think about the future and the opportunities that await. Now I’ll the time to pursue them.

  • It’s called a “necessary ending.” If you want to understand, then read the book by Dr. Henry Cloud by the same name: “Necessary Endings, the employees, businesses, and relationships that all of us have to give up in order to move forward.”

    I think you’ll find your answer there.

  • I have been living vicariously through your travels and travails for quite some time. I, too will be sorry when you are done. I’m sure more countries will be “invented” given how unstable much of the world is. So take heart … you may have to add some more destinations to your list before you’re done.

  • Joe Valley says:

    Vacation hangover sadness is the worst!

  • Felix says:

    It might be a bit far fetched, but maybe you want to have a glimpse at the blue marble from a place far far away 😉

  • Patti says:

    This is one of the best things you’ve written, Chris….

    travel is a many faceted diamond… The trouble with moving so fast is you might cut yourself on a sharp edge… but still, that is just part of it…

  • Janna says:

    I can totally identify with this idea. I felt that way this year after finishing my 16-day pilgrimage walking 350 km across the north of Spain.
    Every day was a struggle, walking 8 hours a day, and I would see cars and buses around me and just think what a nice luxury to get places almost immediately in vehicles.
    I just wanted to ARRIVE, and I thought about how good it would feel to finally arrive in Santiago de Compostela, the final destination. Then of course I arrived and felt that same sense of sadness you describe – almost an emptiness, now what?

    Here I am, back in the US, paying almost as much in fuel each month as I spent for my monthly RENT in Spain, driving everywhere because there’s no public transport where I live. I miss walking and that sense of adventure and working towards a big goal.

    What they say it’s true; it’s all about the journey, the destination is an afterthought.

  • Angeline says:

    A wonderful post. You’ve left a wonderful legacy for yourself; when you get old and are unable to travel anymore, you will have the memories.

  • Dusty says:

    Perhaps visiting all the countries in the world was just the beginning? Its crazy to think, but maybe in your path, you are still a newbie. Your just now moving past the beginner stage.

    Perhaps, being at the beginning of your real adventure, you simply needed this experience to gain some wisdom and confidence to use in the next chapter?

    Only you can guess what it is, but regardless, I’m certain you’ll do a fantastic job. And have one hell of a ride!

    I’ve truly enjoyed your book and your posts. You are an incredible motivator. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

    Thank you!

  • A great reminder to always be present. I’ve been doing solo adventure travel for over a decade. Recently, I made a list of all the places and things I want to visit and do. And then, as I looked at the list, I realized I don’t have enough time left in my life to do it all. What a sobering moment. Recently, I visited New Brunswick, Canada and found myself moving from one place to the next too quickly. My initial thought was, “I’ll spend more time here next time.” But there won’t be a next time, unless I give up something else on my list. Note to self: Don’t plan on coming back, there is only now. So make it matter.”

    Thanks for your post about “Soul”. It really resonated.

  • I feel the same after every ceremony. A sadness that for me it comes to an end, but for every family I leave, a happiness for where they go from here.

  • Gil Sousa says:

    You are a traveler, and you said that you are planning to keep traveling. Now you are “just” collecting countries, but is it enough? Why don’t you start a long term trip, away from your comfort zone, and do a slow round the world trip interacting with remote cultures and test your own limits? Instead of keep returning home, just keep traveling during a few months.

    One of my life goals is living for a few months/years in inner China, in a place where the English language has no use and where I have to manage to “survive” and communicate.

  • Roxanne says:

    I understand the sense of loss you are describing. There is a beautiful poem called “One Art” whose recurrent theme is a line that reads “the art of losing isn’t hard to master.” Even though the novelty of each country will not be there if you return to it, you can still continue to travel. The new challenge can be seeing old places with new eyes and finding a way to rediscover the wonder in them. That is part of what I am trying to do with my return to the Middle East and I am excited for the journey…

  • Brad says:

    Great story. I had travelled extensively with the military and was very fortunate to have some time off to travel for leisure in those countries.

    I know the feeling of sadness all too well, especially when you have to leave behind unique relationships forged quicly and intensely.

    Thanks!
    Brad

  • heather says:

    “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
    ~Anatole France

  • Hey, there is always space travel when you run out of countries. 🙂

  • walt says:

    i was also thinking what Felix is thinking: space travel. weightlessness. also sky-diving…there are lots of adventures to have. or you could go on an inner journey instead. go on retreats at beautiful monasteries, see if, now that you’ve explored all of the mundane world you might like to become a Buddhist or something and explore the more boundless inner one. I don’t think *that* exploration ever need end.

  • Brianna says:

    When one door closes, another opens and blah blah blah. I so envy all the traveling you’ve been able to do. I often dream of booking myself on a world cruise and writing a memoir about the experience, but that is a dream that is far off, given the financial prohibitiveness of spending nearly $30,000 to travel the world.

  • Rosanna says:

    Endings are always bittersweet but they always carry the promise of new beginnings. I congratulate you in advance for the start of something new… another adventure. Who knows, you may decide to undertake the monumental adventure of exploring the many challenges, lessons and joy that comes from staying put in one place for a long, long time. 🙂

  • Pema Teeter says:

    Richard Attenborough searched for his Ghandi for 19 years. When he walked into the makeup trailer to see Ben Kingsley ready for his screen test, the director slumped into a chair and felt grief, staring at the man who would help him finally realize his dream. Attenborough had become intimate with his search and it was over. In his joyous, hard won gain, there was loss.

  • Some people are so fortunate enough to see the world and you are one of them. 168 countries in the list huh? Its sometimes hard to believe and when you mentioned Sri Lanka was #100 which was actually 68 countries ago, it was a different feeling in myself. I have not traveled a single country yet, not even to my neighboring country or not yet traveled to every corner of my own country and i know it will be hard for you to believe it because i think traveling has now become a part of your life just like how food and drink is. Man, you are so fortunate, great. Wish you good luck with your next 25 more to go!

    I am 23 now and i wish someday i could follow your footsteps and travel the entire globe as traveling is my passion and travel the world is my dream.

  • Phil Drolet says:

    Thanks for the reminder- I’m coming to the end of a 17 journey in Australia where I came to get a Master’s Degree in Business but from where I’ll be flying away with a Master’s Degree in Optimal Living.

    It reminded me that so many of the things I take for granted about Perth I’ll be missing very soon. Will definitely be looking at things through a different lens today.

  • Yvonne says:

    Sometimes staying put is hard to do. I have lived in just 3 countries and have travelled a bit and although I often daydream of other places, sometimes I just want to find somewhere to settle- my forever place.
    I wonder if I ever will. Will the travel bug (or whatever you want to call it) ever leave me? I don’t know and when I leave a place I always wonder if I’ll go there again.
    Nice post!

  • Steven says:

    Couldn’t agree more, I’m back to London tomorrow (I’m from France), after spending a week in Hong Kong and a week in Tokyo, loved every single minute of it, especially the moments where no understood what I said, what a blast. I know this is something I wanna keep doing, I met so many great people while travelling, we are still friends. Hong Kong is my favorite place so far, I like the crazyness of the place, 24/7 fun!

  • Katia says:

    I was departing from Trapani airport (Sicily) when I read your blog, and it made me stop and savour the last minutes in that nice part of Italy and recollect the sweet memories of a long weekend with old and new friends. Thank you for inspiring me and reminding to be in the present and appreciate even the simple things like driving around in search for a gas station before dropping the rented car.

    I’ve been experiencing the sense of loss you describe several times when I travel and it happens also in my job, at the end of a project (I work as an indipendent management consultant). But often a quiet and nurturing sense of gratitude substitutes the sadness and the sense of emptyness every end brings about. I wish you the same and a lot of new beginings and amazing dreams to fulfill!

  • Jon says:

    Great post. This really reminded me of how I felt when I finished my first marathon. The ecstasy of victory and the sadness of … victory. But like another commenter said, there’s another challenge ahead. Training for my first 50K now. 🙂

  • guineveruca says:

    beautiful post, and as others mentioned, the comparison to the end of a show run is apt. I used to be a dancer and every show ended with a tiny feeling of loss, even if I flat out hated the piece, the choreographer, the process (not that that happened often!).

    I’m on the other end of it in terms of travel – just getting started on a goal of international travel, and this blog has certainly inspired me. I love reading about the travel itself but your take on approaching life with open arms is what draws me back to the site. I imagine you’ll come up with your next project long before those last 25 countries are experienced.

  • Steve M says:

    I’m glad you took the opportunity to stop and enjoy the moment when leaving Uzbekistan. While your quest to visit every country is quite ambitious and inspiring, and will end up being one of the more remarkable accomplishments any human has ever made when you think about it, I have wondered how much you actually get to experience each stop. I know some stays must be more in-depth than others. But it is refreshing to read that you stopped to take pause and appreciate the moment itself for what it was. That is something all travelers, by nature, must do. Cheers.

  • dramaholics says:

    Wow. 168 countries down, chris! That’s remarkable. Well for me there’s no ending when it comes to adventure or travelling. You may go back to places that you have been through and visit the areas that you’ve never been before. And you may eventually encounter great adventure for your trip.

  • There is no there, there. The key is to enjoy the journey. And when you get to the next chapter, the adventure continues in a different way.

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