As my flight departed Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport, instead of the excitement of what Malaysia would have in store for me, I wondered if I’d regret leaving Sri Lanka. By now it is evident that I adored Sri Lanka, I even wrote a love letter to it. And it is very high up on my list of top 5 countries. But part of traveling as well as the digital nomad lifestyle is leaving places, countries, and people that you love to move on to new adventures.
My trepidation was soon realized. I missed Sri Lanka so much and pretty much the entire time I was in Malaysia I wished I were back there.
I am currently in Guatemala after an awesome several months exploring Asia. And I can not say the adjustment has been easy. Comparing Guatemala to my Asian adventures is not fair. While Asia was really all about travel, exploration, and gaining more insight for my travel consulting business, Guatemala is for taking intensive Spanish classes (to prepare me to reenter Spain in a few weeks) and building my business, which is a lot of work. Between all of this, I have very little time to explore Antigua, where I am based. Missing the freedom of semi-carefree travel is a real problem. But I also miss the food in Asia, the people I met, and the amazing experiences I had exploring the landscapes and chilling with elephants.
Spain to Portugal. Tanzania to Malawi. Sydney to Melbourne. Buenos Aires to Montevideo. Cambodia to Laos. Sri Lanka to Malaysia. Southeast Asia (in general) to Guatemala. These are just a few examples of some of my tougher travel transitions.
I like to pride myself on appreciating the world as a whole. Finding the small things, everywhere me a happy traveler. But what about when even the small things are hard to find? Wandering the streets of Kuala Lumpur, I couldn’t help to wish I were back in Ella, Sri Lanka, climbing mountains with a dear new friend and looking at some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth. There was not much in that city to cheer me up. Even the Malaysian food wasn’t doing it for me.
So what do I, as a seasoned traveler, do to combat this? For one, I try to find the beauty in the small stuff. This morning, for example, I was walking to Spanish school. For once, there were very few clouds in the sky and I could see the top of Volcán de Agua, which is usually obscured by clouds. I took a moment to admire this because, hello, I am living surrounded by (semi) active volcanos!
Appreciating a place for what it is is as important as appreciating a place for what it is not. Sure, Guatemala is not Spain. But I love learning the different vocabulary they use here than in my beloved Spain. And while Malaysia was not Sri Lanka, once I left Kuala Lumpur for Penang and could be closer to the beach and wildlife, I was much happier. Of course the country was not filled with beautiful tea tree covered hills, but that is what makes Sri Lanka… Sri Lanka. And that is not what makes Malaysia… Malaysia.
Learning to appreciate the small things when the big picture doesn’t quite fit together is definitely still a learning process for me. After over 25 years of exploring the planet solo, I have yet to perfect this and learn to keep longing to be elsewhere in check. It is true that the grass is often greener in a place or country that I recently departed. It is a daily lesson for me to keep my eye out for the small stuff that brings me joy. A new cafe to have a latte, a building that I had never seen before that catches my eye, it’s these small things that can bring me small rays of sunshine while longing to be elsewhere.
Transitioning can still present quite the travel challenge for me. After I leave somewhere I loved, it can take me days or even weeks to get to the point of being content in a new city or a new country. And when I leave behind people whom I’ve made authentic and deep connections with, this only becomes harder. But travel is always what I make of it. It is my job as a professional traveler and digital nomad to find that spark, that place that warms my heart even when the going is rough.
And on that note, I can not wait for Spanish school to end on Friday so I can take a few weeks to properly explore this country. Because Guatemala is beautiful, and I owe it to myself to see it firsthand (and to my clients, so I can properly advise them).
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