I've come to realize something about why I love to travel so much. This has a lot to do with my particular strengths, and even more to do with my weaknesses. I am inherently lazy. I do not mean this as self judgement. When my energy flags, when I struggle to keep up, I tend to seek ways to make life easier. In a lot of ways, this is a strength. My desire to optimize, thus lessening effort, makes me a better software developer. It pushes me to become more efficient, and thus better, at anything I do. But it also pushes me towards disengaging. Given the option, in the modern world of the United States, where my every need can be met without leaving the confines of the small world I've made for myself, I tend to retreat from the world. I do not enjoy that retreat though. I get joy from engaging with life and with people. Traveling, especially in a country where I do not speak the language or know the customs, forces me to engage. I cannot meet my needs without fully embracing the world around me and using my wits to the fullest.
I was in New Orleans for a week, during which time, I barely did anything. I never ranged much more than a few blocks from my hotel. I didn't get to the French Quarter even once, despite it only being a 15 minute walk away. I had the bulk of my meals delivered, and lived inside the box of my hotel room. Now, being fair to myself, I spent several days ill, and much of my time regenerating my energy. I'm inherently an introvert. I can find interacting with people enervating, and I needed the time I took to recharge. I do not regret how I spent my time there, because I needed the extra energy for the adventures that were to come, but they were not the happy days I've had here in Spain, nor for that matter, on my trip. Despite the exhaustion and depletion of my reserves, I've had non-stop adventure since leaving New Orleans, and I've loved every minute of it.
I am forced to use my wits continuously, and I love doing so. From navigating streets when I cannot find street signs, to speaking with people when we lack common language, from pushing my limits physically in rough terrain, to solving critical technical challenges on the spur of the moment under pressure, from figuring out what new foods are, to learning to use appliances, doors, bathrooms, and myriad other tiny tasks that are suddenly new and unfamiliar instead of common and uninteresting, I am challenging myself, and constantly finding that I am up to the challenge.
I love that I can disengage to rest and recharge when I need to, but I also love being engaged with life. I am thankful that in this new stage of my life, I can recognize this and take advantage of such wonderful opportunities.