The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.
~ G.K. Chesterton
I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson
Though tempting, I've made a conscious effort to avoid turning this year into a "checklist" trip. Outside of a Lonely Planet guidebook or two, I've purposely not carried a list of things to see, nor a detailed itinerary mapping out a route of tourist attractions. I'm happy to honestly say this year has been one of exploration and spontaneity. Hell, I made a decision on whether to go to Greece or Romania based on who responded to an email first. While I've certainly had several goals for this year, creating a list and checking boxes at every turn reduces adventure and exploration into a boring version of "The Amazing Race."
However, from time to time it is interesting to look back and see where you've been and how far you've come. Milestones are important so long as they are taken for what they are - the acknowledgement of status at a certain point in time - Not the goal.
When I took a second to gather myself this week, I realized that I've reached a few points in this trip that are somewhat noteworthy... to me at least...
Milestone 1: 10+ months away from the United States. I felt this one when the World Series ended. I realized I'd missed the entire baseball season. That's a weird feeling. I watched the Super Bowl in Ecuador this year, and now, this year's football season is already halfway over. I realize lots of people spend a year or more away from home, so this one is a little weak. However, it feels like a big one for me.
Milestone 2: 100 + posts to tallmatt.com. I went back and counted up the number of posts to the website so far this year. The one you're reading now is officially #103. This is semi-to-fully unbelievable for me. First, I wasn't sure how long I could stick with it - finding internet cafes, finding time to write, posting pictures... Somehow, it found a way to get done. Second, I didn't know I could write that much - I've always wanted to write, but my former career wasn't really conducive to it - in terms of work or free time. I'm surprised how much I've enjoyed it. Thanks to all of you again for following along.
Milestone 3: 40+ countries. When I set foot in the hell-hole that is the airport in Delhi, I officially entered the 40th country on this journey. It's still strange to say. I certainly didn't have this as a goal, and didn't really realize it until a couple weeks ago. Needless to say, I'm glad I got those extra pages in my passport. A lot of purist backpackers will poo-poo this as moving way to fast, and accuse me of capital-hopping. Well, to that thought, I don't give a damn. It's my trip, and I've had a hell of a lot of fun on it. I've moved no faster than I've wanted to, and seen so many things and experienced so much along the way I'll spend the rest of my life trying to comprehend it all.
Milestone 4: The Seven Wonders of the World. As you loyal readers already know from a previous entry, I am proud to say that after setting foot on the Taj Mahal, I've officially seen all seven of the "new" Wonders of the World. Again, I didn't set out to do this - the list wasn't even published until the late summer - but it worked out. And I'm glad it did.
Milestone 5: All Seven Continents. Admittedly, this is one I set out to accomplish. Back when I was planning this year, I had a goal of setting foot on all seven continents. When I stepped off the plane in Perth, Australia on November 14, a childhood dream of mine was realized. This will be one I'll enjoy thinking about for a long time.
Fun stuff. Again, thanks for following along.