7 Things We Learned This Year: The Busy Rat's First Birthday Celebration!
Around this time last year, Andrew and I nervously hit “publish” on our new amateur travel blog, The Busy Rats. It all began a few months prior, during an overwhelmingly fancy dinner in Idyllwild, CA. As we ate vegetable pasta and reminisced about our beautiful B&B, the frosted forest, and the adventurous people we met, we decided that we really wanted to dive headfirst into this whole travel-thing. We saw a potential journey ahead of us, and finally said, “Why not? We should learn how to travel, and document our adventures along the way!” From that day forward, we have been working hard to tackle our joint pipe-dream head on. We spent the next two months frantically writing articles, building a shabby website to host them on, and promoting ourselves on social media. We had absolutely no idea what we were doing (as the teenage lovebirds with busy lives and shallow pockets that we were), but we made it work. And here we are one year later--alive and excited for the future to come--bearing only a few minor wounds.
We came into our own as travelers this year, and felt that the best way to commemorate our blog's first anniversary would be to share the most important things we learned along the way, whether it be life lessons, travel tips, or our weird, sentimental enlightenments! (I’m a sucker for those)
We are so grateful for this mindbogglingly fun, adventurous, and stressful year, and we are so excited to begin our second year of learning, loving, and conquering the world of travel! To everyone reading: Thank you so much for sticking around, and for being part of this little community! It has been such a blessing to meet such inspired people, and to have a place to consistently discuss travel with people who love it!
Without further ado, our first year of serious travel taught us the importance of:
Coping with Uncertainty
One of the most vital lessons that I learned this year was to cope with uncertainty. To be honest, I've yet to fully overcome this fear, but every time an obstacle rolled into my path, I took another step closer to feeling comfortable with the unpredictability of the future. Those fears first surfaced when I quit my customer service job at a pie shop, only to be hired at another joint that fell through after a few weeks. I was living out of my savings account, afraid that I wouldn't even be able to buy groceries and necessities. That fear pushed me to get off my butt and find work that didn't drain me as much as those 6-8 hour shifts while I was going through college. After a lot of research, I started applying to be a dog walker. Before long--and after a month or two of odd jobs and overnight dog watching stays--I had three steady clients, and was making two thirds of what my "real" jobs paid me, in less than half the time. After I turned that corner, another problem arose, and another... but this time, another opportunity came in its place, and another. Even though the fear of the unknown seemed debilitating in those tumultuous times, it was actually oddly inspiring and motivating. I still fear for what I can't see coming around that next corner, but after this bumpy year, I've learned to put my dukes up and tell life to bring it on--I can handle it.
Patience is something that isn't often talked about in modern travel discourse. Most every popular video and blog post, not excluding our own, makes travel out to be a spontaneous adventure with no restrictions. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Whether it be from booking your trip months in advance, waiting hours for your plane, train, bus, or car, waiting in line to see popular tourist sites, or waiting for the people you're traveling with to catch up, travel almost always ends up being half patience, half payoff. Those long waits can be frustrating when you're on a deadline, or if you had something else entirely in mind for your trip. That's why one of the most important skills we learned while traveling this year was to be patient, and to make do with our current situations. When we traveled to Canada by train last summer, most of our time was spent on the 30 hour train ride, the 4 hour bus rides, and the wait times before and after departures. Then, we had to walk and take the tram to commute, which took even larger chunks of time from our schedules. Even so, we told ourselves that the wait was part of the experience. We made do by having fun where we could, listening to podcasts, chatting, and refusing to make a big deal out of any unexpected hitches. We went with the flow! Travel is never flawless, and things are inevitably going to fall apart... but, being patient is the only way to make sure that, despite all the chaos, you have a good time.
Having an Open Mind
As a traveler, an open mind is everything! And we don't just mean politically... Last year, when we began to learn about travel norms, we discovered that an open mind is defined by listening and understanding others, practicing kindness and tolerance, being open to new experiences and cultures, seeking wisdom from others, refusing to demonize what we don't understand, respecting others, staying informed, and understanding that our opinions can evolve and grow over time. Our many travels were a great opportunity to practice those new skills. Not everyone you meet along the way is going to be friendly or respectful towards you, and chances are you aren't going to agree with everyone you cross paths with, but giving everyone an equal chance and knowing that they add a different perspective to your life is truly beneficial!
Change threatened to be a huge roadblock for us last year. The chemistry of our families, homes, and personalities changed all at once, and we were thrown into a tornado of instability. As most pseudo-adults can confirm, your early 20's are a hurricane of subtle and major changes, within yourself and your environment. It is insanely difficult to remain calm and optimistic during these years. For us, this last year meant changing jobs, taking on bills and extra responsibilities, and pushing back travel experiences for the sake of our bank accounts. But, despite all of the chaos, we worked hard to make time for ourselves. We made a point to be passionate about the constants in our lives: one another, our friends and families, our hobbies, and simple things like Earl Grey tea and small hikes. Even though it is still hard for us to decompress amidst our frequently shifting foundations, we try to use the little things that we love to calm the storm. Change is often abrupt and terrifying, but thankfully, keeping a hopeful heart can soften the blow.
Becoming Individuals, Together
Being a young couple is no easy task. These are the years that guide us towards who we want to be, what we want to do, and why we want to do it. It's a period of self-discovery and confusion, and making a commitment to stay with and grow with another human being during this time is almost unfathomable, especially when I can't even decide what I want for dinner some nights. But, by some divine lighting strike, Andrew and I have remained compatible, in love, and headstrong during this bumpy road away from adolescence. This past year, we learned a lot about acceptance and support. We learned how to build each other up as we grow and shift, rather than pressure one another to fit the mold we thought we'd fit three years ago. We've learned how to give each other space to become individuals, yet work together in our plight to find happiness and fulfillment. At this age, it would be cruel to hinder the growth of your partner's dreams, even if they don't perfectly align with yours. That understanding alone is what has kept us together for so long. We have changed the format of our lives a thousand times as we try to become the best versions of ourselves, and it has been such a blessing to shape new passions and goals together. Our common understanding allows us to dream together as one unit, and forge new hopes for our futures that we've gained along our journey together. We have learned how to become individuals together, and how to remain together as individuals.
Being Consistent & Persistent
Having a blog is a true feat of persistence. We would be lying if we said that every week is a celebration of success. Sometimes, after a long week of work and routine, we feel like we don't have any energy left to write articles. Other times, we simply feel uninspired--like we are failing--and it seems easier to give up than it does to keep trying. It hurts to see our numbers dwindle, and it hurts to see negative comments on our hard work, but despite the ups and downs of being a blogger, we keep on going. We keep writing because we love to share our journeys, and we love to learn. We keep hitting "publish" because we know that some articles will bring us new followers and readers, even though some won't be read more than a few dozen times. It is the desire for community, adventure and discovery that keeps us writing, even when the clock strikes 3AM and we need to be at school the next morning. If this last year has taught us anything, it has been that giving up isn't an option when your passions are in the driver's seat. We knew that this wouldn't be easy--the unrecognized work, the sleepless nights, the fears of judgement and failure--but we've kept going, no matter how hard it gets, and I couldn't be more proud of our determination.
Having Faith in Ourselves
This one is absolutely huge. As someone who struggles with confidence, learning to have faith in myself was a huge challenge. At the same time, it has forced me to be more creative, outgoing, and adventurous. As new travelers, we knew that it wasn't going to be easy to navigate the world on our own, trust our instincts, or know if we were making the right decisions. And, often times, we clearly didn't know how to navigate! We didn't make the right decisions! But, as the year progressed and the anxieties began to fade away, I learned that it isn't possible to start out with all the knowledge and wisdom it takes to be an effective traveler. Everyone has to start somewhere. Once that mentality sunk in, we felt confident about our blog posts and our art, and we were comfortable sharing our work with friends, family, and even strangers we met along the way. Confidence was an incredibly difficult mountain to summit, but once we reached the top, we were making decisions without worry and following our hearts, even if it seemed unreasonable to others. If you don't have faith in yourself, nobody else can have faith in you either. For me, this past year of traveling (including my attempts to be a fearlessly independent person) has opened my eyes to the importance of staying true to yourself, and never doubting that you can do anything, no matter where you start or what you need to do. With enough drive, hard work, and passion, almost any goal can be accomplished. Take it from me--a goofy 20 year old kid with a travel blog.
Thank you so much for reading, and for being here with us this past year. What an amazing first anniversary! We are unbelievably grateful for the experiences we've had, and we can't wait to begin our second year with you. Thank you for all the support, and happy traveling!