The hardest lesson I’ve learned from constant travel

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It was the third day in a row that I had traveled to a new city and the second week I had been in Scotland. I had been walking roughly 7-10 miles every day. I could do it, I said to myself. I just needed to get to Kelvingrove Museum from the railway station. No problem, I’ll just walk. I passed by retail stores with names I recognized and restaurants I could find back home. I passed by statues of famous Scotsman. Then I found myself on a street that sloped up. This can’t be that bad, I thought. I just have to get to the top of the hill, then I’ll be halfway there. The trip to Kelvingrove ended up being a few miles further away than I had thought. When I got there, I had climbed an enormous hill and walked along a deserted road for most of it. All I wanted to do was sit down, but I was at a museum. So I kept walking.

When I finally went back to the hostel that evening, I was fatigued and freezing. I felt like none of my blood was reaching my outer extremities. I was hungry too. Starbucks was close, but it didn’t have any real food. If I wanted real food, I was going to have to walk at least a mile to find it. I did find it that day, after a 2 mile round trip hike. I was mentally exhausted from having to figure out my bearings and physically exhausted from the day. But wait, I still had to do work for four hours. Ok, I’ll just get my laptop. It’ll be fine.

I plugged everything in, got myself some water and went to send an email. The email was sending so slowly I checked the wifi; it said I had four bars. It took about 12 minutes to send a 1MB file. I kept going anyway. The speed of the wifi cut the amount of work I was able to do in half. I couldn’t communicate with my coworkers or clients without having to sit through an excruciatingly long progress bar. Whatever, I’ll make it for it tomorrow when I get faster wifi somewhere else. My brain felt like jelly. It felt like I needed to exert extraordinary amounts of effort to think. I put my head back for a moment and almost immediately fell asleep.

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I foresaw that I was going to be tired, hungry and sleepy. I knew that I would be coming home a little drained and pale-faced. I had an inkling that I might get sick. What I didn’t expect was that I would be sick for three weeks, and that I would keep getting sick for the next three months. I kept traveling, and my immune system dipped again and again.

Had I slept a little more, eaten a little better, chosen to take the bus instead of walk to destinations that required more walking/climbing, I could have mitigated my illnesses. I didn’t have to deplete everything I had, but I did. I didn’t listen to my body. Whenever there was something new to see, I would ignore all of my basic needs and run to explore my new destination instead. I forgot about eating things with nutrients and recovering from long days. I forgot that those things were important.

I went to the doctor’s for an annual check-up in the middle of my traveling. He told me my white blood cell count was low, and that I should rest up for a while. Instead, I flew to the Middle East and continued my journey. I knew that I was about to get sick again, and I did.

Of all the things I’ve learned from traveling, I’ve learned that nothing is more important than taking care of yourself. You can’t do anything without your health. Don’t lose it.

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Photos from Edinburgh, Miami and Istanbul

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Arthur’s Seat. This is one of the highest points in Edinburgh. The climb was fairly steep towards the top. The view was worth it though. You could see all of Edinburgh and cities/towns beyond it in all directions. The thing about hiking alone is that you make friends easily with other solo hikers. I met a man named Ang who had also heard of Arthur’s seat and decided to climb it. He flew all the way from Vietnam to see Scotland. I love people who go far to see something amazing.

 

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This was taken at the top of Calton Hill in Edinburgh. Scotland has a thing for really nice views. This park was a complete surprise to me. I saw some interesting structures from the bottom of Princes Street and just wanted to find out more about them. Turns out, there are multiple monuments atop a lovely hill.

 

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Leith Walk: A waterway that twists and bends around Edinburgh with an awesome path that leads to unexpected sites. I took a photo here, because it reminded me of a scene from a fairytale. Maybe a princess used to live around here a thousand years ago. Who knows?

 

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This was taken near the top of Arthur’s Seat. I was getting tired and decided to stop for a moment to catch my breath. Luckily, a raven decided to do the same. (Although, I’m sure it wasn’t tired at all.) The clouds set an interesting scene and the view beyond was something incredible.

 

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This is a photo from the edge of Everglades National Park in Florida. There was a single row of palm trees along the road. It got me thinking about how we arrange natural objects in artificial positions.

 

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This is the Blue Mosque of Istanbul. The inside is heavily decorated with a number of blue tiles. Women must cover themselves upon entering and everyone must remove his or her shoes. It sits on top of a hill so that you can see it from many places in the city. Its minarets blast out the call to prayer (ezan) 5 times a day.

 

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Sultanahmet, a large square in Istanbul that sits by to the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The women in the photo are wearing hijabs. It’s common to see many women wearing hijabs and niqabs in Turkey. There are also occasionally sitings of gypsies with children asking for money. If you are Asian, most Turkish people will think that you are Japanese and greet you with “konichiwa.” My mom and I experienced this on a daily basis.

 

Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia / Ayasofya in black and white. It’s currently under construction, but still as beautiful as ever. The interior is, of course, epic. It’s amazing to think that this has been both a Christian church and a Muslim mosque. I love that Istanbul’s history is so rich.

 

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Istanbul from the sea. It’s so easy to only see the touristy parts of the city, but if you stray further into the Bosphorus, there are many other places worth seeing. The ferry that goes from Europe to Asia is inexpensive (5 TL) and fast. Bebek is a beautiful neighborhood in the northern part of Istanbul. There are yachts by the water, cafes with stunning views and a coastal walking path that stretches for 10 miles.