Craving familiarity

03.03.11 | 15 Comments

I’d like to take a break from blogging about what we’re seeing and where we’ve been, to take a moment to write about what it’s like to be traveling for so long. In fact I feel like I’d have so much to say I could write a whole book about the process, both logistical and mental, of traveling long term. For now, I’ll focus on the simple fact that after six months of traveling, I’m craving familiarity.

This may come as a surprise to some of you following this blog, since it seems like we’re having non-stop fun and seeing amazing things every day. There is definitely a large amount of truth in what I try to portray, but there’s also some behind-the-scenes realities.

Most of the time, one craves exactly the opposite of what one has. When you have a life with a regular job, a routine, a home, you crave exoticism, spontaneity, escapades, discovery. When you’re living the nomadic life, you crave the familiar, comfort, points of references to hold onto, friends, a sense of purpose. At least, that’s what I’m feeling right now. I want to feel at home and with a clear purpose.

That said, I made a life choice. I left my job, my apartment, my friends to go pursue what possibly could only be experienced once in a lifetime: a year traveling around the world, with no strings attached, enough money and with the company of the love of my life. Sounds pretty idyllic. That’s what everyone dreams about, right? Well, not so easy in practice.

There are many layers to this type of traveling that contributes to feeling disoriented or exhausted. For example, the constant decision-making as Justin expressed on his blog, but for me it’s the loads of time I have on my hands which opens the dangerous doors of thinking about what I’m doing, why, life, etc… In a normal life, that’s what I would crave: time. Right now, I’m finding that distracting my mind and keeping it busy is essential to staying sane. It’s very easy for me to slip into thought processes such as “why am I doing this again?”, “what’s the point, really?” and even as far as “what’s the purpose of my life?”. Yikes. I seem to be desperately trying to hang onto something larger than myself with no avails.

Faded islands in the distance – Halong Bay.

Our itinerary also makes me feel trapped. Do we really have to go everywhere we said we would? Why? At what point to you draw the line and say “ok, I think I’ve seen enough for now”? At the same time, not doing everything we said we would doesn’t seem to be a good solution either. Sure, we can stop the trip… and then what? I actually do like many things we’re doing. For instance we’re in the magical place that is Halong Bay and I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.

What I’m really craving is to be home. Thing is, I don’t have one. I know we could get into a discussion about what “home” means, but right now I’m talking about a home where you have keys, can open the door and step back into your cozy little world and resume your various responsibilities. For us, that would mean creating a new home and creating a new set of responsibilities which I don’t think I’m ready for either.

So as the French say, “J’ai le cul entre deux chaises” (my ass is in between two chairs). To stay on the trip seems like a whole lot of work, a trial on my stamina. To stop the trip presents a whole other spectrum of challenges including figuring out where we would want to live and what we would want to do, which are pretty big questions to tackle.

What’s my solution? On a conceptual level, I know it is to just accept and appreciate where I am. Whatever mindset I’m in, it doesn’t matter. On a practical level, I’m not able to get there easily. I seem to have to break down (usually involving many tears), let the tension off my chest, calm down (or sleep) and then realize that where I am and what I’m doing isn’t so bad after all. I wish that realization was more permanent. I had the same thought process when I had my job, but wanted to escape and go travel. Break down, let it out, sleep, feel better. There’s gotta be peace I can find in whatever I’m doing. How does one find that strength?

There are life lessons being learned on this trip. Everything, I’m sure, is exactly the way it should be.