I travel to question the world around me and my own beliefs, I travel to feel more fully alive, and, admittedly, I also travel to escape. No relationship drama can seem too heavy if I know that next week I’m boarding a flight to go dog sledding across northern Norway for a while. My pending house projects don’t even seem that real while I’m loving life road tripping in Tierra del Fuego.
And that’s exactly why I’m consciously choosing to stay put for a bit. To learn how to confront head on everything and everyone that I find myself using travel to escape from. I currently have no future travel plans lined up, and to be honest, that scares the shit out of me. It makes me feel anxious, wired, stagnant and trapped.
Here’s how I’m learning to deal with those feelings:
Just because I’m not traveling doesn’t mean I’m not a traveler.
So much of my identity as a travel writer and editor and fearless wanderer-extraordinaire comes from that fact that I…travel. I come up against feelings of “If I’m not traveling, what am I now? Nothing? Boring? Lame?”
I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that while I’m not currently traveling, that doesn’t take anything away from my traveler spirit. That doesn’t mean that in the future my life won’t be filled to the brim with absurdly wonderful adventures across the globe. It doesn’t mean that I somehow instantly lose my street cred with other travelers I meet (and even if I did, why do I even care?)
Focusing on my home life now will actually help me travel more in the future.
This one was tough for me. I don’t exactly have one of those “work your ass off your whole life, save up ’til retirement, then if you aren’t totally decrepit by then maybe you can go on a nice cruise!” kind of mentalities. I don’t push off passions and desires, I usually go at them full force in the present, never knowing what tomorrow might bring.
But it’s really helped me to accept staying put and actually finishing building my house knowing that in a few years when my teenage kids are out of the house, I have currency. Here in Patagonia there’s no mortgage system. I’ve had to buy the materials as I can, so when the house is done, it will be completely paid off. I’ll have a killer house in the Patagonian Andes that I can easily use in a house exchange program to secure 4 months in Italy, 3 months in Russia, a few weeks in Brazil, whatever floats my boat at the time.
My expenses are low because I grow a lot of my own food, my car is paid off, I live in a country where health insurance is covered and where my kids can go to university for free. With not only housing costs, but all of the major day-to-day life expenses out of the way, the money I make can be used almost entirely towards travel in the near future. My current situation is not reflective of my lifetime situation.
Using travel to escape feels like a cop out (for me).
Making travel plans to escape a certain reality at home made me start to feel like a hypocrite. I used to teach yoga and meditation, where I would teach how to be more conscientious, more fearless, and that to really confront an issue, one would have to address it at its root. And then look at me in my own life, running away and thinking that because I could use the excuse of “it’s my job” or “travel is me living life to its fullest”, it somehow made it justifiable.
I’m seeking more integrity. I want to be conscientious. I want to be fearless. I want to address problems at their root. So for now, that means staying put and sitting with the issues at hand. My house isn’t getting done very fast? Then I need to get my butt out to the construction site and throw some energy towards it. I have commitment issues? Perhaps I should bring that up clearly to my partner instead of just running off all the time in an attempt to ignore it or make it go away.
I’m not saying that it’s been an easy process. Getting on social media where most of my contacts are fellow travel writers and seeing what grand adventures everyone is on drives me insane some days. Seeing hitchhikers on the side of the road, going who knows where, wild as the wind, is enough to make my tummy knot up in jealously some days. But it’s a healthy process and it’s one that there’s no getting around that I need to be in right now. The next time I hit the road, hopefully I will have the state of mind to be more present. I will be traveling not to try to fill a void or to escape, but to simply express and experience fully one of my greatest passions.