I consider myself a traveler. A risk-taker. A bold and experienced adventurer.
Then I remember that it’s been a while since I’ve actually “traveled.” I feel the prickles of insecurity. Am I still a traveler? Could I still hike the Colorado Trail solo? Do I want to? Am I still the same person that organized her 6-month trip on the Appalachian Trail and pulled it off without a hitch and with tons of great experiences, stories and new friends? Am I more worried about health insurance, retirement accounts and the what-ifs now?
Or worse, have I spent the last several years pining away, living in the “glory” days of these past trips? What have I been doing since then?
The act of traveling is an expression of the traveler’s being.
Not everyone travels, and many folks are not okay with the hassles and discomforts of what it takes to move about the earth outside of the work and home routine. Those that are inclined to travel have to. They need to see new things and grow in ways not accessible via the homebound route.
The in-between times — the seasons of commitments in one place — can mess with a traveler’s identity. They will say,”I know how to live out of a backpack in Kathmandu, but I am struggling with saying the right things in this graduate seminar.”
Or, “Hitching a ride to town from the trail feels normal, but riding in my family’s SUV feels like a crime.” The real wilderness is often the world of mortgages, vehicles and 9-5 jobs.
When we’re grounded for an extended time, we have the opportunity to take our traveling soul and apply it to other parts of our lives.
We take classes that nurture our interests, spend time with people that “get” us, continue to live simply, and research the next adventure. We can still feed the wanderlust. We are still “that” person.
After I completed my ’98 Appalachian Trail thru-hike, I felt like I had to go home, but the desire to travel was still present. I spent a year and a half working in Boulder, then took an opportunity to volunteer with the Forest Service in Alaska for a summer. I headed east to hike the southern half of the Long Trail in Vermont, then returned home for a solo hike on the Colorado Trail.
Soon after that I moved to Ridgway, CO and applied to graduate school in librarianship. I wanted to focus on a career that would continue to evolve, challenge my technical skills and satiate my desire to always be learning.
It was the right choice for me. But it meant settling down for a while. As a consolation, I chose a school within a few hours’ drive of the Appalachian Trail. If I couldn’t be on the trail, I’d be near it.
Keep the wanderlust going.
During these post-Appalachian Trail years, I’ve kept the creative traveling interests simmering in various ways: a month-long trek in Nepal, several winter hut trips in Colorado, a two week east coast train excursion, and several road trips. I’ve taken classes, simplified my life in ways most people would consider extreme (no car, no fridge…but I still live in a condo), and started a craft business. But instead of being grounded and lured to live a “normal” life, these things have just temporarily distracted me from what I really want to do: travel.
I believe I’ve just been recharging my batteries for the next phase by being wise with my money, increasing my social media skills and clarifying my plans.
The in-between season has been fine, but it’s time to go to the edge again.
Before you head back out there, learn how to break the news to your loved ones.