My Whole Life Was Based Around Travel. Here’s What Happened When I Stopped
SIX MONTHS AGO, I DID THE UNTHINKABLE: I gave up a dream job as a travel writer for a desk job at a startup in New York City. It was a challenging transition, and there are times I miss it a lot. But I know inherently I had to do it. Here’s why:
Travel is exhausting.
No matter how often I did it, traveling never felt routine. I never got over the jet lag. I never slept well in a bed that wasn’t my own. My FOMO caused me to get up early and stay out late to squeeze in experiences, but napping at my hostel in Reykjavik felt like cheating. I drank too much, ate too much, and had sex with way too many European hotties. Flying once a week took a toll on my physical and emotional self, and being away from loved ones for so long put a lot of strain on my relationships.
No, I couldn’t handle it. And I’m not afraid to admit it, because continuing like that would have run me into the fucking ground.
I wasn’t traveling the way I wanted to.
My last year of travel consisted of press trips, professional conferences, and visits to friends for various wedding activities. Rarely did I have a moment to get out and explore Lisbon or Bangkok the way I wanted to, because most of my trip was spent with staff from tourism boards, or running around shopping for penis-shaped bachelorette favors in Charleston. While traveling for free is definitely awesome, I realized it compromised a lot of who I was, and why I traveled in the first place.
I don’t need to do it to feel fulfilled.
I thought traveling gave me a sense of purpose — like I wasn’t good enough unless I was somewhere else. But that’s absolutely not true, and I can’t believe I ever thought that. I don’t need to eat crickets in Mexico to prove I’m a foodie. I don’t need to ask for directions in perfect Chinese to find my way to the Great Wall of China.
While volunteering with women in Ghana, or listening to Arizona farmers explain their organic harvesting processes taught me more than I’d ever learn staying at home, it took staying home to realize that I was valued wherever I was.
It won’t solve all of my problems.
My worst habit is that I travel to escape. It was easier for to get on a plane and forget about my overbearing mother, or my ex-boyfriend getting married to someone else, than it was to deal with these issues head-first. Travel is a distraction, at best. It helps bring clarity at times, but my problems will always follow me even if I travel 2,000 miles away.
There is a comfort in feeling “settled.”
Never having a home base might appear cool on the surface, but it’s a pretty dark reality. I stopped being jealous of my cocktail drinking, Caribbean beach-laying Instagram friends because I knew their bikini-clad selfies weren’t an accurate portrayal of how they felt. Most of them were like me, filled with low self-esteem and chasing after a fantasy life that would never truly make them feel validated.
But doing nothing all day is fucking amazing. I began to enjoy the peace that comes with downtime, and I relished in being alone. Knowing that Netflix and leftovers were all I had to come home to at the end of a long day feels so incredibly fresh and easy.
It’s not like I’ll never travel again.
I’m not even 30 yet, and unless the world blows up tomorrow, places like Australia and Buenos Aires will still be there even thirty years from now. I’ve learned to strategically plan my travels even with as little as 5 vacation days, and I know that the whole “Do it while you’re young” mentality is bullshit when there are 85-year olds scaling Mount Kilimanjaro. I will always be grateful I had the opportunity to travel for work, but just because I don’t do it anymore doesn’t mean the world will bar me from exploring it again.