I’ve considered myself a traveler ever since my first trip to Europe in 2008. As traveling has consumed a greater part of my life over the years, I’ve noticed more and more changes in myself. Traveling has a way of making you feel connected to other people, and to the world; but, traveling can also make you feel incredibly alone, incredibly different.
I find now, more than ever, traveling is always in the back of my mind, especially since my recent return from Europe a few weeks ago. I’ve noticed my thoughts wandering to distant lands and far-off adventures as I’m relaxing in my apartment, sitting in a job training for work, drinking coffee, driving, or even brushing my teeth. Literally, just this morning I looked at my toothbrush and thought about how many countries that toothbrush had seen; if that’s not wanderlust or absentmindedly longing for elsewhere, I don’t know what is.
I’m currently at the tail end of a two week long job training before my job begins in about a week and a half. During training, I found myself doodling aimlessly in my notebook, making lists of all the countries I want to visit. I then started chunking the countries into trips. And then designating dates for each trip (I have the next seven years planned out in case you’re wondering). And then, I began making additional lists of what I want to do in each country and what I want to see. It was around the time when I started budgeting for these trips that I realized I should probably be paying attention to the speaker. Everyone’s eyes, although not eager, follow the speaker politely, and I glance down again at my travel notes and sigh. It is hard to reign in my thoughts as they remember where I was three weeks ago: gazing out over rugged Icelandic terrain, where purple wildflowers grow abundently and mountains rise out of misty clouds… now, I’m trying to focus on how to write a correct objective. I feel alone.
A few days earlier I was at the pool in my apartment complex, listening to music, when “somewhere over the rainbow” came on, and my stomach lurched; the wind was knocked out of me. I’m still not exactly sure if it was the mystery and magic surrounding the word “somewhere”, or the dreamlike quality of the song, but I started physically longing for hiking boots and warm jackets and Scottish mountains, and the taste of whiskey, as I glanced up at palm trees and skyscrapers. My heart tugged, and melancholiness overtook me.
I find that even conversations now have me feeling empty. Talking with acquaintances, making small talk, I feel I’m just skimming the surface of life, skating along the top of a glacier, pretending that polite conversation is meaningful and fulfilling, ignoring the bubbling desire I have underneath to talk endlessly about travel.
And then I message an Australian friend I met while traveling around Ireland about a month ago, and the floodgates open. She tells me she misses traveling, and I tell her my heart yearns to be somewhere else. Life doesn’t feel whole, everything has switched from color to black and white. Are we normal? We probe each other, never really getting answers. But one thing is certain, we are not alone. There are other people out there, somewhere, in the world, who feel the same tug to relocate from the ordinary in everyday life.
So, what do I do? Is this any kind of way to live? Never fully satisfied? Now, I know that once I get back to work, and my trip to Europe becomes a distant memory, things will somewhat return to normal.
Even though recently I’ve been feeling less than satisfied, I remind myself that I am content. I remind myself that I have the ability to be happy where ever I am. And I do. I am happy; even though part of me longs for lands across and ocean, and life-changing experiences, and the extraordinary; I am happy.
And, I know one thing; I’m thankful for this feeling that I have. I would rather have had the experiences that I have had, and seen and explored the world, than never having traveled, and never having known what I know about the world.
So, yes, I may be a little different; there may always be something inside me that longs to adventure into the unknown, and yes, something that challenges my ability to be content. But if this is the worse that happens, if this is what I live with, I’ll take it and be grateful.