Around the World
I have a secret, something that I’m not very proud of: I’m addicted to travelling. I do not say this facetiously or sarcastically – I really do have an addiction. Instead of throwing all my money into online gambling, or daydreaming about when I can have my next drink, I’m throwing all my money into travelling, and daydreaming of when I can take my next trip.
Even though I’ve been on the road for over seven years now, devoting my life to seeing as much as I can of the world since graduating university, I’ve always known that I was destined for a life like this; going back through old journals tonight, I found that I had written, “When I grow up I want to travel. That’s all I want to do.” I wrote it in 1994. I was 10. (I also wrote about how much I loved the movie Death Becomes Her, how I have a crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and how I wish that Kurt Cobain and John Candy weren’t dead, so not many other things have changed, either.)
Every time I’ve tried to settle for a bit, my feet start itching, I start looking up flights to new locations, I buy guidebooks for countries I don’t know when I’ll see. In the summer of 2009, I went to Vietnam for a few weeks on holiday from my job in Japan. Even though I’d only been living in Japan for a year at that point, I wrote, “This feels so good, meeting interesting people, drinking beer, taking trains and slinging a backpack on my back. I really had forgotten how wonderful it could all be, how easily it could all fall back into place. Maybe I should be doing this instead of staying in one place, maybe I should do this forever.”
I stayed in Japan for another year and a bit after that, even though I managed trips to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines in between. I wrote, in September of 2010, “As much as I love this crazy life I lead, should there be a part of me that also craves a bit of normalcy, a more permanent home, a less transient life? I struggle with this. Will I find that in a city, any city? Will I be content to go back to school at 28 years old, or older? Will I ever shake this wanderlust? When will I have time to go do all those things I want to do – a safari in Africa, studying French in Paris, travelling through India and Nepal, backpacking in South America – if not now? I often feel very conflicted, as if there are two sides to me: the one who wants a house and a career and kids, and the one who doesn’t want to be tied down, who is free to roam wherever I’d like. Is there a way to have both?”
Recently, I thought I had it all planned out. I had just come back from Brazil after eight months in South America. I knew what the obvious next step was: keep going. I was going to move to London in March, settle there, and hopefully start school in September. It was a way to satiate both the part of me that wants to take it easy for a while as well as the part of me that forever wants to keep moving.
But, as life is wont to do, a few hurdles were thrown my way, and it is no longer possible for me to move to the UK right away. I’m definitely still moving there, just not until the summer. While I’m disappointed, I’m also sane enough to realize that six months in Canada is not the end of the world; in fact, it may just be a blessing in disguise, a much needed respite from adrenaline to catch up on writing, online classes, and to get my health back in order (my body is still recovering from an accident in South America, which I’ll write about another time). Besides that, I already have trips planned: Arizona and Nevada in March, England, Israel, and perhaps another European country in April and May, and TBEX in Toronto in June. So even though I’ve been forced to settle for a few months, it’s not as all like it’s a permanent thing. Which leads me back to my quandary: will I ever “settle”? Will I ever have permanency? What if I’m destined to always be inflicted with a need to move on, to see more? While I have never succumbed to societal pressures, I’m still a woman nearing 30 with no real job prospects, nor any romantic prospects. I’m, as always, single and unemployed.
I found great comfort in the words of Elisabeth Eaves, who, in her travel memoir Wanderlust, wrote, “You could say that I forgot to make a life. Forgot to get a steady job, or belongings, or a family of my own. I forgot to choose somewhere to be…I forgot to do the things that, despite decades of feminism, I still feel the niggling weight of, in a way I imagine men don’t…But I created my life. If you choose one path you can’t choose another. I’ll never wonder what it would be like to sail across an ocean or move to Europe or just take a year off to chill out. I’ll never doubt myself in a strange land, never be scared of languages or funky rooms…I won’t be cynical of human nature, because strangers have helped me out so many times. My ripped suitcase, as it rumbles onto the carousel, is bursting with life.”
And that’s the thing. Yes, I’m getting close to 30, an age where most of my friends are already well into their careers, are engaged or married, and are set in their lives, whatever they may be. I know that perhaps I should be taking these things more seriously, but I don’t want to. In the words of Ms. Eaves, I created my life. It’s different, yes, and sometimes it’s difficult, but it’s mine. I’ve done a lot of crazy things, I’ve had my heart broken, I’ve had successes and failures, I’ve learned so much, but above all of that, I’ve been happy. Really happy. My ten-year-old self knew me better than I could have ever thought: I want to travel. That’s all I want to do. And, come hell or high water, I’ll figure out a life that allows me to do it. My suitcase, my mind, my heart, whatever you want to call it, is bursting with life.
Should I stay or should I go? Well I’ll be damned if I don’t find a way to do both.
(You thought this was going to be The Clash, right? No offence to Joe Strummer et al, but I think this song reflects how I feel a bit better.)
Do you ever feel the same way? Do you ever struggle with a need to settle vs. a need to wander?