Expat Life, Travel Addiction

Yes, I’m obsessed with traveling. And no, I’m not running away from my problems…

plane nevada
That’s me! Smiling from an old abandoned airplane.

“I’m like a bird
I’ll only fly away
I don’t know where my soul is
I don’t know where my home is”

– Nelly Furtado

It’s about time I aired a little dirty laundry. I’ve got a confession to make that I’ve been keeping a secret for far too long. So here goes:

I’ve recently come out of the closet.

No, not that closet.

I’m referring to the closet that’s home to all of the travelholics who live secret ‘hush hush’ existences, working at office jobs but dreaming of hotel shampoos and airplane peanuts. They stay up nights watching the Travel Channel with the sound on low so the neighbors won’t hear and harbor secret crushes on No Reservations host Anthony Bourdain.

I used to be like them. That might seem like a peculiar thing to say being that I have a blog where I write almost exclusively about my love-affair/ obsession with travel, but that’s really limited to my life on the Internet. In the real world, I’m just another lost and confused girl on a ‘gap year’ (okay, five gap years) from the Real World. As far as everyone here’s concerned, I’ll eventually find an office job and live out the remainder of my life in an excitement-free existence in suburbia.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s funny, I used to think that my love for travel was wrong…maybe even unhealthy. Afterall, well-adjusted middle class Americans with happy childhoods do not purposely abandon their family and friends for permanent lives abroad. I must be running away from my problems. It must be an addiction, because it’s just not normal.

But then I realized that my love of travel isn’t rooted in fear or an elaborate form of problem avoidance. True enough, traveling has a way of making your problems disappear, but that’s not necessarily because you’re avoiding addressing them. Travel just provides perspective into them, an insight into the bigger picture. And compared to witnessing the effects of starvation on a five-year-old beggar in India, a fight with a boyfriend or stress over a missed credit card payment becomes a non-issue. You’re problems disappear because you realize that they weren’t problems to begin with.

Two weeks ago, I was in Singapore. It was two in the morning and the taxi driver had just abandoned me in front of a deserted outlet mall, shaking his head and muttering to himself as he drove off. Probably something to the effect of “Get me the Hell outta here” because the place was definitely one of those neigbhorhoods that’s “super sketch” no matter what country you’re in. Boarded up windows, homeless men sleeping on the stairwells…and rows of mannequins chained to a fish tank.

Even though I found it slightly unsettling to be alone in a foreign country in the middle of the night and with no “Backpacker’s Hostel of Chinatown” in sight, it was exhilarating, too. It was unfamiliar, uncomfortable and maybe even slightly dangerous. But mostly it was a challenge. A puzzle. Like, Hmm… Now, how am I gonna get myself out of this one?

There’s just something about stepping off of a train or a plane into a new country or city that is so surreal and captivating. It’s almost a form of meditation. All of your senses are heightened and you’re completely in tune with what is happening at the moment. Your mind’s chatter fades into the background and you aren’t worrying about the emails piling up in your inbox or the calorie content of that Snickers bar you just ate. For a short time anyway, you’re 100 percent centered

Some people use yoga to reach this place of inner peace. Others scale mountains. Artists paint, writers write and surfers surf. Well I travel. And that’s all there is to it.

I’m tired of trying to fight that. Ask an artist what they would do if they couldn’t paint anymore and they’d tell you that they’d rather die. I feel that way about traveling…and now I’m finally learning to accept that. It’s okay. It’s just who I am and there’s nothing I or anyone else could do to change that. But more importantly, there’s nothing wrong with it.

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8 thoughts on “Yes, I’m obsessed with traveling. And no, I’m not running away from my problems…

  1. PS I decided where I’m going next…but I can’t tell any of you until I’m more sure about the details. It’s big though. Major.

    Stay tuned! ; )

  2. It’s better to admit the truth to yourself and just accept the facts.

    The question is, what are you going to do when something in the sedentary world that makes you happy, like a career calling or a relationship makes you compromise traveling? How do you think you would handle that? It’s a tough one.

  3. as someone who just moved to a new place, knowing no-one…i love this post. This is the 2nd time I’ve done this (the first being japan for 18 months) so it’s a bit different this time around – but this post totally captured the way i’m feeling about things.

  4. So eloquent! I can definitely agree with you – traveling awakens all of your senses and really makes you feel alive.

    The hard part is when friends and people back home don’t exactly get it, but it’s great you’re living for yourself.

  5. Airplane peanuts do something to me psychologically. I think they’re laced with travel-obsession drugs.

    I wrote a little while ago on the blog about travel and seeing, and how I’ve realized that travel is the way I can really see…I can appreciate all the little things and be fully present in the moment. That’s a gift! Nothing wrong with that! ūüôā

  6. You make me feel so normal. I lived abroad for only 7 months and have now been back in the states since March. I try to talk myself into wanting to live a “normal” American life but I just can’t do it. I am thinking about teaching in Asia. I found you when I was looking at blogs about Japan. Did you go to Japan through the JET program or did you get there another way? I cannot seem to find many options for Japan like I have for South Korea. Thanks so much and if it makes you feel any better I feel like a 10 year old again too. I am 25 and my mother does my laundry and cleans my room!!

  7. Yes! Reannon, you always manage to capture what I’m feeling in my heart of hearts. You are a writer in the truest sense of the word.

    I’ve just come off of a panic attack (hyperventilation, nausea and dizziness) while sitting here in my office and wondering when I’ll have a chance to travel extensively again. The thought of spending the rest of my life like this makes me sick. I feel a bit better after reading your post. You get it. Thanks.

    Don’t keep us in suspense to long. I can’t wait to hear about your future travel plans.

  8. Thank you all for such nice comments! I was so shocked by your heart-felt responses that for a few days I didn’t really know how to respond. It’s so validating and comforting to know that I’m not alone in my thoughts and feelings about travel. I’m glad you agree.

    Vin ~ Don’t you think that there’s a way to combine a love for a travel and a relationship or a career? Find a job or a relationship that allows you to do both? I don’t know that one would have to be given up in order to have the other…

    Rachel ~ No, I didn’t do the JET program. You don’t get to chose where they place you and that was a deal breaker for me. I didn’t want to teach in some small farming village. But I’ve known people who’ve done it and loved it. It’s certainly the best way to learn the language.

    I moved to Tokyo on a tourist visa and found a job after I got there…It was really easy and if you have any experience at all teaching English or working with children, then I’d suggest that you do that. There are a lot of jobs available but not many for those looking to apply from outside of Japan. I’ll try to write a post about “How to Find a Job Teaching English” because I’ve done a lot of research on it and a lot of people ask me about it all the time.

    I’m glad I make you feel normal. That’s the first time anyone has told me that. ; )

    Nene, dude…That’s awful that you’re feeling so upset. I know how you feel though. Sometimes I find that if I’m feeling stuck and restless, I’ll try to have an impromptu adventure in my own neighborhood. Go hiking, explore a part of the city I’ve never been. Yesterday I rode my bike over the Golden Gate Bridge. It wasn’t the same as riding my bike around Tokyo, but it was something I’d never done before. It helped…a little. Are you planning on traveling anytime soon?

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