“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.