I had the time of my life this past summer. Well, this whole last year actually. I was able to see places I’ve always dreamed of visiting – from Cambodia to Croatia. I was able to experience things most people never do. I was able to truly live and find myself through the greatest journeys I’ve ever had. During my last semester of college, all I knew was that I wanted to escape and get out of this town, to travel and see the world as much as I could – a lot of people feel that way and say it out loud, but I actually took the jump and did it. I took the goals I had created and I went for them, even when it was hard or scary or bad timing or whatever excuses people make every day for not going after their dreams. I understand why people don’t or can’t accomplish their ambitions, but I don’t understand people who don’t bother trying. Traveling gives me the greatest kind of high I can have, it gives me amazing excitement and passion – it makes me realize love is real because I love to travel more than anything. So even at the worst moments, even when I’m terrified or struggling, it’s absolutely worth it.
But let’s be honest, that kind of high is hard to come down from. When I came back after the trip of a lifetime this past summer, after a year of traveling to places some people have never even heard of, I felt on top of the world. Even though I felt homesick at times, coming home was hard and my desire to get back was so strong. When I came home to my messy apartment, friends who had their own crazy summers without me, time before my job started, and this seemingly empty routine waiting for me – it all just caused that amazing high from traveling to crash very quickly. A lot of people gave me a hard time for spending too much time traveling and not enough time developing a “real” life.
The week I came home from Europe, I wrote this:
It’s weird when you come back from a trip like that because there’s no way it doesn’t change you, that you don’t grow, see the world differently, learn about yourself and who you are, realize where you come from. And then you come back and you’re suddenly thrown into this routine again with people who were there before the experience that changed you. And that homesickness you felt while you were away turns into this travel-sickness causing you to miss being back out there now that you’re home. And then there you are and you suddenly find yourself surrounded by people you realize don’t actually know you that well, who don’t know the side of you that exists when you’re on the other end of the world. These people who have no idea what you’re going through. You look out the window at what’s going on out there, thinking about how much really is out there. You wonder who here would understand it. You can’t tell anyone how you feel because they haven’t experienced it; they’ve never left this town the same way. And you’re supposed to be happy when you get back to the people you love, so you feel guilty wishing you hadn’t come back. This emptiness just starts consuming you and you’re not sure if it’s the jetlag messing you up or maybe it’s having to face the reality of your life and who you were versus who you are, how you can be one thing here and another there. You try and mix the two together and it doesn’t go well at all because you need different survival techniques in each place and they don’t work the same elsewhere. The real world is different from the travel world.
You must think I’m crazy. This must sound nuts if you haven’t experienced it. I always find that coming home is harder than anything and everything that happens during my travels. Harder than getting sick in a third world country, harder than getting lost in a big city where they don’t speak English, harder than trying to understand the train schedules on a busy day. Coming home takes real work. But eventually you get by. You start adjusting back – so slowly at first you don’t even realize it and you try holding onto who you were when you were away because you like that person better and it felt more real than anything you were at home before. But there you are, going back to your old ways. Forgetting the small details. Forgetting why you felt free and alive in a way you never had before.
And that’s when I know I need to plan another trip before I lose that part of me completely. That need for something else in life – for freedom, for dreams, for change.
Obviously when I came home, the post-travel blues took over me. I felt very lost and confused about my place in this town, the direction my life was going, and how I would get through. The confidence I have when I’m on a plane heading to somewhere I’ve never been before seemed to disappear once I walked through a doorway I had been through countless other times. My first instinct was to plan another trip and run, but sometimes you have to take a break and focus on your home life too. That’s what everyone kept telling me anyway, and I get it. I love to travel; it’s practically an addiction. I certainly felt like I went through withdrawal for a long time after I returned home after this past summer. But now, four months after my backpacking adventure, things are finally truly better. I’ve gotten new jobs that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with, I’ve worked on relationships that definitely needed attention, I’ve focused on my health, and I’ve developed a home life that I’m extremely happy with (one that works for me).
For the first time in a long time, I’m feeling like I’ve found a purpose. This may sound very silly, but I think a lot of people my age struggle with this reality every day.
So there have been some small trips across the country over the last four months, which I will be writing about very soon (I promise)! And we all know I’m always planning another big adventure and working on something in my head – so get ready!