Leave-takings are not my favorite part of being in a relationship with you, this process of taking my carefully adjusted status quo, uprooting it and driving back into movement can be, well, difficult at best. And if the leave-takings were not conflicting enough, it’s leave-takings in both directions that leave my thoughts twisting and turning.
In early January I faced the tight, squeezing hug from my mom and a supportive, long hug from my dad, punctuated with goodbyes to various pregnant friends who are, by now, very used to the absence my chosen travel-path dictates. And I gathered all of those goodbyes in my mind, and they propelled me forward; I took my leave. Excitedly, with joy and fierce anticipation, and yes, a hint of sadness.
You see Travel, I’ve received emails from other travelers “Wow, I could never travel solo and long-term, I’d miss my family too much.”
I miss mine too. That’s what they don’t understand, traveling doesn’t take that away; instead, I weighed the trade-offs and realized you, travel, are a piece of my story, a piece of my personal journey, a piece I have no choice but to honor.
Honoring my travel dreams is what compelled me to leave in 2008 with no real plan; leaving was the plan, the whole of it in fact. I set off with the intention of being with you for a full year, figuring so much travel would give me enough time to figure it all out. I had my pre-leaving panic attacks, that initial hurdle when my entire life slowed to a creeping pace in the hours leading up to my one-way international flight, Los Angeles to Sydney, a bold move considering where I was at in my life. I found relief and contentment when I was firmly planted in my airplane seat; there was more uncertainty lying in front of me than ever before, but the leave-taking was over, and I knew I could figure out the rest once I was out there with you, exploring together.
Let’s fast-forward eight months to Slovenia, eight months on the road and I thought I was a veteran—Travel, you and I were confidants by then, you were my closest friend, by my side night and day and through the rapid days of trains and buses punctuated by beautiful churches-temples-ruins-monuments-mountians-animals-people-stories. But you exhausted me, you let me run like a hamster in a wheel, ever trying to move forward, to hit the finish line.
You didn’t tell me the direction was never-ending; there is no end in our relationship, Travel, and in month eight of my round the world trip I realized that. And I wanted to go home.
Circumstances and plans were already in place for month ten, though, so I stepped off of my hamster wheel and slowed my pace, continued my travels, but adjusted future plans, my future expectations, and, ultimately, my travel style.
A year is too long; I don’t like the feeling of being gone so long that if tragedy were to strike I would regret my choices. And so, it was that moment, my dearest Travel, that I set my boundaries. You took the news quite well, though there was some arguing. Look at those long-term traveling couples out there, you said. Look at how well they get along with me, you said. Why can’t that be you?
Because it’s just me out here.
And maybe one day that won’t be the case; that’s my hope, at least, and I look to the traveling couples for inspiration—having my family by my side would surely change the nature of each leave-taking—but for now Travel, just help me adjust the logistics and outline new expectations, my new travel to home ratio.
Five months traveling, a few months home.
Even thinking of the plan makes me smile. You make me happy, Travel, but there’s a balance for each of us in life, for me that means a couple extra international flights each year, but happiness. It means a lot more contentment when we’re together exploring, finding new people, cultures, stories, sharing and taking photos—I know I’m not wholly sacrificing another part of my life.
I’m on an airplane hurtling itself through the skies right at this moment, the plane takes me measurably closer to home with every passing minute. Our recent sojourn together is nearing an intermission, Travel, after a couple conferences in the Pacific Northwest I will settle back into the comfortability of Florida, my forever home.
I pen this letter from Thailand, my last day in the country I’ve called my temporary home for five months now, and this leave-taking is bitter-sweet. I’ll miss the chaos of the streets, the motorbikes whizzing by inches from my body, street-food stalls lining the narrow passages, the Thai culture, and the new friends.
It’s been a viscerally memorable five months Travel, we’ve journeyed through Thailand, Malaysia, China and Jordan together and so many of the new experiences are still processing. My brain is overloaded with the potential out there in the world, the endless number of experiences you continue to throw my way. Never dull, always something new to learn, forever running alongside you, seeking out new stories and landscapes.
In short, you’ve been swell.
But for now? I’m going home, I’ll see you again when the experiences of the road begin to infiltrate my dreams and overwhelm my waking thoughts. When the urge to book my next ticket instills a giddy sense of anticipation back into my days.
Only then, travel, will I hug-out my next leave-taking.
This is not a “goodbye,” Travel, but rather a “see ya soon.”