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A Little Love Letter…On Travel and Leave-Takings

Dear Travel,

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.

Street food stand with fresh veggies in Bangkok, Thailand

Street food stand with fresh veggies in Bangkok, Thailand

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.

Exploring the ancient city of Petra, Jordan

Exploring the ancient city of Petra, Jordan

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.

Airplane ready to taxi and takeoff at an airport in China

Airplane ready to taxi and takeoff

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.”

Forever yours,

~S

,


  • Joanne

    Loved this post! Know that although the kids and I live vicariously through you – we are always glad to see you come home! So while travel is missing you, we are warmed by the fact that you do still come home to us – and that we will be missing you when it is travel’s time to have you back. I do hope one thing, that someday my children and, yes, maybe even me (depending on where you go, of course!) will be traveling with you and getting to know the world through the eyes of not one that has grown up in the US, but rather through the eyes of the world as it really is. We can’t wait to see you!! 

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Jo, I sooo love and miss you guys and reading your comment made my day last week. :)  I know that one day we will be exploring out there together and more than me showing you the world, we can watch the world through the kiddos’ eyes – their perspective is what’d I’d be interested in. xo. <3

  • Shannon,
    I just want to say that I’ve been following your blog for some time now, and this last post was incredibly beautiful. Plans in life change and that’s okay. Until the next adventure awaits you… 

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much Tammy. I appreciate you taking the time to share that with me; truly heartening to know when a message and a truth resonates with others. Cheers to the next adventure :)

  • A most heartfelt post Shannon, that can’t help but remind me of my own such revelation about “Travel McNuggets” and “Global Glut”.  Indeed, wandering the globe is ever a trade-off between missing loved ones and following your bliss.  Sounds like your 5:3 travel:home ratio will be perfect for you!

  • Way to go, Shannon. That’s so great that you have found a happy medium of long term travel and home time. There is no right or wrong answer in that regard, just what works for you. And I’m just happy that I, being part of your travel family, get to see you on the road again too :)

    • Anonymous

      You are, from this year forward, a part of my travel family and a thread in my life. So happy to have you as a friend. xo

  • Moving, lovely, true. If I ever fall out of love with travel, I need to return here and be charmed all over again.

    • Anonymous

      Travel has a seductive charm, no? Thank you for sharing and weighing in Roxanne :)

  • Sasha

    Such a moving, heartfelt and poignant post! I love this line “Why can’t that be you?…
    Because it’s just me out here.” I think that is something a lot of solo gals can relate to, I certainly can.  It’s what stops me from spending long periods travelling (besides the money thing), it’s the reason why I like to find somewhere to settle at least for a little while.  Solo travel though you’re never really alone in one sense with travellers seemingly everywhere at the same time your still very much always alone, missing your family, missing your friends and missing out on seeing the life back home go by.  I like your idea of a few months on, few months off, it’s the best of both worlds.  And in the end I think you better appreciate your travel experience if you can avoid getting to that travel burnout stage.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for such a thoughtful and heartfelt response Sasha. If you can manage it, design your life with the time built it, it can often help for us out there solo, so glad to know there are others out there seeking out the same travel balance. :)

  • Erik Smith

    This post so totally nails the feelings of a lot of us travellers that it may just be the best blog post i’ve ever read.

    Honest and thoughtful- Thank you for putting it into words.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Erik – truly :)

  • Gorgeous, Shannon.

    There’s a point where it’s been too long, and starts feeling bad and wrong. I’ve rarely experienced it because I’m comparatively untraveled (in fact, just twice – at the end of a long archaeological excavation, and near the end of a month in Greece). But I know of it from others. And too much of a good thing is still too much. 

    And I guess when you’ve been Elsewhere for a length of time, then the whole thing flips, and “traveling” is now going Home. So maybe there’s that, working on you as well..?

    Your honest and sanity, it shines.

    – A fan.

    • Anonymous

      Mike, thank you. For your support and thoughts, and for being a friend. I think you could very well find that if you started at a Mike-pace, and lived true to what you wanted, instead of what is expected from “travel” then maybe no burnout? Or less? It’s just odd shifts to jump from cultures so rapidly, but I am already adjusting and settling back into the US :) Hugs.

  • Anonymous

    Beautiful post, and you hit the nail on the head with the family part. I miss my family and friends so much, but at the same time, I’ve realized that I have to live MY life–not hold back to be a part of theirs. 

    • Anonymous

      There is a truth in that Christine, and you have to joyously embrace the present, and what you’re striving for, and find the balance with those other things in your life. Loving your journey through Australia :)

  • Balance is such a hard thing. Looks like you’re finding your way though :)

    • Anonymous

      I’m looking for the way! You’re a perfect example though, Laura, of keeping an open mind and finding the (travel) opportunities in life as they come :)

  • This is lovely :) Sounds like that you’re making the right choice for the right reasons.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Megan – it’s working for me now, so I’m going with it! Appreciate your support and comments last months  :)

  • Steph Nguyen

    Absolutely gorgeous. This is the single best blog entry of yours that I’ve read – and there have been a lot of them!

    So, so excited to see you again. <3

    • Anonymous

      Aww, thank you Steph. To have you weigh in and say that means the world since you have, quite literally, read a lot of ’em. Can not *wait* to see you later this month. xo :)

  • Beautiful words.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you James  :)

  • Agh – and for some stupid reason I only found your blog recently.  Anyway, time to catch up with your previous writings whilst you are static!

    I am amazed at how often I say to people, “To everything there is a Season”.  The thing is never to waste that Season, whether it’s travelling, working, studying, being a parent, being alone, whatever, to make the most of it with bags of curiosity, which I’m sure you will do.

    Enjoy it all!

    • Anonymous

      Your comment had me humming the Byrds all day today :)  And yes, I couldn’t agree more, life comes in seasons, rolling waves of circumstance and situation and taking it day by day is still something I work toward. Thanks for weighing in and as you read through more posts, I am always an email away if you have any questions! :) 

  • Shannon- I LOVED this post! I have wrestled with the same things and me and travel have had similar fights! Good luck finding your balance!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much Jade :)  And it’s heartening to know that others have faced those same decisions and challenges. Cheers to seeking out our travel balance!  

  • U R so honest Shannon! 
    Enjoy life and looking forward to read more on your blog.

    Cheers,
    Danaiya 

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Danaiya! I appreciate your support :)

  • Akshaye

    Loved it Shannon!! starting my day with this beautiful post…have a nice time back home…TC…keep writing….

    • Anonymous

      Thank you! I hope you had another wonderful day today :)  

  • Jason

    Enjoyed this read Shannon. An honest portray from the heart. Once a traveler always a traveler, for you will always be curious as to whats around the next bend. Enjoy the home coming…

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Jason. A few days into the states and I am adjusting and remembering why I come back, the familiarity, friends, family – the good stuff.  It makes shifting from travel mode easier for sure :)

  • Kyle Crum

    I think this is how a “mature” traveler talks.  It’s not that traveling is the end-all of awesomeness, it’s just a part of it.  I know we won’t be abroad forever and I hope that we can find the balance in our travels like you are doing.  Have fun at home!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Kyle! I am looking forward to seeing the family next week :) It’s
      tough sometimes to think about how much living abroad brings to our lives
      and weigh it against some other goals and opportunities in life. I know your
      Burma travels have been so alternately trying and inspiring, and I am
      sending you all sorts of balancing and warm thoughts. :)

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for weighing in here – I went over to your post and it’s so very true…I reached that point at about month 20 of my travels when I was in Central America and would rather watch movies on my computer than actually go out and explore..so I went home to regroup and the next time I left it was also to expat myself in SEA :) SEA seems to be good for the soul! Safe travels!

  • Akila

    Awww. . . love this post Shannon.  I’m so glad you listed it on your 7 links because it is an absolutely lovely one.  I know exactly what you mean – every time we leave, I am giddy with excitement but sad to leave, as well.  Every time I’m home, I’m happy to be here but sad to leave the rest of the world behind.  Travel has made me love every experience I have in every minute in the day.  

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Akila! The two weeks around the return date are always really
      tough for me, but other than that, as you said, travel really makes you live
      in the moment more of the time :)

  • Claire

    I admire this post. It can be difficult to be honest, amongst all the glitz and glamour of other bloggers adventures and travel styles.  You found your boundary while still being true to yourself. Some people try to do this their whole lives!

    • Anonymous

      Thank you Claire…it can be tough to answer to other people, to have told
      them I love travel but then admit that it’s a bit much at times to go full
      force. Hope you’ve found your travel groove too :)

  • Claire

    I admire this post. It can be difficult to be honest, amongst all the glitz and glamour of other bloggers adventures and travel styles.  You found your boundary while still being true to yourself. Some people try to do this their whole lives!

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