“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
Sometimes, I’m afraid to travel.
In five days, I’ll be hopping aboard a plane to Bangkok for a 4-month trip around SE Asia and to be honest, a part of me is a little bit terrified. People keep asking me if I’m excited for my trip and of course I am, but I can’t completely ignore the voice in the back of my mind that is scared and nervous, that wonders if this is something I should really be doing.
Should I really be leaving my loved ones in Portland? Should I really be traveling to places that require so many freakin’ vaccinations? Should I really be embarking on such a selfish journey when people around the world don’t have enough money to fulfill their basic needs?
While I know that this is going to be an amazing trip that I will gain a lot from, I almost always have some nervousness when I travel. As much as I love going on adventures and seeing the world, I think a little bit of skepticism is healthy…as long as it doesn’t keep me from going, of course.
It’s not like I’m a novice to this kind of experience. I’ve traveled many places over the years, usually completely on my own, and have had some really extraordinary adventures. I’ve navigated countries that don’t speak English, have missed flights and trains and still found a way to get where I need to go, and have helped create close-knit communities of friends in places where I didn’t know anybody.
So, what is it that I’m afraid of? I’ve got this traveling thing down, right?
Despite my years of experience, I still sometimes worry that I won’t be able to cut it as a globetrotter. While I know in the back of my mind that I’ve always found my way out of the sticky situations I encounter, I still worry that I will come across something I won’t be able to handle. That my identity that is so steeped in being a world traveler will somehow be tested and ripped to shreds. That I’ll become homesick and want to leave, that I’ll end up hiding in my room and not taking advantage of my time abroad, that I won’t make any friends or connect with anybody new. That for all my big talk, I won’t be able to hack it when it actually comes down to it.
And then there are the concerns I feel about being such an unsettled person in general. While people around me are getting married, buying houses, and launching long-term careers, so much of my money, time, and energy goes towards traveling, festivaling, and other mini-adventures. While I do not regret any of the decisions I have made in my life and am grateful for all of the adventures I have had, I sometimes wonder if I am “behind” in some ways because of my choices.
Sometimes I don’t feel like a real adult, and that scares me, too. I’m 30 years old, for goodness sake, and I’ve spent the past year and a half living at home just so I can go traveling again! While I know that I would not be happy following the traditional path that many people are on, I also feel a desire to be self-sufficient and financially stable, a place I haven’t really reached quite yet.
There is a part of me that aches for security and stability. A part of me that wants to settle down and own a home, have a steady career that pays well and has insurance, have a weekly routine and be in one place for more than a couple of years before taking off again. A part of me that wants to stop having to say so many good byes all the time.
But there is also a very large part of me that aches for adventure and variety, that wants to see as many places and people as possible during the short time I have on Earth, that knows I won’t be happy staying in one spot forever and pretending the rest of the world doesn’t exist. That pull is so incredibly strong that I can’t ignore it and I know deep down that putting travel first is one of the strongest passions I have in life. If it means putting off other aspects of being an “adult” until a little bit later, then I know that is what I have to do to feel fulfilled and happy.
Still, I want to find a balance.
Prioritizing travel and exploration has been amazing, but it does have its downsides and I’m reaching a point in my life where I want to find a way to have my gluten-free vegan cake and eat it too! I want to have a home base that is my own and a job that pays well and has flexible hours so I can take off when I want to. I want a stable, loving relationship that doesn’t have an end date from the start because I’m leaving the country. I want to have strong communities both at home and abroad and I want to get paid to write and photograph and share my adventures.
Is that too much to ask for, universe? I sure hope not.
Yes, sometimes I am afraid to travel. I am afraid that I’ll get somewhere and not know what to do. I am afraid that I’m not saving enough money for other things. I am afraid that I am lazy and childish and irresponsible. I am afraid that I will never fall in love or settle down because I’m too flighty. I’m afraid of commitment to jobs, places, people. I’m afraid that I’m afraid.
And yet…I know deep down that I am on the right path, and that is what drives me. At the end of the day, despite all my fears and worries and the voices in my head that tell me things I don’t want to hear, there is a stronger, calmer, more compelling voice that tells me to keep going. It tells me that I am exactly where I am meant to be, doing what I am meant to be doing, and everything else will fall into place if I continue to listen to that voice and let it guide me.
When I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and center myself, all those fears and worries fall away and what’s left is the knowledge that I would not be living my life this way if it wasn’t worth it.
So bring it on, SE Asia. Let’s do this. I’m ready.