This is not the post I thought I’d be writing today. There’s a line of “travel diaries” posts in my line-up, ready and waiting to be written.
Except, they won’t be.
I knew travel was going to be hard.
I didn’t know it was going to be this hard.
When I returned from Singapore, having basically decided to quit school and travel on my own forever, I was ready to experience some crazy stuff. My dreams were fat, juicy apples hanging, for once, within my reach. The only thing standing between me and moving to New York City, travelling, whatever, was the fact that… oh, um, I had no money. But that was an easy fix, I got a summer job at a cruise terminal, started saving, started buying plane tickets. I didn’t make that much money over the summer, though, so I got another grocery store job, thinking I’d be working for a few months and then I’d take off.
What I didn’t expect was how much I’d love the life I was almost unintentionally building in Seattle.
As it turned out, my grocery store job would provide the exact community I’d dreamed of finding in college, full of friendly, creative, hard-working people. I started working full time, at this job I 100% loved and adored and shone at. I started making plans for myself, blogging and writing, started really exploring all the places I’d missed in my hometown. I asked this amazing guy out for coffee without realizing it would lead to more than a first date. I started making new friends through work, finding new haunts…
I kept telling myself I was only in Seattle until. Until New York, until I traveled, until.
But I was starting to LOVE life. I loved the person I was becoming and the lifestyle I was living, the community of friends and coworkers that was springing up around me. I was making goals and plans that, although I didn’t yet realize it, weren’t really aligned with the ones I’d already made.
Somewhere in there, I was also still craving independence and freedom. I wanted to see the world- I still do- and though my plans weren’t making so much sense anymore- why was I building this beautiful life if I was only going to abandon it?- I still decided to go for it, cram it all in.
Finally last month, when it was time to leave, a massive, nagging part of me kept tugging at my shirtsleeves. Why are you doing this? it kept asking. Is it really worth leaving all this good behind?
I ignored it.
I kept smothering that voice, telling myself the travel would be good for me, that I needed to embrace the challenge, go out on my own, etc…. but the truth was, I wasn’t in the same headspace as I’d been in when I booked this crazy adventure. Over the course of a year, I’d grown as a person, learned so much about myself. I was so, so happy with my life in Seattle.
I left anyway.
Each night in Reykjavik, I cried myself to sleep.
Every night in Paris, I did the same, and had to force myself out of bed every morning, despite the fact that I was in freaking PARIS. I had DREAMED about this forever! Why couldn’t I summon a smile?
I kept pushing myself, blogging and exploring and trying so, so hard to enjoy my trip. But it left me exhausted. I had to force myself to focus on the present, because every time I thought about going three more months like this I just wanted to curl up and stay asleep forever, avoiding everything.
I wanted to go home.
And although there were places I could go where I could stay for a while, with family and friends, I didn’t have a home to call mine, and that hit me hard. I had never realized that was something I wanted.
A few days ago when my train pulled up in Nogent-le-Rotrou, the town where my WWOOFing hosts would be picking me up, it arrived 6 hours early. I told myself to go for a run, explore the town, do SOMETHING. To make it an adventure, even though it was raining, everything was closed and I was lugging a suitcase around with me. I knew I had it in me to be this person, to be this adventuress who made the most of every situation. But at this point, I was worn out- I’d been doing that every minute of the trip so far, and I was done.
I ended up paying a full night’s fee for a hotel room and just hanging out there for several hours, not doing much except laying on the bed, staring at the ceiling or getting on the computer.
Eventually I got to the farm, where a group of beautiful 15th century buildings and a herd of friendly goats greeted me. My hosts were amazing, feeding me organic bread and veggies traded with the neighbors, letting me taste all their goat cheeses and milks and puddings. For two nights I slept on the farm, spending the day rapidly improving my French (out of the handful of people on the farm, one spoke some English) and working on the farm. It was fun- I like physical work, the countryside was beautiful and it was super fun to be immersed in a language I adore.
But I still had that feeling of gut dread, that idontwannabeherewannagohome feeling.
I felt trapped, basically, and I don’t want travel to make me feel that way. I want it to be free and exotic and exploratory… but I also want a home to come back to. I want to travel for fun, not because I feel obligated to. I still have every desire to visit all the countries that were on my itinerary, and more, but… it needed to be in a different way.
My second night on the farm, sitting on my quiet bed in the middle of a silence that was so lonely and absolute it terrified me, I decided I was tired of struggling. I let the intuitive voice that had been telling me this wasn’t feeling right take over, finally, after I’d spent so much time squashing it down.
So… I called it off.
I cancelled my Airbnb and hostel reservations, flight tickets and WWOOFing experiences, and in about half an hour all I had left was my ticket to New York, where I’d initially planned on moving after Europe.
Hm, I thought to myself. New York had really been the culmination of my trip. I believe I will still travel, still make it to all the exotic locales. But it was hard to figure out if I really wanted to give up this dream of moving to NYC I’d been clinging to.
Am I doing the right thing? I knew in my heart that I didn’t want to be where I was. But where did I want to be? Months ago, when I had other goals and other dreams, the answer would have been NYC, all the way. But now…
I realized I didn’t want to leave Seattle and everything it had for me. It’s my hometown, and you’d think by now I’d have realized that every time I leave I miss the city like crazy. Goodness knows I’ve blogged about it enough.
Don’t get me wrong- my trip was AMAZING. I got to ride horses in Reyjavik, sip cafe at a sidewalk cafe in Paris and check out the French countryside. You won’t find me complaining about any of that!
But I had to listen to my intuition. I had to do what was right for me, and that’s been the hardest step of all. It’s going to be a little embarrassing coming back to Seattle, after having told everyone I know my travel plans. On the outside I worry that it looks like I’m giving up, making a stupid decision, whatever.
That’s why I can call this decision brave. Because it means claiming what I want despite the fact it makes me look a little bit foolish. It means admitting that as people we change, our desires and dreams might change, and we can’t avoid the paths our guts tell us to take.
Life is about finding what makes YOU happy, even if you realize it on a random trip halfway around the world, even if it means you look crazy to everybody else. It means saying yes to the things you really want, deep down, even if they’re not insane, crazy dreams, just simple desires. It’s saying no to the things that, though seemingly grandiose and impressive, may not be the things you really want to do.
I want to see the world. But I don’t want to live out of a suitcase for months on end not knowing where I’m going to go when I run out of money, I thought I did.
I was wrong.
I want to go back to my favorite cafes and write for hours. I want to buy flowers at Pike Place on the weekends. I want to have access to coconut oil and organic kale. I want to run on familiar streets and trails so I can focus on running a faster marathon, not just finding my way around.
These are not huge dreams or ambitions- I have those, too, but I want to tackle them from a place that feels like home.
So there you have it.
What an adventure, in terms of both travel and emotion.
Never be afraid to follow your deepest desires, even if they aren’t the most grand or exciting, even if it’s embarrassing to go back on what you thought you wanted.
I’m in New York for a few days, giving myself a little vacation in a city I still love, before I fly home to the place I want to spend even more time. I’m thrilled to begin what is, in it’s own way, still another adventure. And I wonder what sort of lessons I’m going to learn from this one.