For anybody who has ever packed up everything that they own into boxes and disembarked on a life journey with a one way ticket, this is for you. This is my third time doing this. And I must say, that it doesn’t get any easier. If anything, I believe it gets a little harder each time. The pull between the things you want in life gets stronger and stronger and before you realize it you are getting pulled apart in opposite directions. One direction is towards the road, the unknown, adventure, adrenaline and constant challenge, the other is towards the stability, familiarity and safety in the known.
There are positives in each, as there are negatives. I have sat for the last ten months working in my home town to make the cash to head off on the next adventure and it has been an interesting time. It is hard in a small town to feel like there are people to meet that understand who you are and the experiences you have had when you share none of these common experiences. Making friends here was so incredibly difficult compared to the ease of making friends on the road. Friends on the road come from a mutual understanding that everybody is in the same boat and everybody has the same needs. They are open to what is around them. People not travelling have their friends already, They don’t typically need new ones because they have what it is that they need. The effort you have to put into trying to develop friendships with non-travelling people is so incredibly high in comparison and it can take months to feel like you are even cracking the surface of a real friendship with people. It can feel very lonely and isolating. Your amazing friends that you make on the road however eventually go home and take a small piece of you with them. Then you spend your time pining away on Facebook for all of the friends that you miss from every far reaching corner of the planet that you will never have all in one place again.
It is hard to relate to friends from forever ago that all now have husbands, children, mortgages and the rest and they ask you when you are going to settle down and eventually have these things. It is hard to explain that you are not even sure that you want these things in your life. But you do want a partner in crime. Somebody to live and share your adventure and zest for life with. “You will never find somebody unless you stay here in one place” they say, but at the same time, you feel like you will never find somebody in a place that is so insular. You would have to start again somewhere new and filled with more people like you, and if you are going to do that, then you may as well just go on another adventure. You are more likely to meet people like you to find a partner in crime on the road. But then you find an amazing partner in crime on the road and know that they will be around for only a fleeting time because these things on the road never seem to last unless you get really lucky.
You worry about money. Sure I have enough of it to start. But what happens if there is an emergency, I need to get home, I run out too quickly and I am forced to come home. What if I get a work visa for somewhere and I can’t find a job? What if…. what if…. what if…???
You feel bad about the things you miss. The birth of a niece or nephew and watching them grow, a death of a member in the family or old friend, weddings, Christmases, important milestones. I have missed all of these at some point. Before you know it, you are gone for two years and the baby you remembered is now a toddler you barely recognize.
You are unnerved by all of the lectures that you receive from people telling you that you need to settle down. “You are getting older now, you have nothing and will never have anything if you keep living like this” because majority of society place their value in the accumulation of material possessions. They don’t understand the value you place on memories. But they will also tell you that the memories you are making are the wrong ones. Because they don’t involve houses, children and work. Because they aren’t the conventional memories. Because memories of parties and having a good time won’t keep you warm at night when you are eighty. And yet my fondest memories from travel are not of parties at all.
And yet despite all of this you hit the road. You trade your double bed and privacy for a different single bed every night in a room with seven others. You trade your classy wardrobe for clothes with holes in them. You trade a cupboard for a backpack. Trade a house for a tent. Trade a car for a local bus. You quit your job. And you go.
You can’t explain to those who haven’t travelled before the enrichment that you get from going. The constant state of challenge you live in as you navigate new places, new cultures, new languages and new problems. The way your eyes change as they see everything in this world for the first time. The way your heart opens to new people and emotions every single day. The adrenaline. The freedom. So much of me yearns for it. And the biggest problem with living like this, is that I know I won’t be able to live a ‘normal’ life ever again. It has become a part of my being.
As I go, I am smacked with an array of emotions. Loss of what I have here, excitement at the prospect of new things and challenges, numbness in disbelief that anything is actually changing. But the biggest emotion I feel is fear. I am afraid. Afraid to stay. Afraid to go. But at no point in this life have I ever let that stop me before, so why should it stop me now? Fear is my nemesis that I kick in the arse every single day that I am on the road. And yet this is a fear that I am so familiar with that it is almost home. I almost wonder one day whether I will find the courage to face the fear to stay. Who knows…. maybe one day. But that day is not today. And so it is time to go.