Okay, okay, do it—just don’t do it for the wrong reasons.
The reasons for travel are as varied as the people who embark on said adventures. So before booking a ticket, consider just for a moment the fact that travel is perhaps the number one most-accepted and celebrated means of running away from our problems.
Seven years ago, my mom got sick. She was my best friend and I watched her die, slowly. An inevitable journey of rebirth followed, and it included rejecting my lifelong religion and isolating myself from nearly all of my friends.
Throughout this series of losses, I dissolved into a depression so deep I could scarcely stay out of bed long enough to make my therapy appointment.
That was at the age of 18. By the time I was 24, I’d traveled further and wider than I’d imagined possible. I’d trekked over the soil of Machu Picchu, secured an apartment and a job in Istanbul, studied yoga in India and Thailand, taught yoga in Vietnam. I’d learned how to touch down in nearly any location with no contacts, no knowledge of the language, and no plan, and start making a life for myself within half an hour.
It’s true that my adventures breathed new life into me and taught me invaluable lessons and skills that I’m sure to carry forever. It’s also true that I was still myself, entirely and utterly, no matter which country I stood in. I carried the same depression, the same paralyzing insecurities, the same crippling grief and loneliness.
Even in the face of beauty as profound as the Iguazu Falls or the Sagrada Familia, I still wondered at the emptiness I felt. Exactly how far did I have to go to escape it?
The mind badly wants to help us heal and grow, so it tells us that happiness and peace are just ahead, close enough to give us hope. Eventually, though, we realize that close enough isn’t good enough. The changes to my mental and emotional state did not come because I left the country. The changes came because eventually I took responsibility and started to turn towards my sadness rather than running from it. Rehabilitation takes place anywhere we can find the bravery to accept our shadows and allow them to exist.
So travel, if that’s what you want to do.
Explore the world, get ridiculously lost, meet new people, observe new ways of life.
Only remember that life doesn’t start once we reach an external destination. Life is happening, all of the time, precisely in the spot we’re in. We do ourselves a great and tragic disservice if we believe that life—or happiness, or contentment, or fulfillment—exist out there.
To accept the tempting notion that there’s more to learn or more fun to be had there than there is here is to rob ourselves of rich and necessary lessons and infinite opportunities for growth.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photo: Courtesy of the Author