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February 25, 2014

Travel: Don’t Do It. ~ Hannah Harris

Travel Don't Do It

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.

Live now.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Courtesy of the Author

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Julie Sep 1, 2014 1:29am

Thank you for sharing, Hannah. Your writing is so beautiful and honest. If you haven't read The Untethered Soul, definitely check it out. An amazing book that's incredibly helpful, especially during times of sadness or grief. Much love to you.

Christina Mar 9, 2014 7:18pm

This is beautifully written and you articulated the pain and loss so well. I admire your talent as a writer and your ability to share.

steve Feb 26, 2014 11:11am

I think travel can become an enjoyable distraction to your own inner growth. Some type of salve to soothe which ails you, perhaps depression, anxiety, or a desperate seeking of identity.

I think there are two types of travel. One is to reestablish ones self and make sort of a “permanent” move, to reinvent oneself. I did that once, to escape a personal stagnation, I moved to the opposite coast of the US. The glittering coast of Southern CA was great for awhile, until it felt like the previous tired location I had moved from. My same ways of thinking and mindsets hadn’t changed. Ha, and then I felt a need to move back to the east coast, that was the key to finding myself!

The other is a lot of shorter trips or an extended trip where you still plan on coming “home”. I’ve done lots of world travel and within the US, and boy what a blast I had! And yes, so many lessons and learned and amazing experiences. I would always have this restless feeling, that I couldn’t wait to leave wherever I was living. In some ways it is like trying to get your “fix”, never complacent in where you are until you get it. And the high would usually dissipate a few days after getting back home, ha, it would usually be the third day back in the office! But at some point the drugs stop working. The lovely time of daydreaming of where to go next…piles of Lonely Planet books, clicking the mouse for the next adventure. If not done right, I think travel can ultimately be like a useless hobby of collecting, adding another “country visited” to your collection as if it was it were a baseball card, antique tea cup, or what have you. Of course, traveling to a different location and culture is sure a lot more rewarding than adding to your My Pretty Pony collection, but if you aren’t doing the real work on the inside (not an expert on what that would be!), the big collection at the end won’t matter much.

Our planet is pretty darn small and finite in comparison to where our minds and infinite wisdom could go. Although, I think I’m still stuck in the line waiting to get to get through security before I take off on that flight! Well, ok, at least I think I’m in the right line now! And not to be a bummer, ya I have had a blast traveling, but the desire to constantly seek out a new place to go to has subsided. Lots of thought patterns and new places to go in my consciousness, no matter where I am.

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Hannah Harris

Hannah Harris grew up in the pure mountain air of Lake Tahoe, NV. She is now a yoga teacher and writer in San Francisco. She believes the the single best thing any of us can do for the rest of creation is find the time to truly know and then madly love ourselves. Find her on Instagram and Facebook or read more thoughts at Wayfaring Gypsy or on Rebelle Society.