March 12, 2017

Three Truths about Leaving, for Wanderers.

A post shared by Toby Israel (@tobyintheworld) on

A backpack leans against the wall. The kitchen is clean. The lights, off. Curtains, drawn.

You look around one last time, step into the hallway, and shut the door.

You walk to the bus, metro, or train station and take the next ride to the airport. You sit down and close your eyes, but you don’t sleep. Instead, you run your thoughts over the past days, weeks, months, or perhaps years—the people you’ve met, the food you’ve cooked, the dances you’ve danced.

It is a ritual of sorts, this taking stock.

There is so much to remember, and you want to pay each face, each meal, each moment the homage it deserves. Of course, you can’t, but you do what you can and take time for reflection, inadequate though it may be.

Leaving soon? I hope these thoughts will help.

I’ve certainly been there. The above scenario describes hundreds of departure days in my personal history.

Nomad, vagabond, wanderess—call me what you will—I leave often.

And after three straight years on the road, I know one thing for certain: It doesn’t get easier.

I think a lot of people have an image in their head of the free-spirited nomad-hippie who wanders the world without attachments and lets go of people and places easily.

And those people certainly exist. I know many of them!

But I suspect that for many travelers—as for me—the non-attachment is an illusion, a misperception, or both. For us, leave-taking is the difficult-yet-necessary counterpoint to arriving.

If I don’t leave, I can’t arrive. So I do. But it’s never easy.

And, the more deeply I connect with the people and places I visit, the harder it gets.

That’s one of the consequences of slow travel. Slow travel isn’t just about how we get there; it’s about how we stay, and for me that means getting deep wherever I go.

Success in this endeavor has its consequences, however.

I am continually falling in love with cities and mountains; people and dogs. This love, wonder, passion—call it what you will—makes my experiences what they are, but it also makes leaving that much more complicated.

Yet, I do leave.

I pack my bag(s), look around one last time, step outside, and shut the door.

There is a heaviness to this repeated ritual of leaving, perhaps difficult to understand if you do not live in movement. And if movement is not your creed, you may wonder, If it’s not easy or carefree, why do you do it?

We don’t leave without sadness or nostalgia. We don’t leave without a care, hair blowing in the ocean breeze and sunlight casting long shadows on the path behind us. But we do leave. And it isn’t easy or painless, but we choose to do it anyway. Three truths help:

1. It is in fact always possible to go back, to revisit, to return.

2. Goodbyes are a part of a balanced life. If we don’t leave, we cannot arrive.

3. Heaviness is as beautiful as lightness; one who wishes to live in movement must understand both.

May your leave-takings be complex, and heavy, and beautiful.


Author: Toby Israel

Image: @tobyintheworld on Instagram

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren


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