As a traveler for over a decade, traveling in my early 20s versus my 30s is vastly different.
When I was in my 20s, whenever something overwhelming was going on at home, I booked a flight. I wanted to be a stranger in another country. No one knew who I was or what I was dealing with; it was like having a fresh slate each trip I took. And it was hard to not be addicted to something like that.
Back when I started my blog in 2008, travel blogging was trendy. Everyone wanted to travel the world and write. But over the years, watching the travel blogging community change, I’ve noticed a trend with people who were in this community. We were always seeking something elsewhere. The grass was always greener on the other side.
I mean, there are countless books, movies, and quotes about traveling and the whole culture around it—with what you’ll find through it. Maybe you’ll find the love of your life in another country; maybe he’s your roommate in the hostel you stay at in the middle of a Costa Rican jungle. Maybe you find yourself in a yoga class that catapults you onto a deep yoga journey in India.
I think the bravest thing a traveler can do is stay in one spot for long periods of time. Why? Because it forces you to face your shit. It’s easy to find yourself on a beautiful island—but can you implement what you learned back home?
I think you get to meet your true self when you sit still, so to speak. Your fears, anxieties of who and what you should be in your life come to the surface. And when you’re constantly running, you only meet that version of yourself for brief moments before you’re onto the next.
Are we afraid of meeting the true version of ourselves? Or is it just cool to put on this facade of living the nomadic/Instagram life?
You can’t put a filter on your inner you. It only works for so long before it begins to fade or eats away at you.
The more you run, the harder your problems smack you in the face later.
I’m sure there are travelers who are able to travel without “running” from their problems, or who can stay in one spot for long periods of time—but I think that may be on the rare side.
With this ongoing pandemic we’re in, the travel blog community, I know, took a huge hit. No sponsored trips, hotels closing, and countries closing their borders. Many were stranded or homeless because they lived out of a bag for years. The lockdowns forced some people back to reality.
I knew some people who went back to work and got a “real job” again and seemed happy. Others I spoke with said they were happier to have a home base; they enjoyed the security and not living out of a bag constantly.
As a young woman in my early 20s, I think I got swept up in the glamorous part of living abroad as a travel blogger. I, myself, tried living abroad for a few months, and it was so much harder than I thought. I did it solo and had little to no support system. I was in the place I always wanted to be, the place I dreamed and thought of for six years, and I was absolutely miserable.
How can I be unhappy when I’m here? I’m in the place I’ve always wanted to be.
That trip made me realize that none of this will make me happy unless I make myself happy first. I can’t constantly run from my problems back at home and ignore the anxieties within my soul.
I got attacked in Italy, and that was the last straw for me. I decided to call it quits after four months and went home.
It was incredibly difficult to acclimate back home after traveling. I felt like I had failed. I didn’t want to get a “real job,” I wanted to write and have the freedom of traveling the world. It took me years to be okay with having a home base and staying put. And not gonna lie, I still have my moments with it. But as time went on, I found the gems in staying put and still traveling wherever I wanted but having the security of knowing I have a place to come home to, really eased my mind.
Having a place to call home forced me to meet the real me; I was able to go to therapy more regularly and steadily. Staying put and facing my problems made me realize I need to be happy first. I need to find peace and happiness within myself.
I found it hard to have a routine as an on the move backpacker, but at home, I was able to have a routine and workout, which did wonders for my mental health. I found peace and security in knowing I didn’t have to live out of a bag. I didn’t have to worry about my belongings being stolen or lost. I knew that wherever I left things, they’d be there.
I always had a comfy bed and a quiet room to stay in. The hostel life was fun and I don’t regret any of it, but I think at some point you have to come to the realization of why you are doing this, and not give a surface answer. Because, alone at night in your hostel, you know why.
I still want to write and have the freedom I once had, but it’s different now. I’m okay with staying put; I no longer want to run from my problems. Now I seek to travel within myself to go deeper into my growth.
I don’t seek to see what’s on the other side of the fence. All the answers I want to know or wish to seek in order to find myself are within me. And always have been.
The pandemic hasn’t made this easy for anyone—but I invite you to sit with it. Sit with all the uncomfortable feelings and travel to meet yourself again, or maybe for the first time.
It’ll be the best trip you ever take.