Not every person is apt for travel. Nor does everyone even have a conscious interest in it.
But even for those busy with incessant obligations, the weak of heart, the slight in bank, or the just plain boring, there always survives this tiny, perhaps impractical sliver of interest in the back of one’s mind. Call it instinct; the inclination to flee. The urge to verify that there are places that aren’t here. The compulsion to seek fulfillment elsewhere, if it’s not within our grasp. We are capable of imagining a double life, a double world, where people live like us, but not. Where cars drive on the other side of the road, the culture is astoundingly eclectic, and the weather is always agreeable. If we base our lives on the myth of deferral, then we can surely satiate ourselves by living out at least some portion of our fantasy in the sheer idea of it. But when our being touches those of individuals who’ve traveled, or who hail from parts unknown, we are jostled back to the realization that fantasizing about, talking about, and planning to travel can not in fact suffice for traveling. Life is not lived in one place, and life is fleeting; forever pulled out of our hands like a perpetually escaping rope, the movement of which we fail to notice due to its familiar monotony.
The appeal of an indefinite absence, an ambiguous break, an indeterminate vacation from life’s taxing everyday is undeniable, though often untenable, and certainly terrifying. In the wake of every simple work snafu, every futile argument with a loved one, every late-night, angsty moment of existential reflection, this idea flows and pools into a murky puddle at the base of the skull, confused about which way it will flow: I could run. Anywhere. Not a necessarily transient thought, but nonetheless dismissed. Like an indelible carving in a primal stone, faint as it may be, washed over and covered in paint, in moss, in distraction, but occasionally re-traced in an act of rebellion.
I, like many, am an anxiety-ridden, easily mortified, often depressed individual. I have a daily mental battle against the concept of a 9-5 job, of routine, and yet these are the things that solace me during an existence I’m almost constantly in some way or another uncomfortable in. Experiences that I should have found enjoyable, I don’t look back at as the best of my life, because it’s hard for me to look past my nervousness in hindsight. I’m prone to just plain having a bad time and wishing I stayed home every time I do much of anything, but loathe the idea of a boring, adventure-less life. This contradiction draws and quarters me. And so occasionally I fight. And occasionally, from this fight, I grow.
I wouldn’t identify as impulsive, but I’ve made decisions that some, knowing me, would consider as such. These choices naturally incite my occasionally less dormant fear and apprehension, but there are times it’s necessary to build a situation from which you cannot back out of.
I went to China a few months ago (a trip I’ll likely detail in a later post), a quick decision I made when a friend teaching English there encouraged me to take advantage of an airline sale. The initial plan was for the two of us to go somewhere, but she couldn’t swing it between her work schedule and her available funds. Instead of taking my out as my sick unease grew to consume me, I decided to go to her.
This is one of the few choices in my life I don’t regret in some capacity. Seventeen hours of air transit between three airports alone is a little daunting. A foreign country, language, continent, customs… slightly moreso. Meeting new people every day, being in seemingly awkward, unfamiliar situations, lacking the placating general certainty of knowing what each day and interaction will yield… yes, daunting. But cliché as it sounds, being in these situations builds character and confidence, as much as they make your stomach turn. I experienced a whirlwind of people, sights, food, culture, and experiences, and though I felt relieved when I returned home, it wasn’t relief at finally being home. It was relief at being able to sum up a nerve-racking, trying, unpredictable week as “amazing” in the end. Relief at having pushed myself and done it… or at least, having come one step closer to it, whatever “it” may be.
Everyone lays awake at some point thinking of other people in other places, wondering if they could establish a life on the other side of the globe. But how can you possibly know where you’ll be most happy if you haven’t ventured elsewhere? So take your chances; go and see. The blunt reality is that the potential regret of going on an unpleasant trip will always pale in comparison to the “what if?” regret that will eat you alive if you remain stuck in stasis.
Pictures of me in China!