I’ve spent a lot of time in the past justifying my choices to travel.
“But I didn’t actually have malaria!” Defending my decision to return to Peru a second time after the gnarly insect bite fiasco from my first trip
“I’ll be in SOUTH Korea safe and far away from the border” After deciding to move to Asia to teach English
“No, Dad, I won’t go anywhere near the protests” About my trip to Thailand after the military coup d’etat in May 2014
I am often caught telling stories of heart-attack inducing largest spiders of your worst nightmare stories while simultaneously trying to convince my more stay-at-home friends how important it is for them to leave home and to leave comfortable. The ineffectiveness of this is not lost on me, I should work on my tactics. Oh well, once you go, you know for yourself.
The act of leaving and the exhilaration of the unknown awakens my soul.
I miss my family and friends when I’m away just as much as the next person. My beloved Grandmother died when I was studying abroad in Italy and I semi-seriously injured my ankle during my first week living in Korea. Travel is never without trial. And yet, I will never “get it out of my system” because it is in me and a part of who I am.
The hard part though, that is as underrepresented as it is awful, is the return from travel.
What will I do next? Where will I go? Will I ever see these friends again?
After my year in Asia, I worried about coming home and vaguely delayed relaying the exact logistical information of my return to my patient parents for as long as possible. I knew that I would adamantly resist transitioning back to any measure of a mundane life with the powers of of my extremely fine-tuned stubbornness for as long as I could.
I even chose to take several trains across America to even further draw out the process of arrival. I think I took the train because a part of me wanted to be able to claim America as home, as if seeing the land with my eyes gave me ownership. I wanted to be able to say that I had at least seen the width of the country that gave me my passport, my freedom to leave.
This sounds a bit absurd, I was only gone for a year and I lived in the same small corner of the Midwest for allllll of my childhood. I ate my school lunches in the same cafeteria for 12 straight years and I remember often thinking to myself, “I’m tired of living the same day over and over again.”
It’s a strange thing coming home.
When people ask me what it’s like being back, I often just say “good, good to see family and friends.” Because it is and because that is the most efficient way to tell them what they want to hear.
It’s not like you forget to be who you are, it is that who you are has changed.
However as much as I’ve cried and laughed reuniting with the people I love, I’ve only told moments of the full stories, the edited and brief versions. I keep part of them for myself because I feel that some things are too much to expect for others to ever be able to understand as I feel them in the depths of my person.
And so away I go, again and again.
“As you move through this life…you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life–and travel–leaves marks on you.” -Anthony Bourdain