What it's Really Like to Have the Travel Bug
I'm sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Seattle and can't help but smile as I think about all of the adventures I've had, even just in the past year. I want to get one thing straight, this is not a bash on the travel bug, in fact the travel bug is the one bug I actually don't mind. No. love. But in seeing my positive posts and endless laughing pictures (its true, I'm known for this) I feel that often people think I don't struggle when I'm back from a life-changing trip. Maybe that I don't feel those moments when life just seems to be beating you down or, my favorite, that hole in your chest, just want to go back in time feeling when you wish you were back in another country where you could be in the thick of it making an impact. Although, lets be real, its probably more like that place and it's incredible people and cultures having an impact on us.
This is a note to all of you who've been bitten by the bug and feel that weight on your chest when you've gotten back to your every day life but don't feel the same. Almost aching at times to go back to a place--even to a place you haven't been yet.
Traveling is like a high. That's honestly the best way to describe it. It's completely new and exciting when you head off into the unknown, out of your comfort zone and throughout the experience you can tend to feel like you're on cloud nine. You do things you might not normally do if you were back in your small town or city life. You're suddenly jumping off planes or hiking up mountains that used to be so far from something you'd even think of doing. This all depends of course, on how you travel and where your mind is at as you go but for me at least, traveling is a way to explore my sense of self awareness in the midst of everything I'm learning. Rich cultures, vibrant spirits and colors everywhere. It's a high that you never want to stop. Some, might crave their safe bed in times of discomfort or dangerous situations while abroad but at the end of the day you learn from these moments and move forward. For me, the small voice in the back of my head usually wakes me up and says look at where you are in the world right now. You begin to feel almost invincible. That you are capable of going anywhere and doing anything.
Now anyone can tell you what comes next is the comedown.
Some have adapted and been able to compartmentalize themselves, which is awesome if you're happy doing this but I'm thinking theres more to life than living that way. The things you learn from your trips to other corners of the world, those epic moments, life altering minutes and days surviving what you thought you never would. These are all learning and growing experiences that end up shaping who you are. You can't really close that part of yourself off just because you're back in your day to day life. If anything the life you had before it obviously needed a change if your trip had such an impact on you. That's the time to embrace what you've learned and blend it into your everyday self.
If you don't grow, you'll never know. In growth comes intense and sensational understanding of the self and the world around you. With growth comes spirituality. Which no, doesn't necessarily just mean whether you believe in God, or two Gods or a whole bunch. It broadens you're understanding because you're comparing different cultures, ideals and bringing your own view into the situation. Rather then, lets say getting it from a one-sided viewpoint through the news or a social media app. Not the way to get the down low on a country if you ask me.
When you have an experience like this that changes your life and flips it upside down only to turn you right side up, it can be difficult to say the least when you come back to your same life and adjust from there.
After my Semester At Sea, they warned us this would happen. I mean who wouldn't be depressed after 4 months on a cruise ship that took you to 14 countries and let you learn from some of the greatest professors, spiritual leaders and company CEOs on the planet? To come back to my senior year of college surrounded by sorority life and what to wear on a Friday night to the bars sounded ridiculous to me. Not that I don't love my sorority and its purpose (Go St. Jude) but my mind was on other places and ideas. All I could think about for the longest time was how much I would rather be sleeping on the floor of a treehouse in Ghana, or camping under the stars in Morocco. My large spacious room felt empty to me and I didn't know how to adjust. I was lost.
There's a lot of stigma that comes with feeling lost I think even in this day and age. Which is ridiculous to me, because those moments where we feel lost are actually when the wheels in our mind are turning over and over. It's the precious time of realization. Sometimes, we feel stagnant though and unsure of where to go next, which has the power to make us feel weak or uncomfortable. In turn, many of us immediately go back to our comfort zone. But, if traveling has taught us anything, I would hope it's to live in the moments of discomfort. To look at it in a positive light because that means something is changing. You are back where you were before but you're not happy because something. has. changed. And you can feel it to your core when this happens. It's a surreal, profound occurrence.
In order to live with these times however, I had to adjust my way of thinking. This fell into a lot of self love exercises because I constantly felt the need to say something negative about this point in my life. "Why aren't you doing anything impactful with your life?" "You're never going to make a difference" "You're taking a step back." All of these were obviously wrong, I see that now but at the time this was how I initially saw the situation. Our instinct is to think in a negative light, our brains are almost trained that way. So to come out of a high with that sort of negative ideology, it was not a good combination to say the least.
Finding an outlet and a plan was the next step for me. After such an incredible journey, I wanted to do more and see more. So I made lists, did research and decided keeping a blog up to date on all of it was a way to have an outlet for my experiences. Hopefully somewhere along the way I could help others realize what they're capable of doing. Note: I do truly believe everyone is capable of traveling solo. And I think everyone should at some point in their lives.
When it comes to the travel bug, I think the comedown is often looked at as a time of uncertainty which means anxiety from not knowing, or unhappiness from where we're at in our lives. We grow impatient with our process. The challenge here however, is to look at it in a positive light, its something I still struggle with so I know no one is truly immune to the side effects. What if we train our minds to consider that the possibilities from that point are endless, and that we should feel lucky to have such an impactful journey that leads to this time in our life. What if the side effects lead us to a solution? Crazy thought.
That kind of growth doesn't come from just anything too, it comes from being outside of your comfort zone, being so in love with new ideas and possibilities that you think of things you'd never even imagined for yourself months ago, or maybe even weeks ago. The travel bug works swiftly and leaves you thinking what comes next? To live your life in those growth moments, filled to the brim with uncertainty, and topped with a dash of nostalgia for both old and new adventures. Thats the kind of life you want to live.
To those who've been bit by the bug:
1. Remember where you've been and what you took from those experiences
2. Look at this time of uncertainty as a time of reflection and self love
3. Never stop planning your next adventure, sometimes its okay to look forward to something in the future
4. Believe you are capable of anything you put your mind to, cause its true.
5. Be kind to yourself, and have patience, you will get to where you want to be, you have time
6. Find ways to get out of your comfort zone, even when you're not traveling
7. Consider having more deep conversations with those around you, and if they can't really do that maybe consider that you may need a different kind of friendship in your life
8. Never limit yourself
9. Find ways to make an impact in your community
10. Find ways to feel that sense of spirituality even when you're not traveling (for me it can be forms of meditation)