19 Sep The Highs and Lows of Travel : Is Traveling Overrated?
While crossing the Atlantic on a long, turbulent flight from South Africa to Washington D.C., I came across an article in the in-flight magazine that articulated a few of the inspiring ideals I am constantly trying to explain. In a pleasant surprise, this article came at a time when I needed a little motivation myself.
It’s so easy to appreciate traveling when you are lying in a tent, watching a herd of elephants and a herd of buffalo fight over a waterhole, or when you are walking the shoreline of a rocky beach at sunset. In those moments, why you travel makes sense, you know why you do it. But 17 hours into a 38 hour travel day, when you haven’t changed your socks in 3 days, all of your clothes are dirty, you’ve slept on the roof of a truck for 2 weeks, you are absolutely sick of airport food, you’ve gone 27 days without real communication from friends and family, and you are already stressing out about where you will nap on the airport floor when you land and figuring out how to work from the airport tomorrow morning on your last layover; it’s those times when morale can get a little low.
It was that moment when everyone was latching onto their armrests, seat belts fastened tight, and heads in their hands. The turbulence was abrupt and relentless, unlike anything I had experienced before. The in-flight entertainment shut off and the plane went silent. Floating somewhere off the coast of Western Africa, tired, scared, and filthy, I remember asking myself “Why do I do this?” The next few days are going to be hellish. Trying to catch up on 3 weeks of work and sleep, unpacking, cleaning our dirt covered possessions, and preparing for another trip in 3 days.
My rehearsed response for moments of doubt such as this one… “Why not?” It will be uncomfortable, it always is. Quite often, I am so tired that I can’t piece together the thoughts in my head to form coherent sentences. My friendships are stained because I am never around for birthdays and weddings and baby showers. There is always a concern for money and of course safety when traveling to second- and third-world countries. But each night, as I lay in bed – replaying my last great adventure in my head – it all makes sense. It’s all worth it.
Would I rather have the ‘traditional’ life, work 50 hours a week for a company that I have no emotional attachment to? Spend my weekends catching up on chores and the coveted Saturday night fighting for a parking spot outside of an overpriced restaurant that I will probably have to convince myself was better than it actually was? Or would I rather be covered in dirt and sweat, exhausted, praying that our plane doesn’t plummet to the earth from the constant shaking, wondering why I am always on such long flights, and remembering and replaying the highlight reel from the last 3 weeks in my head?
I am happy. I feel like I am using my life and most importantly, doing exactly what I want to be doing. I have to remind myself that it isn’t always easy and it isn’t always pleasant – but nothing can be perfect all the time. The bitter taste of well earned badges of discomfort and survival make the next destination even sweeter. And while all I want to do is curl up in my bed and not move for 2 weeks, I can’t help but daydream about where my next adventure will be.