19 Sep The Highs and Lows of Travel : Is Traveling Overrated?
Recently, on an excruciatingly long and uncomfortably turbulent flight from South Africa to Washington D.C., I came across an article in the in-flight magazine that said all of the inspiring things I always try to explain, and often want to say. Surprisingly, 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 basically gone 27 days without communication with friends and family, and you are already stressing out about trying to find a place to nap on the airport floor when you land, and figure 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 awful and relentless. The in-flight entertainment had shut off and the plane had gone 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 form the sentences that I want to say. My friendships are stained because I am never around for birthdays and weddings. There is always a concern for money and of course safety when traveling to 2nd and 3rd 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 feel 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.