Thursday, November 13, 2014

On Traveling And Finding My Way Back Home

I think it's safe to say I'm a seasoned traveler.

I took my first overseas voyage at age 3 months, and my first solo plane trip at age 8. In addition to frequent trips back to the motherland, my immigrant parents were determined to explore this great new country of theirs, so we spent weeks of my childhood summers piled in the Mercury Grand Marquis, armed with a bright yellow highlighted path on our AAA TripTik, a cooler full of Capri-Suns, and a Polaroid camera. Niagara Falls, colonial Williamsburg, the Smoky Mountains, California redwood trees, even the 1980 World's Fair in Nashville, Tennessee- we were road warriors and cultural observers.  

I spent my junior year in college living and traveling through Europe, and then came back to graduate so I could travel through Australia, before landing a job in the (wait for it) travel industry. I married a fellow lover of travel and consider it to be a sign of love, and not one that he's trying to get rid of me, when my he buys me luggage for my birthday. And while many find the mere idea of traveling with children daunting enough to just stay home, our kids have already discovered the great art of collecting (passport) stamps. 
Is there anything funnier than toddler passport photos? 

All that travel has taught me many lessons. I learned to make creme brûlée from a Parisian taxi driver when I mistakenly asked for a "recipe" and not a "receipt." I learned that the water, and everything else, really does go down the toilet the other way in the southern hemisphere, particularly after a rowdy New Year's celebration in Sydney. And I learned that all the planning and organizing and packing in the world won't help if you don't remember a certain toddler's stuffed ladybug on the kitchen table when you leave for a week at the beach. 

Yes, over the years I've gotten very good at leaving; it's the return trip that has always been the challenge. Sure, everyone gets the end-of-vacation, return-to-reality blues, but in my case, they've been... slightly exaggerated. What would begin with sniffles toward the end of the trip would often escalate to hysterical sobbing on the appointed day, which would continue, much to the dismay of my seat mates, all through the flight. My emotional baggage was far too big for the overhead bin and certainly wouldn't fit under the seat in front of me; it exploded under pressure (much like the dozens of baby food jars my parents once tried to bring to Egypt) and left behind a soggy, blubbering mess.

Because here's the problem: instead of just traveling, taking a trip from the ordinary, or a bit of an escape from my routine, for many years I think I was actually trying to take vacations from myself. So deeply dissatisfied with ME, I used travel as my personal ticket out of my own life. In mid-air, or in a different state, a different country, I could even make myself believe I was someone else. Someone better, someone more exciting, more accomplished. Someone with fewer relationship issues, job issues, health issues, money issues.

And then, once the trip was over, reality would come crashing back faster than a speeding 747. We're not talking about a little turbulence- every trip ended with a sudden and dramatic crash landing. There was no use bracing for impact or putting on an oxygen mask; it was all over.

My parents somehow put up with it. I'm sure my college and grad school roommates found it odd, but they helped keep the kleenex coming. And my husband tried to cushion the blow by always trying to plan another trip immediately upon coming back.

But at some point, I'm not even sure exactly when or how, I got tired of my own behavior. Tired of the tears, the drama, the heartache. That's when I decided to change my flight path, and I came home for good.

I didn't stop traveling- not by any means. And it's not like all my problems magically went away: I still have those same feelings of not being good enough, not being exciting enough, not being accomplished enough. There are still relationship issues, job issues, health issues, money issues.

The difference is, I'm not trying to run, or even fly away from them anymore.

I can escape the cold, I can escape from work, but I'm done trying to escape from myself. 

Because all that baggage- it's mine.

This life I've been given- I cherish it.

This path I've chosen- I own it.

And this place called "home"- I now choose to carry it with me everywhere I go. 

It's the best trip I've ever taken.

Our most recent trip: November 2014

1 comment:

  1. Nice story about traveling...from a place called angst to a place of contentment. Thanks for sharing!