28 Jul The Ugly Truth About Wanderlust
We are a rare breed.
We have consciously rerouted to the road less taken. We’ve said f*ck it to promising careers and chosen to climb down that corporate ladder. We’ve escaped the ruthless rat race that has been destroying the very core of our being.
We have gone against the crowd in search of something, and for most of us we don’t even know what it is. We continuously quench our thirst for the unknown. Almost blindingly, we keep on going until our wanderlust is satisfied. And just like an ugly addiction, we keep yearning for more, we want to explore futher and go deeper in our quests. We cannot imagine living our lives differently.
So what happens when you choose to make your own path? When you start living differently from the rest of the world? What would it feel like should you choose to come back home?
You will question your existence
Have I been irresponsible? Do I really want to do this forever? What the hell am I doing with my life?!? On long and painful 12 hour bus rides across Southeast Asia, these questions kept on popping up in my head. Any long term traveler will experience these self-defining moments in times of discomfort.
It’s healthy to get a clear perspective of your life choices and then taking the necessary actions to be proactive. Would you rather work like a robot and then realize you’ve wasted your life doing something you absolutely hate? If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
The ultimate goal is to follow your passions and do what you love. Most successful people don’t even feel like they’re working because they love what they do. Set your priorities straight and ask yourself: If money didn’t exist, would I still chase the same dream? If I could afford to pay for something I want to do every single day, what would it be? Then carefully examine if there’s a possibility for you to turn your passion into a career. Work doesn’t have to feel like a job.
I believe that our greatest task as human beings is not to follow the norms of society, but to muster the courage and determination to make our own paths. Our life purpose will clearly be defined when we are focused on the center of our beings. What is it that we want most in life? Then we must let go of expectations on how to live our lives, and instead, patiently let our own unique journey slowly unravel before us.
You will drift away from your family
In Asia where I come from, it’s normal for three generations or extended relatives to live together, unlike in the Western world where you’re expected to move out out of the house at the age of 18. I grew up thinking that this was a little harsh, but I realized that nothing teaches independence better than being totally responsible for your own actions. I’ve found that it’s also quite challenging to grow into your own unique being when you are under the scrutiny of every member of your family.
If you have loved ones that understand the life of travel you have chosen, like I do, that makes things a lot easier for you. But even so, you will miss birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, the birth of a new baby. Sure, they will try to update you, but losing these precious moments is something you have to deal with forever. All the gifts and souvenirs you bring back home will never compensate for your presence. You’ll have to live with the fact that you will never get those defining moments back.
But growing apart from my family doesn’t mean I love them less.
You will lose some friendships
Don’t expect all your friends to be there when you come back home. In our younger days, my friends and I planned sleepovers and beach trips at the drop of a hat. But now things are completely different. A lot of them now have busy work schedules, long term partners or are married with kids. Catching up over coffee is their last priority.
Traveling is a far fetched fantasy for some people and trying to summarize your six month backpacking trip without losing their attention is impossible. There will be lots of awkward moments, especially when you realize you’ve been blabbing about places they’ve never heard of and strangers they will never meet.
But in your travels, you will gain hundreds of new meaningful friendships from around the world. I realized that I now have more in common with the people I’ve met during my travels than with people I grew up with back home.
You wont fit into a box
“Where do you live?” is the most frustrating question you will ever hear. Only the post office employee at the Bangkok airport seemed to understand when I said that I didn’t have a return address. “Just write down your e-mail address”, he said patiently. He’s probably seen thousands of vagabonds send packages to their loved ones over the years.
But the rest of society will label you as a non-productive citizen. Yes, even if you are learning and seeing something amazing every single day. What box do you check anyway? “Employed, Self-Employed, Unemployed, Business, Others”? Where is the box for “Gap-Year” or “Just Traveling”?
Just like relationships, we have to learn to stop obsessing about labels. Have a simple explanation when people ask you “How do you pay for all your travels?” I used to get offended whenever people asked me this question. But I realized, most of them want to know because they want to know how they can make it happen for themselves too.
You might have to say goodbye before you’re ready
I’ve gotten better at packing my entire life in my 28 litre backpack. I no longer spend hours researching the perfect itinerary. I’m not as picky with hostels as I used to. One thing that I haven’t gotten better at is saying goodbye.
In my travels, I have met hundreds of kind hearted strangers who’ve helped me one way or another. I’ve had heart-to-heart life changing conversations with people whose names I’ve completely forgotten. I’ve had my fair share of spontaneous romances that were never really meant to last longer than our visas would allow.
So I live in the moment. I appreciate people for who they are and I make sure that they know how I feel about them. So that I don’t have any regrets in the end. I tune in to whatever lessons our relationship, no matter how short-lived, can teach me.
Then with teary eyes, I say goodbye, let go and move on. When I meet someone new, there’s a part of me that whispers, “Maybe things will be different this time around” and hope for the best.
While travel will no doubt make us more independent, love, no matter how often or how far you run away is ingrained within us, it is the essence of our beings. And that, we can never truly escape.
You feel like parts of you are in different places
At the risk of sounding completely insane, I seriously doubted my mental heath last year when I came back to Manila. I felt like I left my soul sailing around the pristine uninhabited islands of El Nido, but my heart has settled in my island home, Lombok. My Australian visa had just gotten approved, but my mind was contemplating on staying in Siargao. At the same time I couldn’t stop deciding whether to explore Southeast Asia or Latin America next. Ever had this feeling before?
On rare occasions, I wonder how easy it must be to be content with living and growing old in one town.
You will want to do it over and over again
The other day, I was sitting on my Indonesian batik sarong in Playa Negra, Costa Rica. Another solo female traveler took one look at my ethnic backpack, my colorful bracelets from every Southeast Asian country and said “You’ve got the travel bug, haven’t you?” She had it too.
Once you realize it’s possible to travel the world even without a lot of money, you’ll never want to stop. Why? Because travel has satisfied your curiosity and the world is now your playground. Because you want to see every country in the world not to check off a bucket list but because you know every one of them is uniquely different from one another. Because you know that each person you meet on the road can teach you priceless life long lessons.
Because in this world in which we travel, we are ultimately evolving as a more conscious human beings.
“Travel is a constant practice of moving, wandering and exploring. A careless obsessive state of both nostalgia and wanderlust. A delicate balance of holding on and letting go.
It’s perpetually being homesick and daydreaming back to places that have changed us forever. It’s longing for those people who have struck chords within our souls, at the same time anticipating strangers we have yet to meet along the way.
Travel can be a blessing or a curse, a voyage for new discoveries or an escape from brutal reality, a reward or consequence. It all depends.
So by all means, claim your birthright to travel. Wish and hope for it all you want. For now, I’ll choose mindful presence instead. Because here, there is no yearning, no maybes. Just the real essence and beauty of a brief moment in eternity. Only here and now will I ever feel completely home.” – Adi