Some people aren’t meant for convention.
For them, normalcy doesn’t necessarily mean consistency and structure is not an intrinsic part of their nature. The desire for a steady job, a home-base, and a routine may elude them because social paradigms do not dictate their path. Instead they crave adventure, irregularity, discomfort. This inherent need for something beyond the traditional insists that they keep running. And from this, long-term travelers are born.
Long term travel is not for the faint of heart. It requires you to be bold, fearless and independent. It calls for a certain level of forgoence. You need to be able to say goodbye to the things and the people that you love and more than anything else, you need to want the change that comes with that.
There are countless motivations for becoming a long term traveler. For me, avoiding stagnation is paramount. Manic depression, as fickle as it is, can become a bit of a routine. There are the ups: the frenzied, no sleep, creative benders. And then come the downs: a multi-day stint in bed. When I’m in the midst of one, I know the other isn’t too far off. As a creature of habit, falling into this routine while staying in one place would be easy; as if living an eternal Groundhog Day. Or I can choose to keep moving, refuse to concede and forbid the routine from becoming all I ever know.
More than anything else though, I think the biggest motivator, the point that acts as a common thread among long term travelers, is the desire to constantly recreate yourself. By habitually throwing yourself out of your comfort zone, you consistently create the opportunity for growth. Your idea of what your ‘best self’ looks like is forever evolving and striving for that better you becomes a sort of addiction. You need to learn more, do more, see more. You need to put check marks on your bucket list and meet people who will expand your worldview even further.
The thing about long-term travel though, the question that lounges on our lips and forever lurks in the back of our minds: Is it selfish?
Seeing the world requires some sacrifice. You must part with just as much beauty as you gain. For us, it feels necessary. The adventure is our life’s breath. But for those we leave behind, I can imagine it feels as though we’ve left in vain.
We miss our nieces’ birthday parties and our brothers’ graduation. We celebrate weddings and the birth of new babies via scrolling Facebook albums. Holidays we once spent at home are now spent with the family of friends we have made abroad. We’re absent for all of the big stuff. We become a name people throw around at gatherings rather than a present part of the world we came from.
And what’s worse than not being a part of the beautiful memories is not being there when tragedy strikes. For us, it’s almost surreal. The initial shock never really wears off because we aren’t there to see anything for ourselves. With this, closure is impossible, so as an act of self preservation we must compartmentalize. Put things in little boxes to be placed in different corners of our minds. Not because the death or the illness doesn’t affect us, but because we are so far removed from all the other people who are affected. We don’t have that ‘we’re in this together-ness’ because all the other grieving people are halfway across the Earth together, and we are… wherever we are. We’re no-shows at the funeral and an empty chair in the hospital room.
And maybe opting to be away for all of these things is somewhat selfish. Perhaps we’re choosing the I over the we, in some sense.
However, while someone else’s happiness may be found in settling down and starting a family, ours is found on an overnight train to a village we’ve never been to before. Just like a more stable spirit wouldn’t find fulfillment on the road, being in one place won’t feed our gypsy souls. I’d like to think that neither way of being is better and neither is wrong.
And I guess what long-term travelers hope that the ones we love understand is this: Being away from you isn’t easy. We wish we were there, too. It sucks to miss the good things and it’s even worse to be away for the bad.
But we’re not gone because you’re not enough, we’re gone because we can’t get enough. We can’t get enough of the adventure. We can’t get enough of the thrill. Of the perspective a new culture gives us. Of the sense of accomplishment that comes each time we feel like we’ve taken a step forward in honing our independence. We can’t get enough of the mind-opening conversations with a stranger in a local bar and we can’t get enough of the inspiration that strikes whenever a brand new view lies before us. We just weren’t meant for convention, see?
Most of all, we hope that we’ve made it clear that wherever we may go, we bring you with us.
And we hope that’s enough.