I was watching a movie in which the female protagonist was asked the question of what she wanted to do with her life. When she finally gave her response she said, ‘I want to travel.’
It seemed to say it all. Leaving behind the familiar to witness different ways of life has become a universal thirst. There doesn’t seem to be one person who can’t tell you in an instant the countries and places they are dying to traverse. It’s as though everybody seems to hold on to some version of a dream of taking time out to explore far-flung continents.
Except for me.
Somehow, I’ve never quite understood the pull of long-term travel. I have always had the tendency to liken it to going on an elongated holiday, whereas, personally, I see more appeal in the idea of integration. Rather than seeking out the romance of another nation, I believe the real experience comes from living somewhere. And I mean really living, amongst the locals, working, grocery shopping, participating in every day life in another culture, from the mundane to the curiously remarkable.
I have lived and worked in different European cities and have been in London for ten years. I did want a change – I looked into expatriating to Singapore or Dubai but, after some initial job interviews, the opportunities just didn’t seem to work out. So I stayed put and embraced being in London. In fact, while my friends were coming back from long-term travels and slowly settling down, I also decided to save up money and take the plunge to achieve my own live-long dream: buy a house. And now that I am so close to reaching this goal, I find in myself a sudden change. A seed must have been planted along the way because a few weeks ago I just woke up and thought, screw it. I am going to get out of here and travel.
I can tell you my motivation is vast and good, and it is, there are many reasons why I want to go and travel. But I would be lying. The main reason is that I really, really want to run away.
The reason is that I came out of a very short and very intense relationship, and even though it ended last year, I still wake up almost every day feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus. The impression this person left on me is so much greater than anyone I’ve ever met and I can only wish I didn’t still feel like I would do anything for him. Anything. And going through what’s ended up being the most beautiful, deeply painful and tumultuous time of my life, it’s like the events and emotions have seeped into my physical body and have become part of me. And fundamentally, I realise, I am nothing like I was.
So I decided to lean into it.
Leave behind this feeling of being a Londoner and belonging somewhere. Let go of that cynical city attitude and the rush of Western life. Learn to lose control and slow down just a little bit. Do something for someone else. The one time I offered to make tea at work, I am sure there was cheering. Get over the absurd fears that consume me: walking into a room filled with strangers and being too scared to introduce myself, wandering across a restaurant floor without knowing where the restrooms are. Instead, I want to meet new people, witness the exotic sceneries I have seen passing by in pictures, volunteer, do some personal retreats and just, travel. Maybe I’ll come out a little bit nicer and grow a little bit of compassion. Maybe I’ll open up. Force myself out of that bubble of self-importance. Take advantage, somehow, of this time of change and turbulence and learn from it. Now that would be something.