To Travel or Not To Travel: That is the (Existential) Question
For the better part of the last 6 months, the question of whether or not to travel threw me into an existential crisis. When I say travel, I mean I was deciding to relocate somewhere far away (or maybe just continue spending a month or two here and there). Since joining the Project Travel team, I have been able to work from anywhere. I imagined my new life in Seattle, San Francisco, Boulder, or New York. Hadn’t I waited for this moment for a decade?
Yet for the first time in memory, I felt paralyzed by this choice rather than excited by it. Was it possible that I wanted to…stay? As in, sign a lease, unpack boxes, and buy furniture?!?!
I felt my priorities shifting. I felt my identity slipping. Panic-inducing questions flooded my psyche. If I stay, especially in a place I never thought I would live, does that mean I am settling down? Does it mean I am giving up my dream of location independence or that I will lose touch with the reality of the road? Will I get too comfortable? Will I miss out on an opportunity? Will I feel bored or stuck?
Thankfully, a calm voice of truth reminded me that travel is not inherently or always the right decision (eesh…how did that slippery little assumption make itself so at home in my head?!). I remembered that any decision based in fear ultimately leads to unsatisfying outcomes. So I decided that it was time for a change and I took the plunge and stayed.
Why did I stay? I am still trying to unpack that one. What I do know is that after a year of travel around the United States and South America, I was longing for the kind of human connection that can only be cultivated with time and space in a shared geographic location. I love my global friend network, but after 10 years of consistent travel, I was reaching my Skype-friend limit and feeling a bit lost and disconnected. Normally travel has the effect of mobilizing and energizing me towards a new opportunity and an unknown and exciting destiny.
This time I felt mostly a weariness about the prospect of spending the kind of energy I know it takes to adjust to a new place and a new norm. Travel felt like an escape route or a way to avoid this unfamiliar confusion. Perhaps paradoxically, change through travel is my habit. What has become novelty, however, is staying. Not traveling. Not even planning to travel. (I make no commitments to the duration of this last statement…)
So here I am. Not traveling. Maybe I will get bored. Maybe I will have to contend with some of the drama and minutia associated with being a local someplace. But I also get to see the friends I make on a regular basis. I can attend family functions. I can grow plants! Perhaps most importantly, I can learn the lessons one can only learn by staying. For me, this means grappling with questions or thought-patterns I avoid because I am too distracted to pay attention to them. It also means learning how to form habits again.
Ever since I committed to not traveling, I have begun to discover the joys associated with stillness. I have no doubt the healthy urge to travel will knock my socks off again some day, but for now I’m giving thanks that I chose not to travel out of a fear of staying.