I was sitting in a liquor store a few years back, probably eating a Subway sandwich. It was either that or one of those $6 rotisserie chickens from the grocery store.
Having just read Thoreau’s Walden Pond, thoughts of travel were spurred.
So I asked myself: does traveling make someone a better person, or is it just a vacation from the normalcy of life?
“What do you think?” I asked my coworker Sam.
“I think traveling is always good,” he said. “It broadens a person’s horizons.”
“Sure, but then there are people who travel just for the sake of traveling. They get on the airplane, check into their hotel, see a few touristy things, and then head home. That isn’t traveling,” I told him.
At the time I hadn’t traveled much. I saw a few states and heard a few accents, but the most cultured thing I had done to that point was talk to foreign exchange students.
Years have passed, countries have been seen, and still the answer eludes me. Airplanes and time zones have maxed out my emotions. What just two years ago felt special and unique suddenly feels exhausting. The calm summer nights of Minnesota now seem desirable.
Coming to this conclusion is depressing. Gone is the excitement of loading a new location on Tinder, replaced by feelings of emptiness, knowing that whomever I meet will only be temporary. New food tastes good, but once your stomach has been put through the ringer enough times, Chipotle becomes all the more valued.
The joy of being a foreigner in new places has its perks, but I’m not building anything out here. When this phase of my life is over, there will be nothing to go back to.
Perhaps that means it’s time to go home and get serious, begin to build a financial foundation that will support me long after the joys of youth have given way to maturity and responsibility.
I’m worn out, tired of hearing questions from others that I cannot answer. There is something people can see in me that I can’t see in myself, a potential that needs a push to be reached.
Maybe this is why old people spend all their time in warm states, baking under the sun until their skin practically grabs the sunscreen from the cabinet.
I came to Colombia to improve my Spanish, but two months in I’ve learned that to develop fluency in an alternative language requires a long-term commitment.
It’s hard to commit, in all walks of life.
“Buenas dias,” I start most mornings with, greeting the lady at the gym with a smile that each day becomes harder to force.
Her face, along with many others, have meshed together, leaving me with one thought: we’re all just people.
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Some of us have more money or speak a different language, but in my time seeing the world, the basic human components are still the same: love, stability, and family.
It’s not like people in Thailand live differently than those in America. People elsewhere go to work and drink beer. Others kiss their grandkids on the forehead and feel happy for the life they have lived.
The other night I started reading about the best nightclubs in Lima, Peru. For a good five minutes, I was convinced that going there and chasing women would be fun, a unique experience.
But then I thought a little longer, let the emotion subside, and like a seasoned vet, my mind convinced itself that going there wouldn’t bring happiness. It would only move me further from where I belong, which is back in the States (hopefully not somewhere cold) making money.
The happiest moments in my life don’t involve me. They always involve making someone else feel good. But then there is that ego, the part of the psyche that tries to convince me that my needs supersede all else. It’s hard to fathom that an enemy burns inside my body.
You know what?
It’s time to start giving back. In what ways, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve reached a point. Getting that passport stamped doesn’t have the same buzz it once did.
By the way, South Korea doesn’t stamp passports; they only give you a little slip. How unromantic.
I don’t know where happiness lies, but it isn’t in tiny airplane seats that I bought on the clearance rack. This desire for change isn’t me riding off to the sunset as someone who has accomplished something.
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I’m still just a skinny dweeb trying to find some answers to what happiness looks like. I’d love to continue traveling, but perhaps in the future I’ll stay in actual hotels and not bargain Airbnbs. It also would be nice to bring someone along and see their experiences firsthand.
“You should come here and see this place for yourself,” I have told my dad many times.
“I’ll probably never leave the country again,” he always says, at his age content to let life continue along.
That’s a peace I can’t attain. Going home to sit down and watch Netflix seems boring, but in many ways it’s a privilege. Only those who have built something have a place to do this. Trying to watch reruns on your computer just doesn’t do it.
“Well, what do you think?” Sam then asked me.
I didn’t initially respond, my eyes locked on a dude outside the window who was filling his gas tank. His life seemed so romantic at that moment, having the freedom to go wherever he pleased.
“I don’t know, bro,” I told Sam, reaching down to consume more food.
“That’s not a good answer,” he said.
I looked over at him and smiled.
“Maybe it’s just nice to know what’s out there.”
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