What happens when the music stops?
Traveling place to place, always on the move. New sights, new sounds, new people. Being employed is a distant memory and stretching every dollar is both creative and crucial to survival and the purchase of the next beer. Your belongings are being constantly added to, subtracted from and reevaluated when it becomes backbreaking just to relocate to another hostel and the overhead compartment on the next transfer is no longer going to cut it. There’s the constant new interactions with others, as described by Dan Hackett,
“met so many people in such a short space of time, and after a while it becomes a repetition. You start living the same conversation for the twentieth time. And making the same mistakes.”
This can be tiring, no doubt. But if you’re happy keeping things on the surface for your brief stay in one location, sometimes welcome. Your ice-breaking moves are honed, social skills refined, exit strategies perfected.
There’s also opportunity to move away from the small talk. An inspiring and intriguing social experiment by Kalina Silverman. “Big talk.” Asking bigger questions to create more meaningful connections and relationships. Either option is usually determined largely by how much sleep I’ve had.
Travel also has the intoxicating effect of putting responsibility for the future on hold. It’s an incredible feeling. The anxiety of making large or important decisions take a back seat to fun, adventure and mistakes that have no real lasting impact. It’s decisions like whether an extra night out is a good idea, as it has a direct impact on how much you can spend on food tomorrow vs. choosing a career path and enrolling in tertiary education to make the career choice possible.
Then you step off the Merry-go-round.
Either your money runs out, you miss home or are simply worn out from constant movement with your worldly belongings securely strapped to your back. Whatever the reason, you bought the return ticket home, unpacked your belongings and are wondering what to do next. Constant movement and spontaneity is replaced by a lease agreement and a job. You haven’t caught a Greyhound bus or negotiated airport security in months. Months turn into years, as the clock turns a little faster on the back of daily responsibility and routine. It’s nice not having to check your mattress for bed bugs or listen to amorous interactions as you search for your iPod in your 12 bed dorm, but something is missing.
Facebook is filled with post-holiday depressions and “take me back to …” headlines. Nostalgia can be a bitch. Scrolling your Instagram profile is depressing. Seeing friend’s current travel exploits make you question whether you have should sell some belongings and sign up for email alerts on flight deals. Just as likely, you’re happy with routine and stability that life off the road gives you. You take comfort in steady relationships and find joy in routine. We are all creatures of habit and it’s something to embrace.
I wasn’t sure what the mood of this article would be while writing it. My attempt was not to depress, but to encourage myself (and you) to take responsibility for decisions made. Life has settled into one place for me for the first time in a few years (albeit I live in a new country now) and it was a good opportunity to address some internal nagging. Comparing where you are and what you’re doing to someone else will do you no good.
So I put it to you,
What has happened to you once the trip comes to an end? Are you happy with settling down? Or is the travel bug nestled firmly under your skin?