One year after I started traveling, I was back home suffering from the classic telltales of reverse cultural shock, which no one seemed to understand and with increasing frustration (also to others) and dreams of getting on a plane as soon as possible a friend asked what I’m running away from. My mother constantly wants to know when I will “settle down” and join the “real world”. A boyfriend once commented on and told me to stop running away, face my daddy issues and live life.
I’m not sure why, but there is this perception out there that anyone who travels long-term and isn’t interested in settling down to be running away from something.They are just trying to “escape.”
The general opinion is that traveling is something everyone should do — that gap years after college and short vacations are acceptable. But for those of us who lead nomadic lifestyles, or just linger a bit too long somewhere, we are running away.
Yes, travel — but just not for too long.
Serial expats must have awful, miserable lives, or are weird, or had something traumatic happen to us that we are trying to escape from. We are like children who don’t want to grow up and are simply running away from “the really important things in life.”
And to all those people who say that, I say to you — you’re right. Completely right. Facing another move very soon (can’t count them by now anymore), I am running away. I have been since I slung my backpack over my shoulders and grabbed my trolley in 2000. But I am not trying to avoid life; I am just trying to avoid your life, even if I may consider to give it a go at some point later… Much later.
Running away from routine, commuting from home to the office without doing anything else, and weekend errands, and running towards everything the world has to offer. I’m running away from monotony, 9-to-5, rampant consumerism, and the conventional path. I will just travel some months, work long hours in others (because I don’t take jobs I hate and make me wonder of the meaning of the universe) and from time to time I won’t even sleep to get it all done.
I running towards the world, exotic places, new people, different cultures, and my own idea of freedom and living. I want to experience every culture, see every mountain and every good club, eat weird food, attend crazy festivals, meet new people, and enjoy different holidays and traditions from every corner. While there may be exceptions (as there are with everything), most people who become vagabonds, nomads, and wanderers do so because they want to experience the world, not escape some problem. We travel to experience life and live on our own terms.
Life is short, and we only get to live it once. I want to look back and say I did crazy things, not say I spent my life in an reading travel blogs, and wishing I was exploring the world. I chose employment that allows me to do that.
I am Latin-american, my perspective might be different from people from other regions of the world. In Mexico, you go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, and have your 2.5 children. Society boxes you in and restricts your movements to their expectations. It’s like The Matrix. And any deviation is considered abnormal and weird.
There’s nothing wrong with having a family or owning a house — many of my friends lead happy lives doing so. However, the general attitude is “you have do it this way.” I cannot say enough times that I don’t care about freezing eggs, aging ovaries and all that stuff. If that is in my cards it will happen.
And, well, I don’t want to be normal. Maybe you are happy with long commutes to have a nice an quiet environment to rise your kids and work in the city together with long work days. But I’m not. Life is too short for that. There are too many things to do and as famous philosopher Brian Adams once said “Never said no, try everything twice.”
Years ago a book called The Secret came out. According to The Secret, if you just wish for and want for something bad enough, you’ll get it. And in the last years a lot of kitchen Psychology has been published around how smiling at the world will naturally attract what you want. I don’t buy it.
The real secret to life is that you get what you want when you do what you want and work for it hard. Life is what you make it out to be. Life is yours to create.
We are all chained down by the burdens we place upon ourselves, whether they are bills, errands, or, like me, self-imposed rituals. I have been reflecting a lot upon this as this move is being difficult, I have the feeling to leave a lot behind… I m probably naturally getting older and there will be a time in which I will refuse a new city or a new country for my career of exploring what’s out there while getting some amazing and interesting work done. But I have to let go, travel, experience something new and maybe later come back.
People who travel the world aren’t running away from life. Just the opposite. Those that break the mold, explore the world, and live on their own terms are running towards living. We are running towards our idea of life. We get to be the captains of our ships even if lonely from time to time. We looked around at the norm and said, “I want something different.”
I am not running away. I am running towards the world. And I never plan on looking back. I spent three years in this town, the longest I have lived anywhere, the signs of leaving a place you made home and the nostalgia the whole thing carries are there when leaving my friends behind and facing with slight exhaustion the need I will have to build a life from scratch again but with more than a decade traveling I can say: You always meet twice and thanks God there is Facebook.
Here we go again.