Losing my motivation to travel

For a long time I had been fundamentally unhappy with my life in New Jersey. This is all in spite of being close to my family and friends, having a great job, taking classes that I enjoyed, and being on the path to embarking on a career that I was truly passionate about. I felt restless, and traveling filled that void.

I finally got away and traveled for three months. I came back and all I could think about was leaving again. I left for two months the next summer. But when I came back this time, I realized that there was no way I could save money for a trip while working as a student teacher. It looked like the next time I’d be able to leave was the fall or winter of the following year.

It gave me a sinking feeling. The only time I really felt like I was living was when I was traveling.

capri2

I continued to spend hours a day trip planning and reading travel blogs. Then school really kicked into gear. After years of learning about theory, I was finally being taught how to teach. My classes inspired me and spending time at a school for fieldwork was so rewarding. I wasn’t just getting by, or doing okay–I finally started to love what I was doing.

As a result…my travel plans took a backseat, along with this blog. I wondered what would happen if I was offered a teaching job after graduation: would I turn it down so that I could still travel?

I vacillated on the answer. Then I looked at my travel account and realized I was about $2,000 behind where I should be right now.

I haven’t been saving. I’ve lost my sense of urgency. I don’t have the constant, overwhelming urge to leave because I’ve found a good amount of contentment at home. I love traveling. But I think a significant part of me loved getting away.

Santorini

I needed to make a decision about the South America trip. If I was still going, then I needed to crack open the Lonely Planets that have been sitting on my shelf, gathering dust.

I usually make travel an unquestioned priority. I stack my days with extra work, take on side gigs I’d rather not do, obsess over budgets, buy shitty groceries, leave my living room unfurnished, miss out on time with the people I care about. On some days last year, I used to leave my house at 5:30 in the morning and return around 11:00 at night. I’d merge onto the Garden State Parkway on the drive home and cry from exhaustion.

Sometimes all I wanted to do was slow down. Enjoy my time with friends and family. Read books. Write. Have a day off to sit in bed with a coffee.

And sometimes I wanted a little more: to stay somewhere long enough to develop a relationship with someone. To stop submitting change of address forms.

Not having roots makes it so easy to leave. But it also made me a little sad during the long months spent at home.

So as the days at home stretched on, I continued to ask myself, “Is this enough?” And for a long time, the answer was yes.

Until it wasn’t.

One day I ran my hands over my blue South America guide book and opened it with a satisfying crack of the spine. I saw the places I had highlighted and the notes in the margins from months ago. And it made me think of planning for my last trip–how hopeful I had been, trying to imagine myself between the lines on the page. I think it will be…Maybe I’d like…What about…This seems…

And then there’s the moment when it all becomes reality. Walking down cobblestone streets in Lisbon and shielding my face from the sunlight in at the port in Barcelona and long ferries along the Adriatic Sea and winding bus rides along the Amalfi Coast and stumbling over good morning in a new language and shifting my backpack with a map in hand and landing in a new city with no accommodation, no hostel, no plan, and that rush of thinking what will I do but also what will happen next? Where will I go, who will I meet, what will break my heart?

When I am still and think about what I want from my life, that’s what consumes me. I want to see the world.

But there is still a tension building, because while I want to go, I am tired of starting over when I come back, tired of a life half-lived at home.

So I will budget. I will plan. I will do it all again. And I wonder if this is the last time.

6 comments

  1. Good insight.

    I myself felt trapped in the monotony of day to day life (even though I always managed to take at least 2-3 vacations each year, including one that was at least 2-3weeks long). Last year I left Vancouver for Australia / NZ, traveling for 4 months, then settling in Sydney for another 7 months to live and work until my visa ran out.

    I have been back for since March of this year; at first my plan was to go off somewhere again for an extended period after the summer (Maybe the UK, maybe even New Zealand for a whole year). Then my plan changed to maybe trying to build my career back here. Now, I’m starting to wonder once again if I can settle for this, or if I should look into going somewhere for an extended period once again – even though I have gone on four trips since returing!

    The main problem is the money (or lack of it, mostly), and the balance of when is enough enough… I AM 29 years old. Is it time to grow up and build roots yet, or am I too young to settle?

    TIme will tell, I guess.

    • I’m jealous you got to live and work in Australia! That’s one of my dreams. And I can relate to this: “Is it time to grow up and build roots yet, or am I too young to settle?” I struggle with that all the time. Most of my friends have embarked on their careers and I feel pressure to do the same, but I want more than anything to see the world.

      The money part though…that’s the worst! I would be gone the minute I graduated if I had the means to.

  2. I would say you have a third option: teaching overseas. I’m working to get a teaching job overseas right now. Generally you get paid a lot better than in the states, you live somewhere interesting, and you can travel extensively on your breaks. If you’re interested, I could supply more information.

  3. When I was in grad school Brazil was the only thing I thought about, so I applied for a scholarship to teach English there, and here I am. It’s an easy way to fund travel, and because I only work part time, I have plenty of time to do just that. I’d encourage checking it out. I know of English Teaching Assistantships in Spain and France too. I can send you what I know, if you’re interested.

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