Reinventing My Travel Philosophy

by Britta-Lis on February 26, 2011

in Food For Thought,Travel

Whenever I move to a new place, it’s around the six-month mark that my wanderlust starts to set in again. It doesn’t matter where I am — it happens whether I’m in Alaska or Hawaii or South America — I guess it just matters that I’ve stayed put for half a year. So it’s strange that I’ve only just begun to experience a few half-hearted pangs of travel longing recently: I’ve been in my current place for more than nine months.

Glacier Creek, Girdwood, Alaska

Glacier Creek, Girdwood, Alaska

Six months, nine months. Not a huge difference, you might think. But when you’re lusting after every place you’ve never been to in the world, three months can be an eternity.

And yet, an eternity is not what I’ve experienced this winter. In fact, it’s been exactly the opposite: time has flown. So quickly, in fact, that I actually gasped this morning when I realized just how close to the end of February it is. Wait, wasn’t I just trying to make chocolate mousse for Valentine’s Day? (It was successful, by the way, but definitely not a travel-friendly recipe: I spent the entire week trying to get rid of the rest of the heavy cream.)

And so, I feel an odd sort of worry rising in my gut about this unusual lack of wanderlust — I suppose I need something to replace that restlessness, since it’s been ever-present in my life ever since I realized the world was bigger than my backyard. I don’t devour my travel magazines as soon as they arrive, I don’t read the travel posts in my RSS reader before everything else anymore, I’m just as interested in the news in my part of the world as I am in the news from the other parts of the world. It’s an odd thing for me, whatever this is, this contentment with where I am.

Outgoing Tide, Sunset, Turnagain Arm

Outgoing Tide, Sunset, Turnagain Arm

At the end of my trip to Europe last year, I was just ready to go home. I spent a bunch of extra money to change my flight home from Sweden so that I could spend extra time with my family in California, before I returned to Alaska. Before I left for Europe, I thought that, because I had felt cooped up for so long, without the money or the time or the opportunity to visit the places I was dreaming of, I would hit the road and stay on it, not returning to anything familiar for a couple of years at least. And then, ten months rolled around, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the U.S., and Alaska, and just stay put for a while. It’s not what I expected of myself and, quite frankly, I was a little disappointed in myself that I couldn’t keep it going for longer.

I’ve been freelancing since I returned (ostensibly, I was freelancing while I traveled, too), and I’ve been working hard. I was expecting the isolation and loneliness that go with working from a home office to bring on my wanderlust sooner. But now that I think about it, I realize that the freedom and autonomy that also go with working from a home office are probably what is staving off my restlessness. In all of my other living situations, I had a regular job, where someone else dictated what I did and when I did it, and made me feel more confined, and induced a longing for the freedom and un-structure that travel provides. Freelancing, where it’s only me who decides what I do and when I do it, gives me freedom and un-structure on a daily basis, so I guess I don’t have to dream about what I already have.

Or maybe it’s age — does your philosophy on life start to change as soon as you enter a different demographic? Or maybe it’s money — working for myself is both more difficult and more rewarding than working for someone else, but it’s also much less lucrative. Or maybe it’s family — now that I have a nephew, I have become that doting aunt, and when I think about my relationship with my own doting aunt, I know I want to be just as involved in Passage’s life as she was in mine. Probably, it’s all of the above, and more.

In the last three or so years, during which I have been a marketing manager, an innkeeper, a caregiver, a traveler and a business owner, not to mention a designer and a writer, I have succeeded in learning a lot about myself. I learned that I am stimulated and uplifted by unfamiliar and novel experiences, people and interactions, but I also need time to process them and place them in the context of my life, and to re-energize afterward, since they can be as draining as they are stimulating.

New Snow on the Trail to Town

New Snow on the Trail to Town

I learned that when I have one main thing to do, whether it’s writing an ad or taking care of my grandma or visiting a museum full of Renaissance art, I will use up all of my creative energy for the day on that one thing, and will be unable to do a second or a third creative thing, be it any of the above. I learned that long-term travel itself can be a job of sorts, and I didn’t have the energy to keep up with my freelancing, or even, toward the end, with my blog. Writing helps me process my experiences, but writing a blog for an audience is more like a job — editing, rewriting and publishing use up my energy, rather than restoring it. Toward the end of my trip, I still did a lot of journaling, but not a lot of blogging.

I learned that I love to cook, and that I feel unhealthy and wasteful when I can’t do it for a while. Travel, and its myriad tastes and smells and flavors, feeds my love of cooking, and food shopping at markets and people-watching at markets are my favorite travel activities.

Also, I learned that I like coming home, where hugs and familiar smiles await.

Now that I know all those things, I am rethinking my travel philosophy. I still see myself wandering about the world, I’m just no longer sold on the epic rambling I thought I wanted. I do know the two-week vacation, however, is definitely not sufficient; I think that two or three months would be ideal. I’ll find a short-term apartment or a long-term vacation rental, and I’ll have time to both explore the region and to freelance (since I’ll still have to work to fund my adventures), I’ll have a kitchen to do some cooking with local ingredients and flavors, and after a couple months I’ll still get to come home and be reunited with the people I love and the places I am familiar with, and where I’ll have more time and room to experiment with the flavors and cooking techniques I’ve just learned.

All of it does, of course, depend on the return of my wanderlust. It seems to be returning, but it’s sure slow to show itself. It’s ironic to miss something that has caused me so much distress in the past. But, it has also spurred me onto some amazing experiences and adventures. I don’t want to stop having those, so please, wish it on me, will you?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Pat Perry February 26, 2011 at 10:31 pm

WOW – how to pick when to take that 3 month wanderlust trip? Before Passage starts communicating with Auntie or after he starts running and chasing you around or ???? Tough call! Miss Alaska in the summer? or the winter sports? I’d vote for missing breakfup – but return in time to enjoy the magic of the instant greening of Alaska that last about a week. The time when everything growns leaves and buds in an overnight, or nearly, time frame. Tough call!

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