I am more scared than I am excited to board one of these next week!
You would think because this is my fifth time booking flights for a long-term trip that I would be excited and happy and ready to leave. Except that’s not how I feel at all.
It’s interesting that I feel this way because I come home from traveling with an ache and longing in my heart that is hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it yourself. It is always so difficult for me to readjust to ‘normal’ life and I grieve the loss of traveling terribly. But over the course of the six months I am at home, I manage to settle quite contentedly into my life amongst family, friends, and a job. And when those six months are up and it comes time to face the world again, I often find myself feeling scared, anxious, and worried about what is ahead of me.
There’s something different about long-term travel. It’s not just a week or two away from family and friends, or even setting up in a new city for a semester abroad or for a new job. Those are all different as the former is temporary and there is a very tangible end in sight. The latter, you have a base and an area to call your new home and will build a community around you full of new colleagues and co-workers. Going on a long term trip with nothing but faintly hazy plans, hopping from country to city to town, is very unique and takes a different type of courage. A solo, nomadic-travel lifestyle isn’t always easy or comfortable, and that’s why I am always more nervous than excited before I leave.
I am scared because the unknown is looming straight ahead of me and I have little idea of what that consists of. I am leaving all family and friends and “Western” comforts behind me (I really do miss my bed!), to throw myself into a world that is unknown, unfamiliar, and sometimes a little scary. I have no clue what joys and sorrows the next half-year will bring me or who it will bring into my life. And knowing that I will do it all on my own thousands of miles away from the things I find comforting in life, strikes a tiny chord of fear and anxiety in my heart. I always spend the lead up weeks to my trips imagining just what it will all be like: how the places will smell, what it will look like, and how friendly the locals will be. Will I encounter serious problems? Will I get sick? Will I have the time of my life or struggle to enjoy myself? Will this be the life-changing trip that long-term travel seems to always promise?
I could plan out every detail and moment of my trip for the next six months and have peace of mind knowing my itinerary, but not only is that not very fun or spontaneous, it also takes a huge amount of research that isn’t very inspiring either. I like to keep my plans open, with general ideas of where I want to go and what I want to do. This is the best possible way to ensure that I follow my heart when I travel and don’t get stuck in travel plans that don’t suit me anymore. This is also the best possible way to be happy, because at the end of it all, I’m looking for experiences that will fulfill me and inspire me in ways that sitting at home never will.
I keep a motivational quote from Lemony Snicket posted in my room to remind myself that “if we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” Sometimes, you just have to go and do things that are scary, because more often than not, it will be that scary thing that pushes you towards the next big adventure in your life. So Africa, I’ve got my tickets booked, my bags are half packed, and fear or no fear, I’m coming for you!