Where have you been? When last were you home? What does your mom think of it? What’s been your favourite place? Where are you going next?
These are all questions I’ve been asked and have answered. But the one I’ve been asking myself recently and probably the most important of all is “Why do I travel?” What motivates us- those who suffer from wanderlust- to sacrifice so much in order to see the world?
Let me begin by elaborating on something I think everyone should know about those who choose to be nomadic at some point in their lives. Sacrifice. For example; I can’t remember the last time I had a fully stocked kitchen, with all the necessary equipment and ingredients to make something delicious.
Today I made a concerted effort to watch how the chef on board put together a salad that I really like. Sounds simple. But if I wanted my cabbage, carrots, spring onion and peppers sliced and diced the right way, I’d need a knife better than any I’ve had the privilege of using over the past few years. Its amazing what you find yourselves using as kitchen equipment when things are temporary and you have to make-do. Then there’s the sesame seed oil and the raspberry vinegar that I would never have in my kitchen. Kitchens are stocked over time, the build-up of ingredients is a slow process and it’s something I’ve learnt to live without.
But I’ve never gone hungry and so I can’t complain. Something that this lifestyle does influence and one of the few regrets I think I might have later on is the fact that I miss out on special occasions back home. Now that I’m 25, my friends are starting to get to the point where they consider marrying their partners. Engagement parties, hen parties, weddings- these are all occasions that I might have to attend in spirit. There will always be a chance of me not having the capability to return home for them. My having been away also dictates weather or not I would even crack an invite to these things. This being said, all my close friends are yet to tie their men down so there’s hope for me yet. So long as they don’t forget my invitation.
Seeing my cousins grow up, spending time with my family, making memories with my close girl-friends and even growing a career are all things I think about and realise I’m missing out on.
So why do we do it? Why do I do it?
Its time to be honest. How I contracted this travel bug has everything to do with not wanting to face reality and get a real job. My Journalism degree forced me to spend a few weeks a year in a newsroom and these internship experiences were enough to put me off being a reporter. The early mornings and traffic put me off ‘normal’ work of any kind. So I am (kind of) proud to say that in the 3 years since the completion of my degree I have not once applied for what I would consider a ‘normal’ job. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s love of the road comes from a strong desire to avoid real life.
So now we know how it all started, but why did it continue. Here it goes…
After my first taste of the world out there I came home the same but different. My relationship picked up where it left off… or did it? There was a strong pull inside me urging me to get back on the road or miss out! Any status update or picture of someone overseas made me green with envy and unhappy with being back home. And unfortunately for my relationship, and the good man who made up half of it, I would not be 100% satisfied with life unless I got back out there. You’re probably thinking- well what does this have to do with why you carried on travelling?
After four years together, his moving on while I was in Chile was something that has taken me a year and a half to make peace with. I know what you’re thinking, it doesn’t add up. I was so ready to leave. But hear this, I am a woman and thus innately complicated. I want what I can’t have and this was no exception. To come to terms with the closing of that chapter was a long and difficult process and one that, I’m sure, has kept me on the road. This is a recent observation of mine, something I am aware of only in hindsight. Perhaps I owe it to my ex for finding love so quickly. I have no doubt that my desire to travel was at one point more of a need to run away.
A lot of people who you meet living abroad will tell you they’re doing it for the love of it, but I think some of them don’t even realise how much of a role escapism is playing. It could be something small like avoiding a mundane office job, or something bigger like a difficult family situation, or maybe the loss of a loved one. My uncle, The African Overlander, started his adventure to escape substance abuse. And let me tell you that there is no greater therapy. The things you will experience when you step foot off that plane, could and should help heal your wounds. It’s just something you’ll have to trust me on.
Its safe to say that my desire has turned into a need. I need to see this world in its entirety. I realise now that this is truly a passion and it is just a pity that money doesn’t grow on trees. It would be way easier if my passion were, say, coin collecting. I get on a train, I sit for two hours, I get off in a new and exciting place. Yesterday it was just a birds-eye image on google maps, but now I’m here trying to figure out my way from the station to my hostel. And that in itself is inexplicably exciting to me.
But above all, I think why I travel is because I have one life. Have you realised how different you look in photos now compared to 5 years ago? Imagine in another 5 years, or 20. We get old and we die. And speaking for myself, I’m not entirely sure what we were put here for. The meaning of life and all that. So when its time to go, if I can look back and say, “damn, I had a good life. I grabbed it by the hand and ran.” That would be nice. And very important, cliché as it sounds- no regrets. When possible 😉