So, it’s been nine months since I returned to America.
And, I have a confession:
I am starting to freak out knowing that I’ve been living a stationary existence for nearly one year.
It scares the hell out of me.
More and more I have been feeling waves of panic wash over me as my one-year anniversary of being home ticks ever closer.
It has left me paralyzed, lying awake at night, just thinking about having to think about my future. And what I want. And what I don’t want. And, imagining a life of not moving.
The fact that in September I won’t be able to end my day thinking back to where I was at the same time last year makes me cringe. It nearly physically hurts me to know that almost a year has passed since I left Croatia.
I watch everyone here go about their day-to-day activites, talking their business deals, shaking hands over lunch, cell phones at the ready … and it bothers me. Not because they do it, but because I am doing it, too.
Why does it effect me like this?
There is a morning I remember so clearly. So perfectly.
I was walking along the roof top terrace of a hotel I had been invited to visit. There I was … in the heart of Marrakesh’s medina, looking out over the pinky-orange roof tops playing off the bright blue sky, of the minarets piercing the horizon … when BAM! my life made sense.
It’s that moment every person craves — the moment of clarity. When everything just clicks and you wonder to yourself “why on earth didn’t I realize this sooner?”
For me, it was coming to the conclusion nothing made me happier than traveling. It was committing to myself, on that rooftop terrace, from that second on, I was going to do whatever it took to make sure I could continue feeding this passion once I returned to America. I didn’t want to fall into the lifestyle people are accustomed to in America. I wanted to remain the way I was that morning …free. Happy.
From Morocco on, I had plans.
Spain. I was going to live in Spain. Somehow. And write and travel and write about traveling. Somehow.
And then, something happened. I got my American re-entry stamp on my passport.
I had sworn when I returned to America, I would no longer let things that didn’t matter, matter. I held tight to this resolve until I started looking for a job. Then, in a dressing room of a department store, I was resting my self-esteem on a dress and whether it made me look fat, instead of on my inner self. I was judging myself based on things I promised I wouldn’t judge myself on anymore.
Yes, I returned in an instant to the land of superficial.
When I got home, my promise to continue traveling wasn’t necessarily side-tracked, but put on hiatus. I had a dwindling amount of money left to my name, I had bills to pay. I had a life I needed to pick-up, even if temporarily, and whip into some quick shape.
It wasn’t easy.
Yes, within a month of returning, I knew I had a possible job. I knew where I wanted to live. I had put my mind to the challenge of re-entering and not falling on my face, and had aced it.
But, that inner turmoil was raging inside of me.
In the process, the promise I made to myself had faded. Now, it was more important to make money to live. Travel would still be there, but it wasn’t something I could wrap my mind around in addition to everything else.
Sure, I still talked about my plans. There isn’t a person in my life who doesn’t know I want to end up in Spain. But, those words, the love letters to my adventures, weren’t backed up by any action.
Suddenly, travel was just a dream and no longer a reality.
As these nine months have passed, I have been spending a lot more time wrapped in my thoughts. I find myself just sitting and thinking about a year ago, recalling things which had slipped my mind entirely — people, places, moments that meant so much to me and somehow had vanished in the desert.
I’ve been battling the same thoughts a lot in the past month:
What if I can’t settle down somewhere?
What if, as soon as I get comfortable, I can’t bare to feel that way anymore?
I mean, there isn’t a reason in the world I shouldn’t want to stay in Las Vegas. I have a great job. I have phenomenal friends. I have a nice and inexpensive roof over my head. I have belongings. And yet, not too deep down inside, I keep thinking over and over how easy it would be to just pack it all in again and go back out on the road.
There is something about travel that overwhelms me. Makes it hard to breathe. Makes my heart race. As an ex-smoker, I can confidently state remaining stationary for a long period of times makes me feel the same as withdrawing from nicotine.
Yeah. Traveling is an addiction. It’s also my reality check. It reminds me I don’t need a cell phone. Or a fancy dress. Or a nice car. I can be happy with a lot less. Happier.
Of course, all of this has been exacerbated by the recent presence of amazing people in Las Vegas whom I met on the road … back when the thought of moving back to Las Vegas made me shake my head and smile at its ridiculousness.
First, it was seeing Katie. Then, I had drinks with a couple I had met in Turkey when I was really a mess. We talked for a few hours and I marveled at their story. These two had spent years saving up money so they could travel. They did it for 18 months and are now wrapping it up for the time being. And of course, I am constantly reminded of my time in Bulgaria because Abby and I both live here and talk travel.
To help with my addiction, I turn my free time into work time. I spend my time when I’m not working, working. I have taken on some freelance travel blogging and travel writing gigs. So, not only does it provide some money to nestle into my baby baby savings account, but it lets me put my mind back into my clouds of travel, even if I’m not physically traveling.
It quiets the withdrawal, but doesn’t silence it.
So, I’m trying something new. For those times when I start to freak out about hitting my one-year mark, I am going to focus on the things I can do to make my Marrakesh realization a reality.
It won’t happen over night. Or in a month. Or six months. Or a year. But, it makes me feel better just knowing I have never not succeed at something I have put my heart and soul into. And, sooner or later, that addiction will be quenched.