When Travel Isn't Always an Option: Advice for a Rooted Life
I lived abroad in Florence, Italy for a year. I slept in grimy hostel beds, took overnight trains to foreign countries, and fell asleep on buses traveling from city to city. I was so poor I bought all of my clothes from a big market on the outskirts of town on Tuesday mornings. The only things I could resolve to spend money on were plane tickets and booze, and even these were a stretch.
I lived freely in that year, plunging into a sea of indulgences without the sting of guilt that often comes after. Even then I recognized the specialness of a year freed from duty. But I know what you’re thinking, that this is just another blog post about, “broadening your horizons,” “leaving your comfort zone,” “following your dreams.” Except it’s not. Because you don’t have time to read something like that, and I don’t have time to tell you.
After I returned home from Italy, my only goal was to find myself back on the road. I dreamed of the rice fields in Southeast Asia, the contrasting culture of India, traveling to desert lands in the Middle East. I wanted to live a life that allowed for movement and flexibility. I wanted no ties, desired nothing which kept me bound to what didn’t thrill me.
I wanted the world and it’s wonders, and I was willing to forego community and companionship to have it.
Most stories end the same—responsibilities have a way of catching up with you. My plans to travel back abroad were halted when I was told my mother had breast cancer (read about that story here.) Stage 1. Stage 2. And it worsened until she was deemed Stage 4. It shocked us. It was the kind of news with enough weight to change the course of my family’s life.
My plans to go back abroad fell into opposition with my current reality. Even if I still wanted to leave, it would never have felt right. I moved home to stand by my mom, and with that began my search for a new purpose—I needed a new plan.
I spun an interesting web of judgement after Italy came to an end. I fell into a popular circle of thinking that said travel was the best way to attach meaning to your life. To travel foreign territory meant you were really living. It meant you had made big sacrifices, left materialistic items behind, and became a citizen of the world.
This kind of life fell superior to all else. This life was thrilling, adventurous, even romantic.
And it was, truly it was.
But romance can be fleeting, and we often choose to remember things differently from how they actually are.
You may seek the world and it’s wonders, but you will often forgo a strong foundation and deep connections made in a singular place over a longer period of time.
I spent many months pining over my relationship with the road. I yearned for it like you would an old lover. I missed who I was in those months, the joy of experiencing a newness everyday. Although just as a woman grows out of relationship, I slowly grew out of the notion that life had to be mobile in order for it to have meaning.
In fact, my life began to flourish after I paved a new way of thinking. I became a citizen of my community. Of the world? Sure. We can say that, too.
What do I mean by this? Well, I mean I began to explore the community I live in. I traveled within California, as an alternative to traveling abroad.
It doesn’t matter where we go, as long as we travel into a pathway of growth and connection. This kind of thinking (read more of that here) has permitted me to stay inspired, to have childlike eyes, to savor every second of my weekend. And actually, it doesn’t stop at the weekend. We can aspire to a greater quality of life in every facet: from the food we prepare, to the items we buy, to the relationships we foster: seek quality. You will begin to notice the effects it can have on your life.
I didn’t get back on the plane, I never purchased the ticket. And for a long time I wore this decision as defeat. Though I really didn’t let it defeat me. I not only channeled my passion and energy into local travel, I channeled this energy into creativity mixed with a bit of hard work. As it turns out, those two gave me a freedom I thought only travel could give me.
I talk often of freedom: how I need it, crave it, emulate it. Though freedom relies heavily on our ability to govern ourselves wisely. It requires the responsibility of self-awareness.
Bottom line: evaluate your life’s natural season. Is it time to take the leap into foreign travel? If it is, I would tell you to go with no second thought. Buy your ticket, and don’t look back. I still regard my year in Italy as the best year of my life. It remains in mind as the sweetest of memories, a romantic Italian dream I will always think back to. Though if your life begs you for balance, stability, roots: honor it.
Dabble your hand in creative pursuits, stimulate your mind with innovation. Imagine what our lives could really be like if we treated each day at home as we do in a foreign country? I encourage you to have childlike eyes in everything you pursue, and that you would always pursue quality.
Wherever you may be, wherever you have yet to go, remember there is a time for everything your heart so desires. This is not another blog post telling you to: “broaden your horizons,” “leave your comfort zone,” or “follow your dreams.” I believe you know how to do that. This is a post that is asking you how and when.
If you care to read further, I share with you a verse:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.