Traveling: feeling that door shut behind you as you wander down the unlit hallway of your life

Traveling is great and it’s also hard. It can feel shitty to talk about what’s hard about it because as someone who’s able to travel like this, I’m in a huge position of privilege and opportunity, and I’m grateful for it. But the reality is, nothing’s as perfect as Instagram makes it seem, including “the trip of a lifetime”. 

Traveling alone sometimes feels like this.
Traveling by yourself is an incredible feeling. You can go where the wind blows, learn what you’re capable of, face your fears, learn to navigate (or at least improve a little bit), and meet people you never would’ve met if you already had a friend or partner with you. But sometimes you don’t meet those new people, and sometimes you just get tired of having the same introductory conversations with new people over and over. Sometimes all you want is to go to dinner with friends who feel like that perfectly worn-in sweater, and have a laugh-filled conversation where you don’t have to try at all. 

The reality is, if you travel like this, you’re leaving a lot behind. You’re choosing one door over another. Even if the door in front of you is exactly what you wanted, it’s painful to close a door you’ve cared about for a long time. 

Years ago, I spent two months of the summer in the south of France with my then-boyfriend. When I got back to university that fall I was chatting with some friends about our summers. One person talked about how she worked in a trailer park running programming for kids, and shrugged off her experience as boring compared to France. But to me, it didn’t matter that I was in France and she was in Ontario. Our lives weren’t that different. Mine looked glamorous on paper and on social media, but my day-to-day was pretty boring too. I wasn’t doing anything particularly special, I’d just bought a plane ticket. I reassured her that what I did wasn’t any more interesting than what she did. 

Of course, I’m personally drawn to traveling, and I do love a lot about it. But sometimes I wonder why on earth I do it. Traveling has its moments–the views that blow you away, the people you never would’ve met back home, the conversations you have, and the skills, knowledge and empathy you gain. But you also have desperately lonely days, important events that you miss back home, friends and family you can’t be there for, and relationships that end. Is the trade-off really worth it? 

Most people don’t travel indefinitely. Eventually, after some amount of “getting it out of their systems”, most people settle down somewhere, put down roots, hang out with their friends, maybe have a family, and build a life. Now, I do believe that building a life can mean a lot of different things, and it doesn’t have to be one where you have deep roots in one place. But for me, after traveling for a while I start to crave the normalcy, routine, and old favourites that I left behind. I miss being able to see the people I love in person, our favourite dive bar, my yoga studio, the coffee shops I felt comfortable in, and the bagel shop that I would sometimes start my day with. 

As I’m settling into a new city, where I’ll be for three months, I feel itchy. I’m desperately craving places where I feel like I belong. After three months of traveling, unpacking my backpack feels great, but I’ve been here for three weeks and I don’t feel grounded. I know there’s potential here, and I know it takes time to meet people and get to know a place, but it’s this feeling that makes me want to just pick a place and root down deep. 

The trouble is, I don’t know which lifestyle I’m built for. When I lived in a place where I could’ve rooted down, I felt restless. And now that I’m completely free from ties, I feel aimless and alone. Maybe I’m not built for either. But then, what do I do? 

This feeling of restlessness and searching for purpose and belonging is in no way limited to traveling. I know that many people my age are struggling with these feelings too, and I’m pretty sure these feelings don’t magically go away when you reach some milestone either. So I’d love to hear from anyone with advice in resolving their conflicting desires for adventure and belonging, or about making friends as an adult, or whatever other advice you want to share. This happiness thing isn’t easy. 

One-way tickets

I’m leaving in 3 days.

I honestly don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into. But last Wednesday it started to hit me. I was at a birthday dinner for my friend Morgan with a bunch of our friends and someone mentioned doing something next weekend. “I’m not here next weekend,” I thought, “I’M IN FRANCE!” What?? I can no longer make next weekend plans in Canada. I had a moment–privately at the table–of really freaking out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited. I think. But it’s the one-way ticket that’s got me freaked. I am gone for so long that it was not possible to purchase a roundtrip ticket–at all. To buy a roundtrip ticket your return flight must be within one year from the date you purchased the ticket. Not even from the date you leave for your trip! Not that that would have changed anything because I’m gone for over a year. This, by the way, was a really tricky wrench in the situation when I went to buy my ticket because for some sick reason one-way tickets are insanely expensive. Roundtrips this time of year through Air France (an airline I like and have used a couple times) would cost about $1400. While a one-way ticket–which by my math would be exactly half  of the roundtrip–would cost over $2000! I’ve heard airlines get away with this because they only sell one-way tickets for business class. Thankfully, I found that discount airlines will give you affordable one-way tickets so I purchased mine through Air Transat. It makes me nervous to use a discount airline for a big flight (maybe that’s prissy of me) so I spent an extra $70 for trip insurance because of it. (I’ll do a review of Air Transat after my flight.)

The extra logistics required in purchasing my ticket really separated my last trip to France from this one. I feel like I’m in a different category–no longer a casual traveler, but a resident. I am moving to France. Now that I’m seriously approaching my departure, every plane I hear overhead reminds me of it, as do the last minute errands and to-dos. But there’s some disconnection between my logical brain that knows I’m leaving and my emotional adrenaline-powered self that’s missing the butterflies of excitement. Maybe it’ll just sink in when I get there. But this kind of leap and this kind of time is hard to fathom whether I’m here or there. They’re just not natural, one-way tickets.