The Traveler's Mindset
Wow, we are almost there: the house is packed; our bags are packed; and we leave for the airport in a few hours.
It has been an crazy few months preparing for this day. Way too many things to do and way too many loose ends to tie up before leaving the country for year.
On the plus side, through the process of leaving jobs, packing up the house and saying goodbye to so many amazing friends, I am reminded of the great life we have been so lucky to have here. I too often get lost in the busy routine of daily life and fail to really enjoy myself. I suppose that is the first big hope for this trip: to break routines and habits which support, but also tend to limit our lives here, and allow us to come back home refreshed, able to more fully appreciate what is now so familiar, and possibly even to try something new.
I do expect that we will come back to San Francisco and resume similar paths here. But I am also hopeful that the trip will have opened enough space for us to at least be able to consider something radically different…I don’t know, maybe we buy a farm somewhere and grow beets and run a bed-and-breakfast in the farm house.
Traveling will certainly be hard at times. We will get home sick, we will get on each others nerves; 13 months of just me and her will really put the marriage to the test. But I am confident in us. And I look forward to the extended time together focused on the same things: moving slowly, seeing places, meeting people, eating and drinking, studying Chinese, caring for each other through the inevitable bouts of food poisoning, and adapting to life with only those possessions that we can carry on our backs.
And, of course, after 15 years of work without a vacation longer than 10 days and several weeks of intense planning, preparing and packing while managing a series of home repair/improvement projects…I am ready for a break and ready to just have fun for a while. I look forward to our first month on the road where the big decisions of the day will be: on which gorgeous beach should we park the camper van tonight? And: which tasty cut of lamb shall we BBQ for dinner?
Where did the last 5 years go?
This is a question we’ve probably all asked ourselves, and I’m no exception. It’s not like life is an endless blur of uneventful days (at least not for any of the people I know)…in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Sometimes it seems like we do so many things and achieve so many goals that there’s no time left to savor the uneventful but sublime: a beautiful clash of textures on the street, a warm night in the city, Sunday with the New York Times crossword puzzle.
In the past 5 years I: went to art school for my second Bachelor’s degree (in graphic design) and graduated with high honors, opened and closed a business with two of my best friends, wrote two books with them, got married, finished an insane thesis project, started working part time with a graphic design studio while I was still in school, and lived in Oaxaca for a month while participating in an experimental art studio…all while maintaining my relationship and friendships. I list these things not as a resume, but more as a way of illustrating: I am burned out, people.
I’ve been living life fast; I am happy that I’ve not missed any opportunities these past few years, but now I wonder if that’s really true. I’ve envied friends who live life at a slower pace…sometimes it seems like they can get deeper, follow a train of thought right down to the last stop, and see all the stations and forks in the road on the way there. And to be clear, I don’t mean to misrepresent—Jeremy and I live a great life in San Francisco, full of challenges, richness, laughter, and beauty. It’s just that I wonder, and quite frankly, I worry, what if we never slow down? What kind of person, or parent, or wife, or friend would I be? I know how to get things done; I need to learn how to NOT get things done.
There are plenty of reasons why we shouldn’t leave our lives for a year. What about my career? What about starting a family? What about our family or friends? I can’t say that these are not concerns of mine, in fact, they’ve been on my mind quite a bit these past few days. I guess the answer is that I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, do this trip unless I really believed it would help me be a better designer, (eventual) parent, friend, sister, daughter, person.
So there it is. That’s why I travel…to find the time to pull out my camera when I see that beautiful clash of textures on the street, to read that book that’s been on my shelf collecting dust for the past 5 years, and to follow that train of thought down to the last stop…to be the caboose rather than the engineer.
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again—to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” —Pico Iyer