A few days ago our roving reporter in China talked about “Five reasons why life on the road can really suck.” Her points were:
1. It can be difficult to make deeper connections with people.
2. People at home go on with their lives, and you become less and less a part of them.
3. Sometimes it feels like your life is standing still.
4. You can’t commit to any one thing, and so never experience anything fully
5. You continually have experiences that you simply can’t convey to folks who aren’t with you.
Valid points, every one of them, but I think her epic Chinese bus tour has left her a little worn out because there’s a positive flip side to each of these.
1. You can make deeper connections with people, it’s just harder (and therefore more worthwhile).
It’s true that being on the road means you usually don’t stay long enough to make lasting relationships, but that’s not always the case. If you settle down for a few days or weeks you can get to know some of the local people and you can keep in touch with them after you go. I was doing this even before everyone had email, and it’s a whole lot easier now. Sometimes people pop up out of your past totally unexpected. I made a good friend in Quetta, Pakistan, who I corresponded with for a couple of years. Eventually that correspondence faded away, but just this year he Googled me and got in touch! He lives in Europe now so we may even get to meet up.
2. If you and some of your friends drift apart, so be it.
Nothing lasts forever, not friends, not relationships, not even travel. We either move apart or we die (oh, that was cheery!). Travel brings new perspectives, a new lifestyle, and new associations. Yes, some of those old connections may fade away, but if you choose to have a different lifestyle than they do, perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. And the real friends will always be there.
3. Your life is never standing still.
It just may not be progressing along the same lines as the clock-punchers back home. If you choose to spend your twenties wandering the world like I did, your thirties will probably not be as financially stable as some of your friends’, nor will your career be as advanced, unless, of course, your career is tied to travel. I went from being an archaeologist to a writer, so I was able to make my career progress while on the road. If I had wanted to be a lawyer or manage a company, I’d be screwed.
4. Give your trip focus, and you will experience things fully.
Travelers, no matter how leisurely they explore a country, are still just passing through. Despite having wandered all over Damascus I never saw it except in winter. Is it much different in springtime? I don’t know. I also haven’t seen its great transformation after the huge influx of Iraqi refugees. On the other hand, I have a sound knowledge of Islamic architecture and medieval castles, two big interests of mine. All through my travels in the Middle East I went to every mosque or castle I could find. That was my continuity, that and endless cups of tea during endless conversations in an endless string of cafes. Good conversationalists, the Arabs.
5. It’s OK to keep some memories for yourself.
It would be nice to fully share all our travel experiences with our loved ones, but to do that they’d have to come along for the ride, and even then their experiences would be different because they have different perceptions. We’re each on our own road through this life, whether we’re world travelers or couch potatoes. You can’t share everything with everybody. In fact, some of my most treasured travel memories are incidents I’ve never told anyone because they would never believe me!
A final note
Catherine, sooner or later there’s a fork in the road and we choose one way or the other. If we haven’t gone too far down one way we can always scurry back and try to catch up with the folks on the other path. I’ve known some people who did that.
Or we can forge on ahead. Every choice has its pluses and minuses, even being a globetrotting writer has its downsides. Believe me, I know. But I’ve never regretted my decision, and I have the feeling you haven’t either.
So don’t despair, you just have a case of the traveler’s blues. We all get it, but the road will offer up an instant cure with some magnificent sight or encounter. It’s probably done that for you already.