As part of a traveling families group writing project, we decided to tackle the tough question of “When we decided to travel, was it because we were running to something or running away from something? Were we happy in our lives back home or were we just seeking something else?” If you have any preconceptions that traveling is a mindless escape, you should join this group where you are constantly being challenged to examine your life.
My story begins when I was nine years old. My parents took my older sister and me to Europe. It was one of those three week, five country, whirlwind trips, but no matter, I thought it was way too cool. Back then, nine year old kids didn’t go to Europe with the frequency they do now. I liked trying the new foods, hearing the different languages, experiencing unique cultures and seeing things I had only previously seen or read about in books. I remember wearing an Austrian dirndl purchased on the trip to my first day of fourth grade and thinking that I was truly special.
When I got older, I took a number of trips on my own. I wish I had taken more but I suffered from the same problem that many others suffer from: I either had time but no money or money but no time. And being the practical, rational American that I am, I couldn’t seem to work through this dilemma. During the earlier days of my career, I had a client who decided that he, his wife and their nine year old daughter were going to take a year off to sail. What a marvelous, adventurous idea, I thought. Since I get sea sick, the specific idea of sailing didn’t stick with me. but the idea of taking a year off to travel did.
I held tight to that “Idea” for 20+ years; through marriage and through the birth of my two daughters. In January 2006, I said to my husband, “If we are ever going to take “This Trip,” we better start planning it now! These kinds of things don’t just happen; you have to make them happen. If we don’t do this now, we probably never will.”
Traveling was a way for us to experiment with our adventurous sides. It was an opportunity to see the world, to meet new and varied people who look at life and live life in a way that is uniquely theirs. It would be a chance to experience history where it was made. When you travel you are no longer reading the book, you are the book. You are inside a National Geographic magazine.
With the excitement of travel looming ahead of us, it never occurred to us or any of our friends and family to ask the question, “Are you running to something or running away from something?” In our minds, travel was most definitely about what we were going TO. However, by the time we were leaving for our one year around the world trip, it had become clear that travel was also about what we were leaving or what we were going away FROM. Our lives had certainly become routine and somewhat predictable. There was comfort with that routine and predictability, but also a boredom and narrow mindedness. Taking a year off, a year away from our lives, was a way to break our inertia. It would create opportunities to open our minds and see things from a different perspective. And it would give us an opportunity to step away from our day to day lives and live a life different from the one we had been living. A trip like this would require us to step outside of our comfort zone and force us to stretch ourselves personally; we felt we would all grow as individuals and as a family from such an experience. Clearly I’m not the only one with these thoughts. I was tagged to write this post by Gabi from the Nomadic Family. She wrote in her post “Here on the road, our family has gone through a transformation, a closeness, a growth and maturity that I could have never dreamed of.”
But, remember that wherever you go, there you are. In other words, just because you’re changing your venue, it doesn’t mean anything else about you is changing, you are just taking it on the road with you. The same applies to your spouse, partner and kids. If there are issues between you and your partner, they will come on the road with you – free of charge! You don’t even have to buy a plane ticket for them. Your hormonal daughter will still be hormonal in China (maybe more so) and your irresponsible son will still be irresponsible in Argentina. Long term travel is not one of those things that will “fix” your “falling apart” family, your wounded marriage or your depression with your life. It can, however, give you a fresh canvas to paint with and a new perspective to paint from. And sometimes, that’s enough to get a new release on life.
Maybe it doesn’t make a difference whether you are traveling TO something or traveling to get away FROM something – while one or the other may be your initial motivation, the benefits/consequences on the other side will become a part of your life anyway.
The saga continue as I now tag my friend Lainie who is traveling with her son Miro, at the moment, indefinitely.