Four and a half years of travel and the prospect of going back to a “home” is chilling me down to the bones.
The longer traveling stories I have read or the people I know that have embraced a nomadic style of life for awhile reach, what I would call right now, the Nirvana of travel, or that moment of being ready to stop and settle down. They look forward to it with a feeling of accomplishment and satiety.
I fully expected that feeling the first year we were on the road. The next one I was sure it is awaiting me just around the corner. The third one I was starting to get worried and the fourth… The fourth year, along with the financial realities that were regularly dropping reminder hail on my head, came the panic that maybe, increasingly likely, the blissful feeling of desire to settle down will never grace me with its comforting warmth.
One of the big reasons people cite as being ready to stop is the need for a more stable social life. Some feel the kids really need the school environment and regular friends. Others miss the community that can develop when one is not constantly on the move.Â All very fair points. The problem is that they don’t apply to me and us. We must have done this in some different way, because even though I consider myself a very social person, I have never felt as close to humanity as in the last 4.5 years. Couchsurfing and crashing with friends of friends has helped us make some incredible connections with people. And yes, you can develop an amazing bond with a person in just one week, at the same time as you are struggling to find a reason to like a relative.
I feel connected to the amazing woman in Bali that showed me patiently her garden and shared recipes with me. To the family in Penang and the odd and incredible man in China, who is now somewhere in Nepal pedaling away and helping children learn. To the Indian rastafarian who left us the keys to his place in Dubai and then invited us for dinner at his girlfriend’s place too. To the Japanese family that showed us their small town and the man in Cairo who used to make my kids laugh, make popcorn in an old pot and let them throw it all around the hostel saying “let them, we will clean it easily”, while outside Egypt was trying to awaken. To the new friends in Bulgaria who embraced us like old family. To the wonderful woman in Austria who made cakes with my children, and whose smile and warmth I will never forget. To my new Finish friends, whose whole community embraced us like a warm hug and tried to convince us to move next door. To the Iraqi doctor who works in Norway and fit us with ease in his tiny apartment. To the little boy in France that made us crepes right after we arrived in his house and the graceful woman with the long plaited hair in a small town in the South of the country who took us on long walks with her dog. To my new beloved Spanish family, one of which left this world way too early… To the man in Canada that made us laugh and thought us how to work with leather in his garage-workshop. To the underground artists in Belfast who showed us a side of the city we would have never seen. To the family up in Ireland who were not only great conversationalists, but appeared to enjoy my chicken and rice. To my Spanish teachers, with whom I spent many hours horsing around with, probably more than I spent studying. To the family in Scotland that took us in as strangers after I knocked on their door out of the blue, and we left as friends. To the young backpacker who we adopted for a month in Central America and his family we got to meet much later. To my ‘wife’ in Canada and her whole community. To the woman with the amazing garden in Lithuania who stirred flower petals in our butter for breakfast and with whom I cried as we said goodbye. I have cried a lot. Many painful goodbyes, but only because there were many worthwhile hellos. Too many to list.
My kids carry memories of giggling with the rubics cube boy in Malaysia, fishing with a family in Iceland, building Lego with the Latvian brothers, bicycling with the local kids in winter Toronto, catching up with friends they made in India in Philadelphia, but most of all of people opening their homes and hearts to them. In every country. Time and time again. They are connected, even if they don’t consciously acknowledge it yet.
The way we have traveled has ‘forced’ us to meet, engage and get close to people that we would have never met otherwise. In a settled existence, it will take more than a lifetime to accumulate such a close and personal time with that many people. I will miss that the most.
I am not tired either. Yes, I feel slight nausea at having to look for yet another dirt cheap but livable accommodation, but I am not tired of travel. No burn out here. I can enjoy a day of sitting around chatting with new people, or a day crisscrossing a city, or going up a mountain, whatever the new day throws at me.Â Most importantly, being mobile on a tiny budget asks, no demands, of me to be flexible, agile, smart, creative and at ease with myself in order not only to succeed, but to enjoy it. I like that. I really like it.
I don’t know what my children would take away from this experience, but seeing them adjust and fit-in in such a wide variety of situations that we have put them in – makes me proud. They are like little chameleons, but not in a deceitful way, because they never lose themselves in it.Â How much more can I give them, other than the ability to be flexible, to be respectful of others and to be free of fear of the world around them? I don’t know.
I don’t have any desire to settle down. The rest of the family is not bothered by it either way, which is good, because I will suffer this period of unwelcome adjustment alone.
Maybe I am broken. I think I have been from the time I was born, because my life has been everything but the pursuit of spreading roots and the search of security. In the end, we all carry our own difficult to deal with traits and have to try fitting them into this often stringent and rigid reality as best as we can.
One thing I know is that I will be fine. Eventually.
Right now I am somewhat lost just as I am about to appear found.
oh, I cried a little tear for you..l’m sorry you must stop, it made me sad too for you. I started reading your story a little after you started your trip, and right before we started ours. We ended up travelling 18 months, losing our 3rd son to a disease (not from travel, but from a genetic disorder), and having our 4th child since then. We are now about to travel again, this time with my husbands’ work, and we will get to travel to even more places. I have enjoyed reading your blog and looking at your pictures more than you know! It’s so inspiring and beautiful and a delight to read. Thank you for sharing and I am sending you peace and love while you make this next transition back home. If you get a chance I would love to see all the places and experiences you had, but did not blog about, could you maybe do a few more posts on them?!?! :). I love reading them all sooo much! Thanks again and sending you love-xoxo ,Chelsea
Take it as the painful goodbye before a beautiful hello. That surely is exactly what it is. :)
Thank you for warming and kind words and for sharing your story. We are all carving our own journey and story through various mountains and obstacles. Some probably impossible to concur I am sure, like a loss of a child.
Yes, I do plan on filling in at least some of the enormous gaps in the story. I hope I get to it before responsible life engulfs me ;)
Where would you go on this trip? Is there a plan or just taking it as it comes? All the best!
Zori, that is how I am trying to look at it on a conscious level, unfortunately my gut is not cooperating ;)
I find it incredible that we have “sort of” crossed paths. Almost spiritual really… Here’s why: My husband (from Fiji) and me (from Oakland, OR) met in Singapore about 10 years ago on our own journeys. We now have 3 little ones and have been saving $ to start an odyssey across the US for 1 year. There is so much more and I would love to swap stories and learn from seasoned travelers such as you and the fam! I can’t wait to subscribe to your blog. The connection is that my parents are the sweet old couple that bought your van last week and I have been driving it all week through the California Redwoods. :) Hope to stay in touch! :) Siti & Deleta
Deleta, amazing! How is Moose going? That is the van’s name ;)
We loved that van and I am happy he is in good hands, although a bit nostalgic too.
So you are planning a year long journey around the US? It will be wonderful.
I love the name. Rest assured I shared the info and we will call him by his proper name now. ;) We have a goal to spend 1 year hitting all the states, yes. We are planning a photog project. One week in each state. :)
I, too, am sad that this period of your lives is coming to a close, but oh! what amazing memories and experiences you have all shared together – and thankfully, you have shared them with us as well. Thank you for that. I agree with Chelsea, in that I would love to read more posts about places you visited and never wrote about. I will surely miss your beautiful words and corresponding photos of the places you have been, but I know that you will settle in eventually. Maybe you can write about that transition as well. See? I am not ready to stop reading what you have to say. Thank you for all that you have shared with us already, it has been a great journey indeed.
I wish we will develope the same patience, endurance and photography skills as you. We just started our trip 3 weeks ago.
Thanks for the sharing on this website. You inspire us a lot.
Don’t worry. You will be back on the road really soon.
I have a lot of untold stories and I hope I get an opportunity to tell them eventually. I will keep the blog going as much as I can. Maybe I will get a new inspiration to write and it will all slide into space. Thank you for taking the time to write to me.
Peter, you will. 3 weeks is still very fresh, but you will find your groove before long. Just remember to let it develop and dont try to push it into something its not.
All the best for your journey! Looking forward to maybe hearing about it? Would be nice.
I can’t believe your amazing journey has come to an end (for now!) It was so lovely to meet you all. Wishing you all the best for the next phase of your lives.
Love and hugs… Susan
Come on already with a new post! ;)
So impatient, Alex!
One cannot force these things (but keep on pushing me!)
A song from when I was 10 comes to mind: “Why are we waiting?? We are suffocating!!”
I love you, girl ;)
Heart and soul. Poignant, beautiful! Made me cry. Still crying as I write this.
So glad we were a tiny little bit of that travel.
Love to the five of you from John and I.
I don’t know you at all and you have never met me but I am wondering when New Zeeland (not sure if I spelt that right as I definitely don’t live there) will feature on your blog as technically, you did travel there as part of your journey and I think it deserves a blog post.