I never thought I’d say this, but sometimes I miss traveling around the world.
When I returned home from 13 months of travel in September 2012, I was so incredibly ready to be home. I was exhausted from travel, burnt out on sightseeing and longing for a routine and stability. And I swore time after time that one of the biggest things I learned on my trip was that long term travel was not for me. That I would continue traveling, but on short trips only. That I would never have the urge to set off for six months or a year or more every again.
But now that I have been home for more than a year and have settled into a routine here in Chicago, I occasionally find my mind wandering and thinking about what it would be like to take off again. I think about my trip and how I would love to go back to every single country and just do it all differently this time. I think that if I had more time and money the first time around, I would have moved slower and spent more time in places like Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia…well, just about everywhere. Or I see a message from my friend Jaime that he’s thinking of traveling the Silk Road overland from Turkey to China and I think how incredibly awesome that would be. Or I pull out my massive Lonely Planet Guide to Africa and start thinking that a jaunt around that continent would be pretty cool too.
I think about how there are close to 200 countries out there and that I’ve only been to 39. There’s so much more to see!
Beyond that, I miss the freedom of traveling long term – the feeling of being free of obligations and being able to plan my days however I want. While I enjoy my job, it also exhausts me so that I get home at night and don’t want to do anything. And then I spend my weekends trying to fit in all these others things I “need” to do – grocery shopping, laundry, working out, freelance work, etc. It’s a vicious cycle and it has made the last year fly by. Time is moving much too fast.
I miss the variety of long term travel. While I have tried to explore more of Chicago and take on the role of being a tourist in my own town, nothing has been quite as fascinating to me as visiting ruins of the Silk Road in Turkmenistan or wandering the cobblestone streets of Tallinn’s Old Town. I miss seeing and experiencing different things every day. I get bored easily, so the constant stimulus of long term travel is perfect for me.
I miss the challenge of long term travel. Every now and then, I flash back to a tough border crossing and actually kind of yearn for it. I’m proud of myself for how I dealt with the struggles during my trip on my own and I miss the adrenaline rush that came with successfully navigating myself out of tough situations.
I miss the people I met while traveling. It may have taken me a while to find my groove, but there are so many people I look back fondly upon: the woman who showed me around Minsk, my fellow volunteers in Armenia, my host family in Tajikistan, the Mongol Rally team I met in Bukhara, the French tourists I hung out with in Kyrgyzstan – the list goes on. While I am starting to find more “travel friends” in Chicago, I miss the ease with which I could fall into conversation with people I met on the road.
So why don’t I pick up and leave again?
For one, I can’t afford to. I am still trying to build my savings back up since returning from my first career break trip and am nowhere close to having enough in the bank to make me feel comfortable leaving again. I also still own my condo and even though I was able to rent it out at a good price the first time around, I really don’t want to go anywhere again until I can sell it. If and when I head overseas again, I want to do so completely free of any financial obligations. Moreover, I know I don’t want to rely on freelance income to make a living nor start my own business; I would rather save up for several years and travel for another year or two relying solely on savings and perhaps some part-time freelance work.
I’m also hesitant for more personal reasons. While I enjoyed being solo for much of my previous trip, I also found myself longing for companionship at times – for someone with whom I could share some of the amazing experiences I had. On the flip side, I also do still want to get married some day and I feel like it should be easier to meet someone if I stay in one place for a while. My perfect scenario? Probably meeting a guy in Chicago who would love to take off to travel a few years down the road. And I confess, while I have always said I never want to be a permanent digital nomad, I could see myself going that route if I had a partner in crime.
So what does the future hold?
Who knows? If I learned anything during my first career break, it was not to look too far ahead and to let things unfold as they may.