As my summer break is rapidly coming to an end and I’m gearing up for a busy fall season of traveling and performing, I've been contemplating the pros and cons of a life of constant travel. People often ask me if I still enjoy it after traveling basically non-stop for two years straight. The short answer is yes. Do I sometimes get tired? Sure. Do I sometimes get homesick? Of course. Would I have my life any other way? Absolutely not! I always find it difficult to explain to people my feelings on the matter, especially since my thoughts are often contradictory. But tonight I’m feeling particularly contemplative, so I’ll give it my best shot.
The thing is, lots of people dream about traveling the world. When you're home, and you want to travel, all you want to do is get as far from home as possible. The more foreign or exotic a place is, the better. It may take a while, but eventually, if you really want it, you get out and start traveling.
Traveling is fantastic. There is an intense, heightened sense of awareness that comes with traveling. Every time you set foot in a new city, a new country, a new continent, you feel it. Everything around you is new and different; it's like a sensory feast. The people look different, the language is foreign to you, the way passersby dress and carry themselves is different, perhaps the street musicians are playing a kind of music you've never heard before. You see new things, you try new foods, you take new pictures everywhere you go. Everything is exciting; even brushing your teeth in a foreign country is interesting! One by one you check off your list of places you've always wanted to go, places you can brag about. You make new friends from all over the world, and you never, ever run out of interesting things to talk about as you share your different cultures with one another. Every night you fill your journal with crazy, amazing stories, stories that nobody back home would ever believe. That rush of traveling never leaves and never changes, have no doubt.
But after a while, as the days and months slip by, another feeling starts to creep in. At a certain point, you start to feel a sensory overload. You're tired of struggling to read maps, you've given up on asking for directions because none of the locals speak English, and the leftover money in your wallet is the wrong currency for wherever you are now. Your family hasn't heard from you in days, you haven't seen green grass in weeks, you go to a restaurant and can only order things with pictures because you don't understand the language, you're constantly packing and moving, you never keep new friends for longer than a few months, you miss another train, you can't find a public restroom… suddenly, even brushing your teeth in a foreign country is a hassle!
This is when the homesickness sets in. Things are easier at home. At home you knew where to go for food, what to order, what language to speak, where to buy things, how to brush your teeth. You start to long for home, for the comfort of being surrounded by your family and by friends that won't be leaving soon. You begin to think about home more and more.
But here's the catch-22 of the situation: after you've traveled for a long time, you are totally different when you get home. For the first days or weeks you're elated to be back, back where everything is familiar and simple. But then one day you realize that everything is just TOO simple, TOO familiar, and you start to miss the foreign, the interesting, the challenging. You start to dream about leaving again, to find that buzz of being in a strange city, that heightened sense of awareness that you can only find in faraway places. This, I think, is what they call "wanderlust."
I don't know if it ever goes away, or if it's something in your blood, a trait that you're born with. Maybe it's a phase you go through when you're young, and then one day maybe you realize you've seen your fill of the world and you'd rather find a place to settle down. For some people the desire to roam will probably never be tamed. Personally I think it's about finding a balance, a happy medium. Maybe that means having a career that allows you to travel occasionally, or maybe it’s about simply finding ways to discover new things right in your hometown. After all, who says you have to visit the other side of the world to go on adventures? I'd like to think new adventures are waiting all around us; we just have to make a point to look for them in our day-to-day lives.
But in the meantime… I say go ahead, book that plane ticket to Paris, or Sydney, or Tahiti, or whatever place you've been dreaming about all your life. As the saying goes, you only live once. As for me… well, I know that someday I'll probably want a home, with a dog by the fire and a car in the driveway and 2.5 kids playing in the yard. But I also know that I've still got a whole lot of places to check off my bucket list. A whole lot of wandering to do.
So for now, I think I'll keep on traveling.