I put a lot of faith in odd things, like personality tests and my horoscope. Every time I take the Myers-Briggs, I toe the line between J and P, which makes me a walking contraction. Usually, J comes up a little stronger. I need my environment orderly, my possessions organized (however few they may number) and I like having a plan. The idea of stability is appealing, in an abstract sense.
On the other hand, I like leaving my options open. I don’t like planning too far in advance.
Commitment to anything, be it a person, a place or a pet, is terrifying. I’m afraid if I make plans too far in advance, if I commit my life to a cause or even if I agree to do something three days from now, that I’ll wake up with a change of heart and decide I want to do something else. The idea of freedom is also appealing, in an abstract sense.
Here’s how a typical day goes for me; one minute, I’m looking up plane fares to New Zealand, or Thailand, or Malawi, thinking about how long I could make my meager savings last as I galavant around the world, unencumbered by possessions or commitments. The next minute, I’m making arrangements to adopt two foster kittens and establishing myself as a cat lady at the ripe old age of 27.
And the truth is I equally want to do both.
I want to see the world, to take beautiful photographs, to meet people and learn their stories, to taste myriad flavors in tiny back-alley restaurants. Yet, I also want a place to call home, a space to return to and something waiting for me to come back. I want cats, and kids and, maybe someday, a long-term companion with whom to share all of this. So, I am always internally conflicted.
You see, long-term travel is simultaneously appealing and scary, but so is staying rooted in one place. Whatever I choose, whatever I’m doing, I have a feeling I’m missing something. If I’m traveling, or living abroad, I long for the stability of being home and I fear that people will forget me, because even with Skype, Facebook and email, life moves on and people make new memories. If I’m home and not traveling, I want nothing more than the freedom to wake up in a new bed every few days, the indescribable feeling that comes from capturing a perfect photograph, the sense of accomplishment when you’ve successfully navigated a new city.
Travel brings with it the internal satisfaction and reassurance that I am a risk-taker, that I am somehow unconventional, and, most importantly, that I am not boring. It also ensures that I’ll always have something to talk about at dinner parties, which is a definite plus when you’re not good at small talk.
My friends often joke that I live like a gypsy, that I have no stuff, that I really could pick up and leave to go anywhere at a moment’s notice. This is not true, of course. I signed a lease, I have some furniture, I have a car note, I have a job, and I may soon have some cats.
At the same time, I have no concrete plans after March 19, which is invigorating and scary. I could take off on a trip, or I could acquire more stuff, look for a traditional job and make more moves toward settling down and sense of permanency.
In truth, neither option is totally appealing. Travel can be, at its’ worst, exhausting, expensive,unsettling and incredibly self-indulgent. Staying put, though, is, for lack of better terms, boring, conventional, and expected. I’ve discovered that my limit for both of these is two to three months. After traveling, or being away for that length of time, I want to return home and immerse myself in normalcy for a little bit. After being in one place for a few months though, my wanderlust kicks in. I want to move on and see new things, meet new people, take new photographs, learn new stories.
As it has currently been about 5 months since I’ve traveled anywhere that isn’t my mother’s house, my wanderlust is at its peak, but so, strangely, is my desire to settle down, or at least to have a permanent place to return to.
I suppose then, the solution, at this point, is to settle down, find a “real job” and milk my two weeks of vacation a year for all they are worth, or to embrace my inner gypsy and travel the world with my camera and my hypothetical cats. It would certainly make a wonderful story.