Monday, June 16, 2014

What They Don't Tell You About Traveling The World


Upon seeing an old friend recently, he reminded me that I knew exactly what I would be dealing with when I came home from traveling the world. These were my decisions: take our nest egg and spend it on world travel. We knew it would be difficult coming back and getting back on our feet. We knew it would be difficult to stop traveling. We knew we would be different and not.

Except that we didn't know anything.

Before we left, we researched our trip by reading a hundred different excerpts from blogs and articles about traveling the world. We had pack lists and pinterest boards and guide books and maps. We had excel sheets and several jobs and bank accounts that reimbursed ATM fees around the globe. We had jobs lined up for when we returned. But the one thing we didn't have was an apartment to come home to. We had try to sublet and after a couple people who were interested and then fell through, it got down to the wire and we gave up our beautiful big apartment in the best damn neighborhood in New York: Park Slope. I was heartbroken to leave this home, this home that we had worked so hard to get. This apartment with its beautiful big windows facing 7th Avenue, streaming light into our blue-walled bedroom. The open kitchen, the huge living room, the tiny office with the fire escape. The neighbors who were all cool. The kind of people you really could borrow a cup of sugar from. We had a crazy deal on the place and the minute we gave it up the rent went up. It was the first place I lived in that I really felt was my home. Everything in it was a creation, a collaboration, a symbol of me and Mike. We had put so much love into that apartment and then we gave it all up for another dream - a bigger dream.
Me trying to talk with a bunch of kids in Tibet. They followed us around shouting, "Hallo!"

I panicked when our move-out day became official. I doubted everything. We were at a crossroads. Travel or Stay here. Enjoy this sweet little home, unpack our wedding gifts, host dinner parties, repaint the living room a different color, start a family. It was hard to give up the one thing we actually did not have in place for our return - a place to live. And somewhere in my heart I knew this would come to mean much more than a roof over our head. It was the true anchor to New York. It was the carved out real estate we had made for ourselves in a city that elbows the weak out and rewards the strong by giving them roaches and rats as pests and hurricanes and Nor'Easters  as seasons. It was home. But I convinced myself that this was the universe's way of telling me that there was a better home out there. I never in a million years thought we would come back from traveling and head west.

View from my old apartment office
When we came back, something had shifted for us- that was certain. We wanted a change. We couldn't go back to the jobs we had left. We had spent a long time away from family. And for me, the years away from my family had seemed to really add up while adding more miles further and further away. While traveling, we had two days of rain in 8 months and the times we experienced the cold, it was bone-chilling cold, as in no indoor heat, as in you are cold every single hour of the day, taking cold showers, shivering at all times. In fact, when we flew out of freezing Tibet and into 80 degrees Thailand, the trip took a noticeable turn. Where Europe felt like a honeymoon, and Morocco, India, Nepal and Tibet felt like an adventure, Southeast Asia and Australia and New Zealand, felt like an adventure-vacation. Our moods lightened. We kicked our lingering colds and we got rid of our wool hats in exchange for flip flops and sunglasses. We were so happy simply because of the good weather.


We came to California, and I felt like I always do when I come here. LA is so pretty. There are gardens year round. Everyone has a dog and a tan. There are parking spots for electric cars and farmers markets every day of the week and artichokes and avocados. There is family and kids. We decided this was the change we wanted. And then we went to New York and after one of those great New York City nights where you roll with a group of friends from their apartment to a new bar that just opened up in that gritty neighborhood that is opening their doors to new pubs and artists and we laughed our way down a long cold avenue with scarfs flapping and noses running, I turned to Mike and said, how can we leave this place? This is home!

And he said, I know.


With friends at a friend's wedding the day before we left!
And we still left. But not until last week after weeks and weeks of arguing and apologizing and job searching and resume sending and coming home to a collapsed closet because we are trying to squeeze two people into a spare room meant for a child, the child we are not having because we made our choices and now we need jobs to get out of debt before x - y - z....and it all came. I miss my life. I miss my home. I miss my unpacked wedding gifts and my bed in pieces stored in a basement in New Jersey. I miss my East Coast friends. I miss the coffee shop down the street. I miss the summer concerts at Prospect Park. I miss rooftop films. I miss the fucking subway.  I miss comfortability. I miss a home of my own. I miss my sweet little marriage when our biggest fights were about me discarding my winter layers all over the living room or his aggressive driving. I miss our weekend getaways to Vermont. I miss that canoe we never really used but it was still ours and represented this piece of us that was still wild, adventurous and accessible. I miss my friends' kids so much that watching a two minute piano recital clip can bring me to tears. I miss late night walks along those long gritty avenues that by now are starting to steam up and release the roaches. I miss what we worked for and what we cherished. And yet, I feel like a complete asshole expressing any of this.

Poor me, right? I traveled the world and spent all my money and boo-hoo, now I have to get my shit together in another fabulous city in the United States of America where I have wonderful friends and awesome family, an abundant support system and sunshine all the time. I know, I know. My misery does not deserve any company and this could be seen as the most grotesque pity party ever. I am so damn lucky. I have a great life. Even now. I am not a girl in India fearing for my safety or struggling for justice. I am not freezing my ass off in oppressed Tibet wondering when the next time the Chinese police is going to harass me. I'm not a young woman in Vietnam who can't give birth because I'm suffering the effects of a war that happened over 40 years ago. I'm not a girl in the Moroccan desert trying to schedule out how much clean water I have for the rest of the week. I have perspective for it all. I'm a privileged, educated and wealthy citizen of the world with experiences beyond my comprehension and about fifteen pounds of extra weight solely gained by excessive eating of delicious foods. And yet, sometimes, it feels like the trip never even happened.

That's the bitch of it all. In a blink, it was over. And sometimes, it really does all feel like it was just a dream.

Cappadocia, Turkey
We rarely talk about the trip. And with each time we have another argument over what the hell we are doing about our future or each time we discuss whether we need more almond milk or every time we figure out something else that "we need" like hair product or a bikini wax or a newer, faster phone, the trip slips away just a little bit more.

One thing people tell you before you leave to travel the world is "Take lots of pictures!" But only when you return will you realize why. It's not for anyone but you. And when you look through your pictures, only then will you be able to feel just a piece of that fearlessness, a piece of that adventure, a piece of that part of you that made the best or stupidest decision of your life.

When you come home, your pictures will be where the trip lives while you wade through the current of consequences stirred from the bravest thing you ever did.


3 comments:

daleboca said...

great and honest and thorough post.
like richard marx sang...right here waiting for you.
if not, we will have to come visit!!!

Lindsey said...

Thanks, daleboca. I miss you!!!

Anonymous said...

I couldn't sleep last night. maybe the iced tea I had with dinner had some caffeine in it, or maybe it was the humidity, or maybe it was this nagging headache that has been lingering for the past few days following an epic summer deep fry party, complete with slip and slide/bleed which was as painful as it was fun. regardless, as I lie awake, I somehow got to remembering standing on a beach along the mediterranean just after sunrise watching the epic journey of the baby loggerhead sea turtle crawl across the sand, struggle over the smallest of rocks, get carried by mysterious mr miyagi turtle keeper and eventually swim off to sea. that was some craaaaaazy richard attenborough discovery channel shit right there, and I'm glad we got to see it with you all.

http://goo.gl/r8jCSE

don't come home just yet, we were thinking of visiting later this year.