I was twelve years old when I first boarded a plane to travel. The excitement I felt when flying for the first time – “Oh wow!”. This is one of those things from my childhood I remember very clearly – as if it happened yesterday. It was 1997 and I was not on my way to a family vacation like most of my friends, who would then come back and share stories about going places during their holidays. I boarded that flight feeling extremely excited about leaving my life behind. I was not going on vacation. I was about to start a year-long exchange program in a boarding school in Rio de Janeiro. And I was not ‘being sent’ there by a careless mom who wanted a child-free year for herself. On the contrary. I had to fight my overprotective mother to convince her to allow me to leave home at such an early age. And I thank her to this day that she did so.
On board of that flight, I remember thinking about the new and different life I had just started, the new people I would meet and who my new friends would be, the new places I would visit and how my new home and neighborhood would look and feel like, the new types of food I would try and those I would miss, the new clothes I would wear to adapt to the different weather conditions, the new routine I would have and well, the new adventures and stories about them I would have to tell afterwards.
It all sounds very exaggerated knowing it refers to the story of a twelve-year-old boy. Nevertheless, deciding to say goodbye to my ‘stable’ life and childhood did have an impact on me and this is why out of several memories and stories of my past, I may not remember the many vacations and holidays I had, but I do remember very clearly the first time I ever travelled.
Now at the age of 31, I’ve had the opportunity to travel numerous times, to visit hundreds of cities in dozens of countries and “Yes! I am addicted to travel!”. I know many people who travel as much or even more than I do, but I often distance myself from a comparison, for each one differs in his or her approach to traveling. And here I do not refer to the widely discussed difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. Here I refer to the difference between being a ‘travel enthusiast’ and someone like me, a ‘travel addict’.
In my personal quest of self-discovery, I have always wondered why I find it so easy to be everywhere, yet so hard to be back. And this is exactly where the thin red line between an enthusiast and an addict lies.
Every time I come back from a trip, I feel empowered by the ecstasy of the journey that just came to an end. I enjoy the ‘kick’ that keeps running through me and it keeps me active for days or even weeks while ‘welcome back hugs’ are given and stories are told.
But then my ‘fix’ starts to wear off and I slowly become aware that ‘home’ is in every and single way exactly how I had left it – only I changed. And as the inertia of what surrounds me continues to slow me down, I feel exhausted. I start craving for more of my ‘drug’.
I miss the different people I met, the different landscapes I saw, the different places I visited, the different things I discovered, the different lessons I learned, the different experiences I had, the different food I ate and the different feeling of simply ‘being there’. I need to get ‘high’ again! No matter what! And honestly speaking, my addiction sees no coordinates. No matter where I am going next, I just need to set myself in motion again. I need to be surrounded by the unknown again. I just need more of ‘being there’ in order to satisfy my cravings.
Well, as aforementioned, from a very early age, I did not only dream about leaving home and going to foreign places, I dreamt about making foreign places home to me. And from this I learned that home is not a static spot I would always come back to, but rather a dynamic ‘sense of belonging somewhere’. And this ultimately made me figure out that traveling was not a search for things and places, but a quest to find myself enabled by the foreign and unknown nature of every environment I immersed myself into. In other words, by traveling and learning to belong, I allow my senses to respond to special stimuli that in turn empowers the unknown in me.
The American writer Henry Miller once stated: “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”. And well, seeing refers to one of our senses. Sight, along with smell, taste, hearing and touch are the input sensors that react to the stimuli that bring pleasure to life. And the more I challenge my senses, the more fine-tuned they become and thus, the greater I enjoy life and myself.
So, after having experienced several terrible post-travel scenarios and after having literally fought myself and the depressive state of mind following my return from a trip, I learned that by exposing my senses to experiencing ‘home’ more intensively, I end up setting ‘home’ in motion, making my ‘kick’ last longer. After all, my tweaked senses and I are the only things that change after I return from a trip. And with my more precise ‘sensor gear’, I can ‘feel home’ differently every time I return. As of now, I can definitely feel my ‘sense of belonging’ to this place I call home. “How long will it last?” – I ask myself. For that I have no answer.
Well, making my ‘kick’ last is my ‘come back’ priority. And in the meantime, while I have not found a holistic therapy for my addiction (nor I wish to do so, I think :-) ), I keep on discovering the ‘unknown me’ when traveling and getting to know the ‘undiscovered home’ when I come back.
I wrote this text after returning from a trip, which took place following a 40-day-long stay at home. This was the longest I spent without traveling in three years.
And last but not the least, I keep on dreaming and planning more and more trips. This is an essential part of my therapy after all: knowing when I will get my next ‘fix’.