Updated: 12/16/2018 | Posted: 04/06/2009
I was talking to a friend recently about life – and the road it leads us on. I was pushing her to travel the world (like I push everyone to travel the world) to overcome her recent funk. She was a bit lost on what to do lately and was looking for something to fill the void.
“Go travel. You might discover the answer. If not, you’ll have a great time at least!”
While talking to her, I realized that I didn’t know what I would do if I ever stopped traveling. What is life without travel? How else would I exist?
I’ve been moving for so long that I can’t picture my life any other way.
Travel has become a lifestyle for me.
It has become my identity.
Always moving, always on the road, always somewhere different.
That’s my routine.
I have so many different destinations I want to visit before I become “Semi-Nomadic Matt” that I think I’d be 50 before that actually happened!
There’s just too much out there.
I don’t really want to stop.
Eventually, I’ll slow down. It’s inevitable. Nothing last forever. Gravity and age eventually take hold.
But that idea scares me.
I’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in one place for more than 6 months.
Routines are comforting. For all the unregularity travel brings, there’s a routine to the chaos that I’m just not ready to give up.
All of which makes me wonder — can you travel for too long?
When travel becomes a lifestyle, are you really better off?
Most travelers who take a long-term trip do it as a career break or take the infamous gap year. Then it’s back home and to the real world. (Not fully, of course, because most people come back from trips like this with a new set of work/life priorities. But they still go back.)
There is a beginning and an end.
There are the digital nomads out there who work from the road and move from place to place slowly.
Then there are the real long-term travelers like myself who travel with no end in sight.
They are nomads.
As much courage as it takes to step away from the cubicle and head out on the road, it takes just as much courage to step away from the road and go back to a more routine lifestyle. Travel eventually becomes all you know. It’s all I know. After about 4-5 months in one spot, I get anxious and antsy and I need to move again. I think of all the destinations worth seeing and think about how I should get there soon. I formulate plans with friends and plan holidays to far-off places. I am constantly changing where I am going and making new plans. I still have years on the road ahead of me, and that I’ll be even more entrenched in this lifestyle of constant motion.
But eventually, we all need a fixed address. We can take multi-month trips to far-flung destinations, but everyone needs a place to call home. You can’t spend your whole life moving from one place to the next — it’s unrealistic. It becomes a lonely lifestyle always saying goodbye to friends, never being in one place long enough to form a real relationship, never getting to know a place. Everyone needs roots at some point. Even the long, long-term travelers I know eventually get a home base.
Can you travel for too long?
The answer for me? Yes, yes, I think you can.
When travel becomes a lifestyle, I think it’s a sign you have been on the road too long. At that point, travel is your life — it’s what you do, and there is nothing else. You have no home or fixed location, and friendships are always ephemeral because, in about 5 months, you’ll be gone again. It’s a great way to live for a short term but not a great way to live forever. It’s fun to do for a period of time but you can’t be peter pan forever.
Trees only grow because they have roots not because they are blowing in the wind.
Sometimes I think I’ve been on the road too long. That, after three years, I’ve become too old a hand at this. But am I ready to give up this lifestyle yet? No. Not all. I’m still young. I’ve only had this blog for a year. I still haven’t climbed Kilimanjaro, dived in the South Pacific, or sailed down the Amazon yet, and then I realize that I still have a bit more to go with this life I lead right now.
And so, while one day I’ll settle down, there are still miles to go on this journey…..and I’m ok with that.
One day, I’ll wake up and say “Ok, it’s time to go home.”
Today is not that day.
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