It’s sometimes hard to feel like you’re progressing in any way when the few things that are really important to you are the ones you cannot, and will not ever be able to, control.
I often feel like I am living out a spectacular comedy of errors. A hilarious, shifting, personal disaster in which I think I know what I want and what is going on right in front of me, but the universe, like clockwork, reminds me that it’s not so and never will be.
Humbling as that may be, it’s hard to learn it. It’s hard to digest that you are not the only one feeling this way, or being awkward, or not understanding what you might actually want all the time. Even if, as I’ve been trying to do more, you consciously remind yourself that the people sitting in the room with you are probably feeling as conflicted and chaotic and drained and ecstatic and turned-around as you are – in their own world, it’s just as weird.
You can read books or listen to songs or watch movies that feel like they are speaking directly to you about your current state of mind on love, life, politics, animals, technology, whatever. And those things come from actual humans and you know that. You can have a conversation with one of your friends in which you feel he may as well be speaking off a record made of your own brain tissue because he’s perfectly articulating how you feel about work at the moment, even though he’s telling you how HE feels about HIS work. You can have a discussion with another friend about travelling alone as a woman that reminds you why you’re doing what you’re doing, and why other people are bold enough to do it too, and what The Point Of It All is.
These things can happen and you can recognise that you’re all in it together – one big boat of humanity (I’m on a boat!) – and everyone is doing their best with it. But despite all the evidence, you just can’t get inside it, so it’s sometimes hard to make yourself believe you aren’t slowly going mad in your own little bubble.
I know everyone has their own personal internal battles with what they hell they should be doing and where they should be going. Sometimes knowing that helps me with my own. But it’s a lot like having a certainty that there are countless parallel universes that you can’t even fathom – it’s comforting to imagine, but none of them will ever beam you the answers.
I don’t know where I want to be most of the time. I can’t pick a side. I exist on this spectrum in between things. In work I can’t define what it is I’m best at, aside from connecting the things other people are best at and hopefully making them better. (Hey hey, liberal arts education at its finest!) But it’s pretty hard to articulate that. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have picked a track, like doctor or lawyer or something, and know that that’s me for life. Mostly. I know that’s not how it usually plays out forever and ever, and I know most people are actually like me in that there’s not one thing they’re just MADE to do. And that’s fine. This isn’t really a complaint – it’s standard human frustration.
I like the idea of job security, but I have absolutely no desire to be on any kind of career track and I get restless pretty easily. (I feel like that should dovetail pretty well with my wanderlust.) I just want to learn. Make stuff. Make stuff work. Fix stuff. Figure stuff out. But it doesn’t always particularly matter what kind of stuff. I don’t need to be in charge or get any kind of grand recognition, I just need to see things happen. Results. Ticking things off the Big List. Even tiny ones no one else particularly cares about.
My motivation to plan or DO shit has a slow-motion, tsunami-sized ebb and flow. When things are moving, they are moving big and fast, but when they’re not, it’s hard to fight the drain. And then it’s easy to start questioning the work I’m meant to be doing or the thing I’m trying to make work.
It’s the same with all these travel goals I have. Sometimes I’m all over the planning, and sometimes I just think: WHAT. This list is getting out of hand and I would like a nap now because I am too exhausted to picture the end result.
The idea of going of on some never-ending trip is appealing in a sort of romantic sense, and some days I think it would be amazing. But I also really love home. I love my flat. I love Edinburgh. I love feeling like I am where I belong. Finally. Which is slightly ridiculous because I can’t even stick with just one nationality, but then that is the pull of the world on me.
I have been looking at the year ahead, the finite amount of money and time ticking away, and I’ve been having trouble placing definitions on what it is I want to do. I know I’m not alone in this, but when you have the conviction to start an entire blog about shifting your life to accommodate a particular travel goal, it seems somehow more important to keep public track of your continuous internal dialogue on the matter.
(And if you’ve got this far, it’s an awful lot of dialogue, eh? So, I salute you. We’re nearly there.)
I have a personal absolute minimum goal of spending at least a month on this trans-Siberian adventure. Life shifts, goals and budgets and all manner of other things change, but that much I know, and I suppose that’s a lot more than I can say for any other area of my life. Beyond that, I’ve been trying to come up with the maximum I’d like to shoot for. Or even that I can handle. (On my own at least.)
The more I think about it, the more it creeps in around the 3-month mark. Somehow this is disappointing to me. Perhaps because I feel like I should want to be away for longer. But I’m finding that I just don’t think I do.
Starting over is hard. So. Fucking. Hard. I have lived in the same flat for nearly 8 years and I love it to bits. It is practically a part of me. I moved around so much when I was little and I’ve lived in a lot of places that never felt like they were somewhere I or my family truly belonged. The places I have the strongest attachments to are the places where people have installed themselves. The places my grandmothers still live in, and maybe my favourite house in the world, my parents’ friends’ house, which I recently got to see again after over a decade. They still live there and it still feels like the homiest home I have ever been in.
I really want to own a place. Eventually. But the place I am now has evolved with me and the minute I go start over and buy somewhere, I start that nesting period over again. That’s a different kind of adventure, and a worthy one, but a sense of home is a hard thing to let go of when you have it for yourself for the first time. I do also think when you have a partner, another person can be home, but right now it’s just me, so it becomes about a physical place because making it about just you – being complete and sane AND being your own home – is too much of a burden to put on yourself.
If you’re travelling indefinitely, you have the option to not think about permanence for a while. But I want to think about it. I want the best of both worlds like I always do. I want to skip off to another country for a month or two and be able to settle right back into my own space when I’m tired of that.
There is nothing impossible about that particular lifestyle. It just requires a whole lot of money that I don’t and won’t have.
So as with so many things, this becomes about compromise. And I don’t even have another person to compromise with, it’s just the two sides of me. It’s pretty hard to reason with yourself. I’d much prefer having to sort it out with another human with their own muddle of views and reasons. There might be an argument or two but it somehow seems a cleaner, more defined process when there’s a separate entity involved.
For now, I think being home will tell me why I want to travel, and being away will remind me why it’s so important not to stay away. I just have to figure out how to make that work. In my head and in real life.
…and that was pretty heavy, so, yaknow, I’m gonna go eat a cookie or something. I suggest you do the same.