First world problems

I’m highly impressionable. Especially by really smart people who have their shit together. Hell, I started a blog after reading some and thinking ‘hey these people seem cool, maybe I could be cool like them.’ Luckily none of my friends have suggested we all go jump off a bridge. Quite the opposite actually – this whole being impressionable thing has worked out really well for me – my ambitious friends are at least 48% of the reason why I am where I am today. Which is nowhere all that insanely cool, but still pretty much exactly where I want to be.

Until I see someone else do something that looks really cool. Like travel around the world for a year with their new husband. Yeah, one of my best friends is actually doing this. They are packing up and leaving right after their August wedding.

Tallinn, Estonia

In theory, I knew people did this kind of thing. After all, I read about it on APW. But those are in-a-totally-different-world kind of people right? They are the people you read about thinking ‘if only I could do that… but obviously with my job/finances/partner/family I never could.’

But now my home-owning, career-oriented friends have gone and rudely blown a giant hole in my rationalization. Sure they have some things working in their favour to make this possible, but by no means is it easy for them to leave their lives for a year. And yet they are making the sacrifices to make it happen. For the first year of their marriage, they will be free to explore the world together.

It sounds amazing, though I do know myself well enough to know I wouldn’t actually enjoy that. I need to travel in manageable chunks. I can go longer than a few weeks only if I’m settled into a place and can make it feel like home. And I’m always happy when I actually AM home.

Helsinki, Finland

But. You knew there was a but. I can’t help but wonder if I’ll regret not taking that kind of bold risk at this point in my life. Well our life. We would have to take the risk together.

We’ve basically never taken any bold risks in our lives. Educated, calculated, carefully contemplated risks yes, but ones that could be taken straight out of the Millennial Guide for Squares: going to grad school, buying a home, getting married. Our relationship, our travel, our education, our careers, our money – always safe, always steady. We basically just skipped that whole tumultuous twenties thing.

I don’t think I have a problem with this, but the damn cultural narrative floating out there keeps me doubting myself. (The fact that I’m turning thirty in five short months can’t be helping.) Along with dating a lot and drinking a lot, apparently twenty-somethings with no kids are supposed to travel a lot, ‘while you still can.’  You know, before my kids imprison me in the house in my sweatpants and take away my will to do anything fun (thank all the you’ll seeeee’s… for that uplifting image).

Lahti, Finland

It always seems to come down to travel for some reason, like it’s the holy-grail of self-discovery. Why is that? Is the world in all its intricacies really that much clearer when you are sharing a room with a dozen sweaty Europeans in a hostel? Or does it just seem that way due to the lack of sleep and the fact that the room was just hot boxed?

I’m not entirely convinced that travel is the one and only means to understanding the world, but I have wondered if we should take a bit of a risk for once in our lives and go on an adventure. We’ve thought about taking unpaid time off work next summer to travel for a couple of months. I let the idea roll around in my head for a while, contemplating places like India, Italy (I swear both those places were on my must-go list before Eat, Pray, Love), and Thailand.

We could see the apprehension on each other’s faces as we traded ideas, but I chalked that up to fear of the unknown. But after about the 6th time of talking about it, I realized neither of us had really mustered up all that much excitement either. With the wedding I was terrified but also excited as hell, so I know that the two can coincide. Here we were lacking the essential ingredient. And if you’re going to take a month or two of unpaid leave to travel – adding up to some ungodly amount of money that I don’t even want to estimate – you better damn be excited. Like jumping up and down, reading Lonely Planet from cover to cover excited. And we were just… not.

Hawaii on our honeymoon

Sometimes I really wish I could be a more adventurous person. I worry I’ll regret it later. But I also can’t force myself to be something I’m not.

We are still planning to travel next summer (this summer we are as well, but to Finland, which doesn’t really count as travel for me as it’s family time) but on a scale that fits us. We will probably take 2-3 weeks to go somewhere amazing – I’m thinking maybe Italy?

Take your best guess

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Posted on June 10, 2011, in Life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I’m loving that you have this many beautiful pictures of travel!

    My brain is amazed that you know people that are traveling for a year. JELLY.

  2. Oh, what a delicious post. This is totally a Tuesday post. Ever notice that the Friday-Monday posts are woefully neglected? Whenever I post anything on a Friday or Monday, hardly anybody sees it. And everybody needs to SEE this post.

    This fascinated me because I, too, have wondered what I’m missing out on something by not roaming the world in my relative youth. I would LIKE to, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I wanted to do study abroad when I was in college and didn’t get around to it, and I do regret that. I guess I have a fear that if I put travel and adventure on the shelf for too much longer, it’ll never happen. The husband and I will just become that more entrenched in our lives, in our work, in our patterns, in our (potential) kids, and it’ll be harder still to break away.

    So I worry about that.

    But I think you’re right about not forcing yourself outside your means — either financially or emotionally or both. When it comes down to it, life is solely what you make out of it — not how many boxes on the Life List you’ve checked off.

    • I think I need to push myself a little harder outside of my comfort zone, but it’s hard because John and I both tend to be very cautious types. We don’t usually push each other to be spontaneous or crazy – we talk ourselves out of it. But traveling for a few months might be pushing it.

  3. I have done the whole semester-in-Europe-followed-by-six-weeks-backpacking thing and it was great. BUT….I think that traveling in small chunks of time can be just as rewarding, possibly more so.

    When I backpacked, we were living on a average $21 a day. This included youth hostel costs, food, and anything we wanted to do, you know, including stuff like using the bathroom, which often costs in Europe. So, as you can figure, we did not do much (not too many museums for us) and we ate random groceries from the store because we were BROKE. The ideal is one thing, the reality is that I spent 12 consecutive days wearing the same pair of jeans without washing them. Plus, after you have seen quite a few cities/countries in fast-paced succession….it is a little like overdosing on chocolate. The next one is not as enjoyable as the first ones.

    The long tern traveling (often done on a budget) is certainly a wonderful experience for a number of reasons (partially because the stories of roach-invested youth hostels and misadventures make for good story material), but the opposite approach- the staying-in-a-decent-place-and-actually-eating-at-a-few-restaurants approach- that is what I prefer. And even in my backpacking days, I knew that that was my end goal, to be able to travel and enjoy it more just because of those luxuries of restaurants and clean accommodation.

    And that approach is something that is perfect for short trips every now and then. :)

    (Have fun in Finland! I spent a few years in Norway, but never made it over to Finland…maybe one day…)

    • You know it actually makes me feel better to hear that. I always figured traveling was like running – the real endorphin rush doesn’t happen until you’ve been going for a while.

      And wow, $21 a day in Europe is highly impressive! You could easily spend that on lunch and a trip to the bathroom alone! (the paying bathroom thing is WEIRD)

  4. PS. The $21 a day was in the late 90s. (And it was hard to do…)

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