Nomads and Real Adults
Travel is an empowering verb. To travel is to challenge yourself, often to fail miserably, but also to find new self-respect in those moments when you master(ish) a new language, a new subway system or a new form of chili. Traveling forces you to put yourself out there and take stances on issues you didn’t know existed.
The downside of all this travel-induced decision making is that you can become a little too proud of standing on your own two feet. You feel like the master of the universe the day you can use a long drop without blinking an eye. You can take on the world the day you convince a Nigerian customs agent to let you through without your passport. You become a little too comfortable with knowing you’ll get from A to B, even if you don’t know exactly how.
So it’s frustrating when power is really, truly out of your hands. After so many encounters with losing control of a travel situation and then regaining it, it’s all the harder to realize you can’t control some of the more normal things in life. Your incredible travel photos of Lesotho won’t win you a job teaching back in the Midwest. Your boyfriend’s adorable foreign accent doesn’t mean he’ll ever get a Green Card. Once the glittery cocktail parties are over, life is only moderately interested in your weirdness.
This reality check can be daunting, exciting as a new challenge, and definitely humbling. After all, travelers are excellent at telling each other how great they are. Don’t get me wrong, it is cool. But it’s only the end all be all to you. To others it’s just a nice stocking stuffer. Despite what you’re busy doing in Timbuktu, other people are also having their own, equally interesting lives back at home. You’re not the only one with cool stories to share when you all get together for Christmas.
As inaccessible as your life of continent hopping might seem to some, their lives of houses with real curtains and jobs with real pension plans can be equally intimidating. Shifting back to “normal” life means relinquishing the type of control you’ve pushed so hard to gain. Moving to the suburbs means redefining yourself outside of your passport stamps. You lose the hard-to-define steadiness of an unsteady life of traveling once you return to the real world.
So naturally, as one who knows nothing and has no facts to back this up, you should take my advice. Maybe the only way to transition from one extreme to the other is to make them both a little less…extreme. Maybe somewhere between the stark, exciting solo path through the Himalayas and sitcom Middle America, there’s a combination of embracing the wild and the more long-term meaningful. Maybe that bridge of connecting two different ways of life is the real, actual relationships you have. After all, being in a relationship and having to consider someone other than yourself is the perfect introduction to the frustration of losing control.
And maybe, incidentally, it’s these few, special relationships that make either/or type of life alright. Great, even. Maybe it’s these relationships that keep the nomads from getting lonely, and the Real Adults from getting bored. Maybe it’s worth losing some of the control if it means gaining people who are worth gaining.
Maybe the frustration is just part of the good.