I Love Home But I Love Travel More
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land;
it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land,”
– G.K. Chesterton
About five weeks ago I was on a small, cramped tourist bus in Vietnam, the beginning of a Mekong River tour. In the back row, five people were sitting and talking about their travels. For all of them, it was their first big trip away from home. Their home was the USA and they couldn’t stop talking about how nervous they were to go back there. For an hour I listened to them talk about the reasons why they were worried. One girl talked about the pressures of having to do what people expected of her. She was meant to go back home, finish up university and get a real job. One man talked about how he wasn’t sure he could handle the over-consumption that people in Western countries were caught up in. In Asia, you come face to face with poverty that you never see in places like Canada or the USA. Not to say that people there are not poor, but the poverty in some places in Asia are at a different level. It becomes normal to turn away a child of only four years old, begging for food or money or milk for their baby sister. For some, these children are annoying. For me, I can’t forget their faces. Another traveler talked about how strange it will be to go back home after six months away. He talked about how much this experience had changed him. How he had learned things and discovered things about himself that he never knew before. He had stories and memories and broader views of things he was once so certain about, and he wasn’t sure his friends and family at home would understand.
I listened to their conversation with interest. After my first trip to Europe, I remember feeling the same thing so strongly that I was dreading going home. Even when I was home, I longed to be back in Europe, experiencing new things and being on different adventures. Home was not the same. As I listened to that group of friends, who had only known each other for three days, I realized that it still doesn’t get easier. I still dread coming home and I am still never quite perfectly content to be home. There are stories and memories that I replay over and over in my mind, places that I think about each day, friends that I met while abroad and think of now from time to time. Friends will ask about things, but after a while their eyes glaze over and it’s clear that they just don’t get it. They had to have been there, and I understand that.
It’s weird, the things that travel does to you. The way it changes you. It forces you to step out of your comfort zone. You gain friendships that last a matter of days or, if you’re lucky, a few weeks. But despite that short time, the friendships are strong and you share some of your favorite memories with these people. The world gives to you and, sometimes, you give back to the world. There are moments when I think to myself ‘I can’t believe I’m really here’ as if none of it is real. And then you come home and occasionally think to yourself that this cannot possibly be the real world. This cannot possibly be all there is. The typical lifestyle of Western culture: university, a career, a marriage, children, a home. Settled. It’s sounds horrifying to me, that I might be stuck in one place forever.
These two quotes are very true for me. The first one has not quite happened to me yet. I understand it and it has happened to me on a small scale. It felt odd to start eating Western food and iced tea again, instead of Asian noodle soup, chopsticks and fresh lemon juice. It felt odd to drive again, instead of exploring by foot. It felt odd to try to fall back into the routine of work and I’m sure, come September, it will be even harder to fall back into the routine of juggling university, work, and a social life. I mean, there are parts of coming home that are comforting. Driving my car, seeing my friends, family and pets, going to the lake on the weekends, doing my hair, and living out of a space larger than a 65L backpack. Long drives through the Alberta countryside. Oh, and my bed. And my pillow. Those are the comforts of home that I always love to come home to. In fact, travel has made me really start to appreciate my home. Although I would prefer to be traveling than at home, I find that each year I start to love it more and more. And for that, I am grateful.
I’m not sure if travel ever really stops changing a person. I’m not sure if coming home ever gets easier. I’m not sure if anyone ever stops thinking about the time they spent traveling when they should be doing something at work. Maybe it doesn’t and maybe it does. But so far, I’ve found that travel is the one thing that makes me happiest. It gives me a purpose and something to look forward to. I have a lot more to learn and more to see and I hope that this urge to travel never disappears.
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played
out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind
can never break off from the journey,”
— Pat Conroy