The Traveler’s Shift
I zoom through. Cities, countries, museums and temples, I zoom through them all. That has been my past travel experience nearly everywhere but Thailand. It paved the way for the title of this blog, a whirlwind. A travel affair where I leave after one short, intense kiss. I land in one destination and move frantically through it, desperate to see it all in three days or a week and then I disappear, leaving a city or a country behind me without seeing but a sliver of it.
I’ve questioned this way of travel before and yet I continued to justify it. In some places this was enough time, in others it was painful to say goodbye. I always knew that I would return to those places that captured pieces of my heart, return there and really spend time living that city. Not just darting in and out of every beautiful attraction, but learning the way of life of the people.
Having been in Barbados exactly two months now, I am finally realizing how drastically different it is to live somewhere than travel somewhere. There is a beauty to the development you feel when you settle into a place but feeling settled wasn’t what I expected it to be. It began as another holiday where I felt desperate to see it all within a week, despite having four months to soak in the island. I’m not certain when I shifted away from feeling like a tourist. There’s moments where I do feel like a tourist, when I’m excited to go explore more of the island or when I want to sign up for a tour to see the caves.
But there was a shift, a moment that being here began to feel normal. I mastered the route to my internship, I began greeting people in the same manner that they greet others; a good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to all who walk by. A you good? instead of the proper “how are you doing today?” that people at home so frequently use. The taxi drivers on my walk to my internship less often ask me for a ride and have begun stopping for a chat on how my day went. There’s the coffee shop that I grab an iced tea from on a particularly hot morning, the store with freshly squeezed juice that is just around the corner from work. I have a favorite bar where I can go, relax, and listen to beautiful artists sing beautiful songs over two-for-one rums. A beach that a group of us have made our home for regular bonfires.
I had a surprisingly negative reaction to the shift. At first, I hated the shift. I hated the normalcy of it all, the routine. I instantly wanted to leave. I travel to escape routine and yet here I was, going about my mundane tasks every day. And yet am I not traveling? Am I not in a new country experiencing all that comes with a new culture and environment? It’s been only two months and I’m itching to leave, to wander, to explore somewhere new even when I know there is still so much to experience here.
Part of me still hates the shift but an even larger part of me hates that I am letting myself hate the shift. This is what it is to really learn about a place, to live in it. The savior in it all has been an emphasis on balance. Yes, there is routine and normalcy in my days here. I am not just traveling, I’m studying abroad. But there is also so much beauty in that normalcy. There is beauty in the same people that I talk to every day, there is beauty in having a favorite spot to unwind, there is beauty in the fact that although I’m here to study I have every other waking opportunity to explore a brand new island filled with new experiences to be had.
There is beauty in knowing that this is a part of what traveling is, of experiencing it in all it’s forms and I am filled with gratitude to have the opportunity of this experience.