Travel Guilt + Connection.
Wow has this been a heavy month. After coming off of arguably my favorite city and one of my favorite months, I've been feeling, well, all the feels. And so many of the feels have been weighing me down. Why? Because I feel disconnected from the people back home.
I think that's one of the tricks about traveling. And it's come up a lot just among my group of friends. We're experiencing so much, and it's incredible! It's that concentrated human experience I talked about before. And, if I may speak for many of my fellow remotes, we want to share that with the people back home. But sometimes, we feel like we can't and there are a lot of reasons for that.
Travel guilt is a big one.
It came up in our Mental Health cafe during month 2, and though it resonated with me, I didn't realize at the time how much it would grow over the months to affect my travel experience.
At the time, it resonated with me because I felt guilty about leaving my family behind, especially as I had just gotten back from living in Michigan for graduate school. This guilt became very real when my sister-in-law's brother asked me, "Wasn't one of your reasons for quitting graduate school because you wanted to be closer to your family? And now you're leaving again?" I had just gotten home from Michigan, and, needless to say, I felt called out. I am leaving again. I am leaving my family behind again. And I felt like a bad daughter, grand-daughter, etc. I felt like I lacked integrity because here I was leaving them behind again. I don't like it when my words and actions are out of alignment. But, I also feel like these situations were so different. In graduate school, I was miserable. I wasn't happy being there. But this experience is very different. I want to be here. I'm happy being here. And I feeling like I'm growing more in this experience than I ever did during graduate school. But does that mean that the guilt of leaving my family behind has gone away? No.
Travel guilt also comes up every time I call home. It's so fun and so exciting calling home and talking to my family. March was a month of birthdays in my family, and I tried to call home during as many of the birthday parties as I could. I was bombarded with excited questions about my apartment, my roommates, the cities we've been in, the things I've done, etc. I'd catch up with my family/friends about our ever-growing hoard of little ones that are running around at parties, about renovations, new relationships, etc. It's fun. But it's also bittersweet. Because every single conversation includes a comment about, "Are you ever going to come home?" I get why they say it. They want me home. They miss me. And I miss them too. But, it stirs that guilt. It makes me feel bad for going on this adventure. For doing this thing for myself. And I shouldn't. But, sometimes I do.
And it comes up when I'm talking to my friends sometimes. When they ask what I've been up to or what things I have done, sometimes I feel like I have to sensor myself. Not because I don't think they'll be excited. Not because I don't want them to know. But because I don't want to make them feel bad about not "being able to do something like this." I love them. I don't want them to feel like they're missing out. I don't want them to regret some of their own choices. I don't want there to be envy. And yes, that could very well be me making up bullshit stories in my head about what they may or may not be thinking. But, from some of the stories I've heard from other remotes about their friends and significant others reactions, it could very well be true. When I bring up to friends that "Oh my mom is visiting my in Morocco!" or "My friend is coming to Medellin/Serbia for a week to visit", sometimes my friends responses are things like "I wish I could come" or apologizing for not being able to come visit. And I feel bad. I don't want my friends to feel that way and sometimes I blame myself for that.
Feeling like you can't have a bad day.
"You're traveling the world. What do you have to complain about?" Ughhhhhh this one kills me. Because, guess what? I had a really fucking terrible weekend. I cried way more than I "should have" given I'm traveling around the world. But, just because you're traveling doesn't mean the stresses of life go away. Doesn't mean that the bad work days or the difficulties in relationships go away. Doesn't mean the insecurities and vulnerabilities go away. And that's something that I periodically wish people had more empathy and compassion for.
Sometimes, negative emotions are amplified when you're in this situation. There's so many new triggers, stresses, uncomfortable and challenging moments. It can really weigh on you and stretch you thin. Plus, when you're traveling, especially traveling by yourself or with a group of 50 people that you didn't know 5 months ago, all the security and all the normal ways you might deal with those emotions aren't around. I mean, hell, I don't have my favorite sweatpants with me. I can't find my favorite tea. It's difficult to get ahold of my family members and friends sometimes because of the time difference and all the complications of communicating with people when you're abroad. All those little comforts those people that you can turn to when you're home...you don't have those. You have to build new relationships and those people have to earn the right to hear your stories and struggles, at least they do for me. You have to find new ways to comfort yourself. And it's hard.
And you might still be sitting there saying "Oh boohoo. Your nomad, world traveler life is so hard. Get over it." And I think that's the thing. When anyone who is living a seemingly Instagram-worthy life of photo ops and awesome experiences, I guarantee you that that person does not think that they have a bad life. I'm blessed beyond belief to be living the life I'm living right now. I work my ass off to make it possible. I understand that the blessings of this experience and I am abundantly grateful for my ability to be here, typing this from a workspace in Bogota, CO. But the shitty days still happen. And I'm tired of pretending like they don't.
Home-sickness & Disconnection.
Maybe it is the fact that I missed all the birthdays in March. Maybe it's because my birthday is rapidly approaching. Maybe it's because one of my best friends was telling me about a date she went on and it's something we would have normally had a sleepover and girl-talked over beer about. Maybe I'm missing my kick-ass Tough Mudder team after they posted their last Tough Mudder picture and missing all the wonderful people I left behind in Michigan last summer. Maybe I just miss going on walks with my dad and talking for 2 hours, or having girl time with my mom over wine. But the home-sickness is real right now. And the disconnection from my family is even more so.
When I was in Michigan, I didn't feel this way. But lately, I just have felt disconnected from the people back home. And it's been wearing on me. I know that it's not just about me. That my parents are busy getting ready for their own stuff. That my brother and sister-in-law are still getting settled again after their renovation. I know that of my two best friends, one is juggling 3 children and the other is in a PhD program and starting an internship (<< I know I have badass friends). I know that there lives shouldn't cater to me and accommodating me while I adventure around the world. I get that my choosing to go on this experience may be alienating me from them because of the travel guilt I mentioned above. I wish it wasn't. But I still don't regret it.
I did this for me. I'm doing this for me. And it's adding to my life in so many ways. Growing me in so many ways. And I'm beginning to realize that one of those ways is the way in which I express my love, gratitude and appreciation to the people that I left behind in the states. That sometimes it's not about waiting to receive love and caring from the people in our lives, but about freely and openly giving that love, connection and caring. That's what I'm working on doing right now. I'm working on getting over my independence, which is a post in and of itself. And the emotions of this last weekend have taught me that even more profoundly.
So, those are my musings from the road.
Bye for now!