Musings on the decision to travel long-term

I cannot pinpoint the moment I decided that I wanted to travel long-term.  

It might have been on the deck of a boat sailing out into the vast maze of Halong Bay. It may have been just after I fleetingly witnessed the backside of a turtle while snorkelling off the coast of the Gili islands. It could also have been on the back of a motorcycle with a total stranger, journeying through the countryside of Vietnam.

It may have been during those stand-out travel moments but my desire to travel was also insidious and crept up on me as I waded deeper into adulthood.

Overtime, I couldn’t fathom returning to the same office (or any office) for the next innumerable months and years. I became so entrenched in a routine that I think I reached borderline obsession; every day was a manically planned repeat of the last.

I abandoned all attempts at a mid-week social life for fear of skipping an evening at the gym, because I became embarrassingly obsessive over a couple of pounds I could not budge.

Even the weekends had an unintentional schedule, negated only by time spent with friends and family who always kept me engaged, laughing, challenged.

But amid the routine of a carefully planned day-to-day, I realised that, ultimately, I had stopped living.

I’d been coasting.

I can’t describe the speed with which a week sitting in an office goes by. The days blur into one; everyone eagerly anticipates the illustrious weekend that scurries by in a blink. Before I knew it, another day was over, another week and then another quarter. Summer had passed into winter and suddenly an entirely new year encroached.

Meanwhile, I was dreaming of all the things that I could achieve in the future, when I was richer, wiser, thinner, funnier, braver. In that interim period of dreaming of a better version of myself (who existed in an unrealistic alternate reality), I wasn’t meeting new people or having adventures or dating or pushing myself in any way. And the reality of this meant that I was sailing past the fleeting present with considerable abandon.

And I want to emphasis, the problem was less with the life I have had, a life that is unbelievable, fruitful and incredibly rewarding; the problem was with me. In my desire to reach what I perceived to be the perfect version of myself, I lost any semblance of living in the present.

In other words, I got stuck in a bit of a rut.

So, why travel?

I see travel as experiences, yes, but as put by writer Lynn Freed, also a chance to understand oneself without the “bafflement of context.” I am so excited to spend a year as myself without the veneer of a 5-year plan, a career, a college degree and even more trivial things like a nice wardrobe and a well-stocked make-up bag. 

And to be honest, I can’t remember a time when I was happier within myself and my choices than during a month-long stint in Vietnam four years ago.

I cannot pinpoint the moment I decided to travel but at some point, I made that decision. I needed an adventure that pushed me to the boundaries of and beyond my comfortable limits. I needed to experience things that pushed me to evaluate and re-evaluate myself and my life and the world around me.

I can’t pinpoint the moment I decided to travel long-term but I am so glad that I did.

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