To Travel or Not to Travel: Is That Really a Question?
Post written by Amy Rebecca Krigsman
Castillo San Pedro de la Roca, Santiago de Cuba
“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Mary Ritter Beard
For the last several years, I have been going on and on about being fed up with the 9-to-5 rat race that is my, and so many other people’s, life. I simply cannot reconcile in my mind working 40+ hours a week for 40 years to live on 40% of my income just to pay bills until I die. The circular logic alone is dizzying. But more than that, I have an insatiable lust to be anywhere but here, wherever “here” happens to be for the moment.
Just a Tumbleweed Blowing in the Wind
To give you some background, I grew up in South Florida. Moved to Texas in 2008 while in high school and, after a nearly 8-year stint around Dallas, moved back to South Florida at the end of 2015.
Even as I progressed through my college education in Texas, something didn’t feel quite right. I began as a Drama major. I loved theatre; still do. But at the time, I was struggling to “find myself,” and between that, all the unscripted drama going on in the department, and the fact that I was enjoying my nights and weekends a hell of lot more than I was theatre, I decided to change my major to Business Administration. You know, the I-don’t-know-what-I-want-to–do-with-my-life degree (second only, maybe, to Liberal Arts). At the very least, it was practical and I would be able to find a decent J-O-B.
Switching majors didn’t make me happy. It didn’t give me the clarity I was looking for. I still felt like I was treading water in the middle of an ocean, with no one else around, and my legs were getting tired. And when your legs get tired, you drown.
As cliché as the coming of age story is, clichés are cliché for a reason. There’s a lot of truth behind them.
As we get older, we grow. Physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Our interests change. Likes and dislikes. We go through an existential crisis of sorts trying to figure out where we belong in the world and how to make the most out of the life we’re given and to try and find a bit of happiness along the way.
The Early Years
As I was floundering through this identity crisis, I began to travel as an adult. I had been to Mexico twice with my parents when I was younger and, as beautiful as those trips were, they were all-inclusive resort-type vacations. Not the nitty-gritty, soulful adventure that I seek now. Even still, they were enough. Enough to get my feet wet and to give me a taste of the wanderlust that would plague me the rest of my life.
What I found was that I was my best self when I was traveling. I was adventurous and inquisitive and warm; my anxiety, ironically, was at its lowest levels; and I looked at the world with a childlike wonder that I had seen little of since I was actually a child.
There’s something addicting about that feeling. I think we crave the purity and innocence of a child’s state of mind, even as we fight against it as we grow up. It’s why places like Disney World attract millions of people every year. (If any of those parents tell you they’re there because of their kids, they’re lying to you!)
Comfort Zone or Stifling Prison?
Human beings are creatures of comfort, myself included. We don’t like to stray too far outside of homeostasis. Even though I grew up here and my surroundings were themselves somewhat familiar, South Florida had very little to offer me upon my return in the way of normalcy. Any friends I’d had growing up (there weren’t many) had gone off to other parts of the country for college and work. The people that were left had grown distant at the same time they were only a few miles away. I had some family, but that was it.
I was left to start over. To rebuild my life from scratch, again.
While this is generally a difficult process, there is also something enthralling about being able to reinvent oneself. To be whomever and whatever you want.
So I embraced the opportunity. I got back into theatre. I got to work some really cool jobs. And through these avenues, I’ve made amazing friends and have built a strong support system for myself. I have a good life here.
And yet, somehow, something was still missing.
The desire and love of travel hadn’t waned any, and I still felt like I wanted more for my life than this.
It was around this time that I decided I was going to pull the trigger and get my TEFL Certification to go teach English abroad, an idea I had been toying with for the better part of a year. It was a loosely defined “plan.” I had no idea where I would go. I just had a tentative launch date of July 2017.
And, just as with everything else, life happens. Life happens and plans change and morph and get pushed back in favor of other plans. The problem with waiting until is that until never comes. There’s always going to be a next until, until you’ve untilled your whole life away. My current until was the end of the coming season with the theatre I had grown to love, now June 2018.
The New Normal
Cue my first solo trip.
When rumors began floating around that U.S.-Cuban relations were warming and that travel restrictions might be lifted, I knew I had to visit (1) before either government changed its mind, and (2) before Americans ruined it with Frapa-machi-whatever-os and the big Golden Arches.
So I booked my flights and planned a 2-week Cuban adventure that took me nearly 1,200 miles across 7 cities, by myself, in a country where I did not speak the native language.
The sheer size of the beast I was tackling should have had me running for the hills. For whatever reason, it didn’t concern me. I didn’t even buy a guidebook. (I should also note that I’ve never felt more unprepared for a trip in my life.)
I learned a lot on this trip—about Cuba, about traveling, but mostly about myself.
This trip was amazing. But it was also exhausting. The thing about solo trips is you have a lot of time to yourself, and so you have a lot of time to be lonely and a lot of time to think. That’s a reeeeally bad combination.
I discovered a new love of hammocks on this trip. I spent lots of time in them. Turns out, hammocks are great places to contemplate life.
I was also homesick. Very, very homesick. A feeling I had not ever really experienced while traveling.
All of this culminated in the idea that maybe I wasn’t ready to travel the world solo. That maybe it wasn’t what I wanted after all. I missed my family. I missed my furbaby. I missed my friends. I even missed the mundane, everyday bullshit of my job.
And for a while, I operated under the assumption that I wasn’t going anywhere. Or that I was at least withholding judgement for another year. Because I was happy. Or, at least, I thought I was happy.
All Good Things Come to a Fiery End
Slowly but surely, the notion that I could stay put subsided. I became restless. I felt like something in my life was out of whack. Then that everything in my life was out of whack.
Logically, I know I should stay put for a while. Build up some savings. Buy a house. Do the financially responsible adult thing for a bit. But anyone that knows me knows that just is not who I am.
Nothing sets fire to my soul the way that exploring a new country does and when I’m unhappy, I am deeply and incurably unhappy.
I felt like I had put my dreams on hold for what other people or society wanted for my life. I reinstated a tentative go date of June 2018, feeling obligated to the theatre company I’ve worked so hard to support, and then, in a panic of anxiety, moved the date up to September of this year.
This has kind of been the theme of my life for the last few years. Pandering around, trying to figure out what to do with myself and why.
Admittedly, I haven’t really advanced much. I don’t have all the kinks worked out, but at least I have a vague sense of direction these days. For so long, I’ve felt like I was trying to fit my square peg into the round hole of conventional life. Now, I just don’t give a fuck. And there’s something liberating about giving zero fucks.
For now, my compass is pointed due east, with my sights set on China and a launch date of the end of September. If you were to ask me, “Why China?” The answer would be, first and foremost, money.
I have really never had any inclination to live in Asia. It is far outside my comfort zone. Maybe a little too far. But… and this is a big but, teaching gigs out there pay really well. Well enough for me to live and save and travel, something my life here doesn’t afford me. And something the same teaching gig in Europe would not allow me to do.
In the meantime, I’m working hard on my own endeavors (blogging, business, etc.) and saving as much money as I can by any (legal and non-demeaning) ways necessary.
This story has two morals: (1) don’t ever sacrifice who you really are for what someone else or society thinks you should be; and (2) when you want something bad enough, sometimes you have to make sacrifices and step a little farther outside your comfort zone than you’d like. At the end of the day, if it makes you happy, it’s all worth it.
And as cliché as this is going to sound, we only have one life, so why aren’t we running like we’re on fire towards our dreams?
About the author…
Hey there, I’m Amy. Dreamer. Wanderer. Adventure seeker. Laughaholic. Blogger, and aspiring digital nomad. I caught the travel bug really early on and I knew I had to find a way to travel as far and as much as possible.
Come September, I’m trading in my 9 to 5 grind, packing up my furry child and hitting the road. Read more on my blog Travel Outside the Lines
Follow my travels on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.