The past few days, I have been reminded through social media of memories that took place at this exact same time: five years ago, I was in San Francisco for the first time.
Four years ago, I was finishing up my internship abroad in London.
Three years ago, I was exploring Boston with my friend, Brad.
Two years ago, I was a couple of days out from my family trip to LA.
Last year, I was preparing for my trip to Cabarete in the Dominican Republic with my friend, Ilse.
In a couple of weeks, I would have been on my way to London again on a two-week trip with the plan of country-hopping in Europe. As if I don’t already spend all of my free time thinking about traveling, these memories have hit me harder than I could have imagined.
I have seen this so perfectly articulated in a few Instagram posts from fellow travelers:
🛪 “So much of my identity over the years has been rooted in my passion for travel and exploring the world. But who am I if/when I’m not traveling?” – Lee Litumbe (@spiritedpursuit)
🛪 “My body is ITCHING for some serotonin and while I’ve appreciated this stillness, I would love a change of scenery. To be honest, these emotions come with alot of guilt. At least I’m still alive right? I haven’t lost anyone close to me, so I should be good right? While I’m extremely grateful, both things can be true at the same time.” – Ciara (@hey_ciara)
🛪”just dreaming of getting on a plane and going somewhere and hiding in a cabin on a greek island…I kind of hate that most of my inspiration comes from travelling because now I’m slumping and idk I guess I should be finding it in my day to day too. anyway just a gentle reminder that’s it’s okay to be gloomy. the sun don’t shine 24/7.” – Moya Mawhinney (@moyamawhinney)
Now, I am the first person to recognize the screeching level of privilege that comes from this. I, and those around me, are healthy and have been throughout these months of lockdown. I, and those around me, have not been laid off or furloughed from our jobs. I, and most around me, are not frontline workers and have the opportunity to safely work from home. I am absolutely aware that the least of my concerns at the moment should be traveling the world. In fact, people even continuing to travel is arguably one of the most selfish things you can do at the moment, right? To even be listing a plethora of annual trips, let alone be sad about canceling an upcoming trip in the midst of a global pandemic, is a bit tone deaf, right? Yes. But also, no.
One of my goals for August is to focus on releasing myself of anger and guilt that I often project onto myself due to letting expectations (real or otherwise) flood my thoughts. I have a bad habit of letting an unknown voice say, “People have it worse than you,” when I feel sorry for myself. Not only does this invalidate my feelings, it doesn’t allow me to deal with my issues upfront and it just builds up over time. I am learning that processing my feelings when I feel them allows me to reach the “be grateful for what you have” mentality much faster than shutting myself down and not understanding why I am still frustrated/angry/unhappy in the future.
I’m here to say I am allowed to be sad and disappointed about losing something that brought me joy, enlightenment, rejuventation, education, and the rest of the list of endless positives. I am allowed to be angry with my country’s administration keeping us trapped within our borders due simply to idiocy. I am allowed to be anxious about the fact that the end to this is unforeseeable and I have placed so many metaphorical eggs in my ‘travel’ basket to keep me going thus far. Since 2015, and more aggressively these last three years, I have learned more about myself and the world from traveling than I have in any classroom or corporate office. I owe so much of my open-mindedness, resilience, and continued kindness to experiences while traveling. It goes beyond the logistics of a trip–it’s the scenarios you thought you would never encounter; the independence and choice of saying yes or no to something or someone; the release of inhibitions because who knows when you’ll have this opportunity again. It’s the freedom that you can’t replicate or really even achieve in your day-to-day life. It doesn’t matter that these moments are temporary. It matters that they happened at all.
I had absolutely no plans to travel even before other countries started closing their borders to Americans. I have every intention to keep myself and others safe because it’s the right thing to do. But I think we can all agree that the hardest adjustment with the pandemic and its subsequent lockdown is the removal of choice from the equation. Obviously, freedom of choice is a very Westernized ideology, so I recognize that privilege as well, but it’s something every individual around the globe craves. So, even though I, and others like me, may be seen as privileged for missing traveling, despite the fact that we choose to save our money and time for trips over other luxuries in life, we miss the same things that others do: the ability to go when and where you want without fear of infecting others or being infected; the ability to see family and loved ones in faraway places; the ability to sit at a restaurant and enjoy a meal and a drink (or several) with friends; the ability to just be somewhere because you want to be there, not because you have to be.
I know once health professionals across the globe assure us that we can go back to living our lives the way we all like to, I will be booking trips straight-away. However, I also know that traveling will never be the same. Nothing in the world will “go back to normal” because a lot of things were wrong with ‘normal’ and a lot of things simply have no option of going back to way they were. But I can’t be fearful of this change. I’d like to end this post reminding anyone out there that used to be an avid traveler or is a traveler at heart that our sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration, and whatever other adjectives we’re using to describe how we feel about the inability to travel as freely as before is completely valid. We just know now, even more than before, to be fully present and appreciative of what future trips hold for us:
“While it’s important to hold on to those things that remind us of travel, we must remember things change. THIS is what makes our experiences truly special. You can never perfectly recreate a moment in time that you experienced. These moments are yours and yours alone. So let’s stop expecting things to “return to normal.” That travel will be what it was because that isn’t how travel has ever worked. We’ll be back. And places will change. But let’s embrace that change as something to look forward to instead of dreading.” – Erick Prince (@minoritynomad)