A Traveler Goes to Travel Rehab

I’m in probably 5 Facebook groups for women who love to travel. One is literally titled Girls LOVE Travel. Every day I get some kind of notification about a post where someone is looking for recommendations for their upcoming trip, advice on how to make money online or work remotely, how to become the newly created, and highly coveted, digital nomad. Yes, all day long I could scroll through the posts in these groups with thousands of women asking similar questions: How can I travel full time? I hate my job/school, how can I leave it all behind and travel? I’m going to ________ for 2 weeks/6 months, any recommendations? *insert enviable photos of beautiful destination* There are posts aplenty from people who are feeling lost when they come home, because all they think/dream/eat/sleep is travel; all they can do is think of their next trip. For the skeptics among us, on those same groups there is a flurry of people who do travel full-time and get paid to do it. It is a real thing, and people do make a living off of it somehow (seriously though, somebody show me how?).

I have always dreamed of other places. I started watching anime when I was probably about 6, and if anime does one thing right, it paints a very dreamy picture of Japan. One thing anime often captures spectacularly well is the whimsical melancholy of the city, and when coupled with music you’ve got a recipe for a delicious fantasy. Tokyo has always been my childhood dream trip, and to this day I refuse to go there until I have money to burn so I can have the trip that 10 year-old me always wanted.

I’ve always had a hard-on for all things international. Growing up, I consumed any and every DVD in the international section at Blockbuster. Most of my favorite movies are either set abroad or involve traveling somewhere new. I would obsessively watch Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel, then get on Expedia as a teen and meticulously plan entire trips, or beg my mom to move abroad. I even cried about this once, in 100% sincerity. All I wanted was to live life elsewhere and see all of these beautiful places. After I graduated university, I moved to South Korea. That experience made me feel like I had made a dream come true, which a crazy feeling I can tell you. It was a full Lizzie McGuire moment, more proof that traveling was key to my happiness.

Actually beaming in Bruges, Belgium circa 2011

On the women’s travel groups, this sentiment is shared among all of us. Women of all ages are on there, from the fairly young who are itching to get out and see the world, to the middle-aged and up, expressing anxiety or outright boredom with their lives. Many are ready to leave it all behind and hit the road. I share it too, and up until recently, it was just part of my life. I was a traveler, a wanderer, a journey woman.

Like any addict, the first step is admitting you have a problem. I’m guilty of seeing people on Instagram, these full-time travel bloggers or YouTube/Instagram influencers, and feeling a trickle (if not an outright wave) of envy. How. Do. You. Get. This. Job. I had felt it too, the thrill of a trip, of exploring somewhere new. To feel that all the time? And get paid? Surely there is no better life, and I wanted it.

Seriously, look how absurdly giddy I was after arriving in Osaka

I had that same expectation for satisfaction when I went to New Zealand. But as I’ve spoken about before, when I got there I became incredibly depressed. Chris’s death was an atomic bomb in every aspect of my internal life. It triggered a lot of reflection and contemplation about my own life and what I was doing with it. When I realized that I needed to come back to the states, for my own mental health and well-being, I’ll tell you a huge thought that weighed on me was about traveling. When I had left for New Zealand, I had no intention of coming back to Arizona. I swore up and down that I wouldn’t, and that I would carry on on my journey to live abroad permanently and fulfill my globetrotting destiny.

Clearly, that did not go as planned.

I’d like to be clear that I’m not shitting on people who love to travel. I count myself among them. Traveling has, and always will be, part of my life. My end game has always been to move to Europe permanently. When I dream of my perfect life, it heavily features living in a progressive European country where I can ride a bike every day and where people speak a language other than English most of the time. But I’m realizing that this passion and idealization of travel has instilled a grass is greener mentality within me, and that that’s not very healthy. It wasn’t until that time in New Zealand, beautiful, gorgeous place that it is, that I realized for the first time that being somewhere else didn’t fulfill me. I had never felt that before. I had never once in my life felt an attachment to home. In fact, I spent my entire life dreaming about how to get away from it. It was with a strange mix of relief, to be back with the people I loved, and disappointment, that I had broken that promise to myself, that I came back to Arizona.

Since I’ve been home, I’m putting myself through what I like to call travel rehab. Travel rehab isn’t about not traveling anymore, god knows I would never want that. But it is about getting yourself off of the mentality that traveling is a remedy for your unhappiness. It’s about learning to value all of the things that make up a life. It’s about knowing your worth, and that you are not more valuable trekking through the Amazon than if you are at work in Phoenix. Maybe even the things in your backyard are just as cool and interesting as things 11,000 miles away. Happiness is a choice, and the quality of your life shouldn’t have caveats like life would be great, if only I were traveling.

For the first time, I don’t have this tunnel-vision for traveling. This is very new to me. My end game is still to move to Sweden or the Netherlands permanently, and of course there are plenty of places I want to see, but I find myself feeling less and less envious of the travel group or Instagram posts. Just because other people are there right now, doesn’t mean I have to be. My life is my own, and I set the pace. Of course, I look forward to my next trip, whenever that will be. But I’m feeling more at peace with taking my life one step at a time. I’m realizing more and more that having my happiness be contingent on being in a new place isn’t any way to really live. Life is made up of a lot of different parts, and as trite as it sounds, there is some truth to the sayings about happiness being a state of mind.

Actually really enjoying a day hike just 2 hours north of where I live

It’s not easy, I can tell you that. I’ve spent a lifetime dreaming of nothing but being in other places, so learning to appreciate wherever you are at, physically, mentally, emotionally, is a an eternal work in progress. I miss New Zealand, and if just choosing to be happy were as easy as it sounds, then everyone would be doing it. There are still so many places to see and my plan isn’t to live and die in Arizona. When I think of the future, I’m excited for the day when I get to move to Europe and make that dream come true. I think this blog will be more of a documentation of that journey, of trying to be present and choose happiness in a world that is overrun with bandaids for happiness and success. I will meet those goals and dreams, but I’m learning to live in the moment too. To appreciate the people in my life and wherever I find myself. Noxeema Jackson, one of my favorite on-screen drag queens, said it best:

I am going to make Hollywood wherever I am at.

Noxeema Jackson

Happy trails x

Asa

One thought on “A Traveler Goes to Travel Rehab

  1. Very thoughtful post. Social media is a tricky bastard, and people only post the good moments. I have to remember that, too, when I come across a perfect, bright, high quality travel-y instagram account. We’ll achieve that dream (mine is Italy and Milan), but it takes time and thoughtful planning/work. You’re well on your way and enjoying the ride! Sounds perfect! And welcome home!

    Like

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