I have a little game I've played with myself for the last month. It's called "Where Were You In Europe One Year Ago Today?" It's a fetching little way to escape the mundane details of day-to-day existence. If faced with some unpleasantry, such as paying bills or mounting work deadlines or absolutely no one worth eyefucking, much less actual fucking, I escape to the dock at Nyhavn or the Viktualienmarkt or even the world's most insane train ride through central Italy, just because it was novel and scary and exhilarating.
What's been surprising me is that I don't play this game more often. As recently as September I was in serious backpacking withdrawl, practically having the shakes from being stuck in the same job, with the same people under the same roof every single day for the foreseeable future.
Travel addicts, especially solo travel addicts, are like all other addicts. We're thrillseekers who crave the fix of the exotic. We're impulsive and selfish. We remove ourselves from old support systems until we hit rock bottom. We travel because we want to forget our lives, sometimes permanently. We leech off others by absorbing their unfamiliar conversations, cuisines and cultures.
The kind of travel I love isn't always pretty. It's often messy and terrifying, and always scrappy. Scrappy. Perfect word for what I love. Improvisational and free, being responsible for no one and nothing but your own survival and comfort.
The kind of travel I love tests the people I love. When you cut ties and set off own your own, others don't always want to do the extra work to maintain that love. Looking back, I can't say I blame them. Who wants to rely on a blog and the occasional email for friendship? Who wants to put forth the extra effort to be a companion to someone thousands of miles away? From a purely practical standpoint, I completely understand the impulse to put me on a shelf until I got back.
For the most part they took me back when I returned. So now I'm here, firmly entrenched in a pattern of daily life. There are people I owe things to, be it money or time or an open mind. There is a cat that will be more than happy to remind me if I forget to feed her. For the first time in almost a decade, there are no big shifts on my horizon. No move, no new job, no relationship upheaval, no shows, no big change. I'm the picture of steadiness (or will be when I use my tax refund to pay off the good people at AmEx).
On March 8, 2006 I had a staff meeting. Then I drafted a whole bunch of reports and color-coded my filing system.
On March 8, 2005 I decided I was bored with Roman statuary and bratwurst and went to Amsterdam for a week of the sort of debauchery I will not mention on the Internet. Except that I will and he had a HOT accent and there was much Heinekin and THC involved. And Arcade Fire was there, too.
But today I'm also going to the DC Independent Film Festival with some friends and then trying a new restaurant. Exhilarating? Not really. Safe? Well, it's not exactly rappelling down a sheer cliff face. But it's new to me. And it's certain to be lovely, because my friends are lovely people.
I met a lot of travel junkies while I was backpacking. People my age who wander the world with a knapsack and a passport, tending bar or picking fruit to keep them in hostel payments and clove cigarettes. They all had battle scars and glorious stories, and all but one of two of them would someday go home, wherever that might be, and pick up where they left off. Because that kind of life, no matter how brutally pure and intoxicating it is, can't be maintained. People aren't meant to live without strings. I don't meander through Irish bowers in my head all day because doing so keeps me from living. Like it or not, I'm acknowledging all the tedium (but a lot of really pleasant stuff, too) that fills the days. Dare I say... maturing? Accepting being an adult?
Junkies usually either crash and burn or sober up and acquire that glassy-eyed, be-rehabed look. I'm hoping I can be like the mythical alcoholic who functionally has a glass of wine. Maybe even one who sometimes gets plastered and does regrettable but entertaining things she fuzzily remembers, but still thrives.