I am not a full time traveller. I cannot tell you how often I have thought about becoming one. The idea of selling all my possessions and being on the road forever, living for seeing the world, moving from place to place and soaking up all the beauty that this earth has to offer – it is appealing and repelling to me all at once. Having grown up in very conservative circumstances where a stable income and a fixed residence were not ever even questioned, the nomad life that many of my esteemed fellow travel bloggers lead is like a dark temptress, a taboo, the conceptual equivalent to what in a romantic interest we would call a „bit of rough“. It fascinates me – but I’m afraid of it too.
As it is, I know that I could probably do that if I really wanted to, but I don’t think I do. Instead when I am sitting at home wishing that I was travelling instead, I revel in the joy of the next best thing to travel: anticipation.
There seldomly is a moment when I do not have a trip planned. It doesn’t need to be anything huge – a weekend in Hamburg with my parents, or in my favourite Polish city Gdansk, or down in Tübingen where I went to university – all these will do, because they give me something to look forward to, and even though I know all these places well, the fact that I do not live there allows for me to see them with a traveller’s eyes.
Sometimes sitting at my desk, my eyes wander longingly to the book shelf that holds my guide books. Not that I am big on using them. The only thing I ever really use in guide books are the maps and the information on bus and train times (although I don’t really rely on that either). I then dream of all the places in the books I have not seen yet and of all that awaits me, and I also look back a bit nostalgically to my past endeavours and the peace and the joy they have given me.
Sometimes when it comes to this, I go and open my notebooks from trips past, and I reread what I wrote about those places, wondering if my memory or my noted down immediate impression would make for a more accurate picture of the places I am thinking about. I am grateful for everything that I have written in my notebooks, and I wish I had jotted down even more, because I wish I remembered every detail. But then again it is probably beneficial to my nostalgia that I do not. Nostalgia colours all my memories in a slightly golden tone and transforms the places into something precious. Which in the case of travel I cannot seem to find harmful or dangerous. Because the places are precious and they are special.
Of course there is a reason that I am having these musings today. In a little over two weeks I am going to the US on my summer trip. The last time I was in the States is nine years ago. Nine years! I cannot even comprehend that time span. I am caught between different emotions. There is the great excitement to see one of my highschool friends from that year I spent in Texas as a teenager (now that is even 13 years ago!!), to have Taco Bell Seven Layer Burritos, to hear English all around me all the time with thick American accents, and to get to know a new city – Chicago. And at the same time I feel compelled to remember how I saw that country when I was younger, what it did to me, what it gave to me when I lived there. I am between nostalgia and anticipation.
I love being in this place. It makes me feel alive. I try to live in the moment in my daily life, but it is still easier for me to live in the moment when I am away, and that just logically leads up to me being nostalgic and anticipatory in between. As I write this, the excitement is ever growing. I cannot wait to experience Chicago, and, let’s face it, I cannot wait to write about it. I read a great quote by Jorge Luis Borges on twitter today:
A writer – and, I believe, generally all persons – must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us […] is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
When it comes down to it, I always come to the conclusion that I am not cut out for travelling full time and that I am better off as someone who has a defined home, a place I can resort to where things are not ever-changing. A place where there is allowed to be dullness, boredom and insignificance. But only under two conditions: I need to be allowed to reminisce and look back on past beauty. And I need to know that if I wanted to, I could pack up my bags and leave, the anticipation of the next exciting adventure.