Recently Shannon wrote a piece on being far away from home when her grandmother died. It got me thinking, “Are those that don’t travel somehow getting it more right? Are they more in tune with what actually matters?”
Maybe. Maybe not. There will be no conclusion at the end of this post.
Either way, most of us travelers tend to view non-travelers as those who “are living but aren’t alive.” They’re not expanding their horizons, widening their concept of the world, or finding the places that could potentially speak novels to them. They’re missing out.
But when it comes to death, love, roots, time, comfort, relief, sorrow, pain, joy, ecstasy — are their experiences just as fulfilling — if not deeper? At least their experiences connect them to their loved ones — we’re having experiences that connect us to places and strangers. Places and people that, by and large, don’t give a fuck about us. That with the constraints of time and lifelessness, simply can’t.
So. Are we single-serving friends?
Are we ignoring what really matters?
Do these deeper, more long-term, possibly more dependent experiences scare us? Are we traveling out of fear?
I missed my grandmother’s death, too.
I’ve been working with a life coach for almost a year now. The program’s all about who you are “in fear” and who you are “in freedom.” It’s a neat idea. Above most all else, I’ve learned that I fear being boring and ordinary. That I will go to great lengths — like moving to a different country — partly to avoid feeling boring and ordinary.
My life coach didn’t posit it herself, but she let me draw the conclusion. “Have I been travelling the world and constantly moving from place to place out of fear?”
“Seems like that’s possible, doesn’t it?”
And the entire can of worms exploded in my face. Maybe fear has controlled every literal move I’ve ever made. Maybe I’m afraid of getting to know people beyond the gleam of being the “new girl” to the point they become bored of me. Maybe I’m afraid of getting to know people to the point where I become bored of them. There are about a million maybes rushing through my head at any given point along this train of thought, but the maybe that it boils down to is: maybe I’ve ruined my entire life.
A little melodramatic, but you get it. The explosion of realization settles down into an interesting seed of thought: How does fear keep you moving?
I continued on with my life coach. “So those people who are too afraid to leave...those people I’ve been judging for nearly my entire life as being small-minded and scared — I’m them, just on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m afraid to stay and they’re afraid to leave.”
“Certainly doesn’t sound wrong.”
We travelers, I think we tend to pride ourselves on the fact that we’re somehow better than that quintessential American who doesn’t own a passport. That we’ve seen more things, that we understand on a deeper level, that we have a more accurate, larger painting of what is “real” life. That we’re enlightened (semi-italics to indicate eye roll). That with every tally added to our “country count” we become more entitled to brag and feel a deserved sense of hubris. However, some of us, myself included, are just as scared of “real” life as those that never statistically wander more than 25 miles away from their mothers.
All this — all of this — has no other point than to say, is any of this in you? If you couldn’t label yourself as a “traveler,” what would that do to your identity? Would it remain intact? Would it scare you? Would you feel boring and ordinary? Maybe even a titch worthless?
If your answer is “no,” that’s fine; we’re different people. But if your answer is “no,” what, then, are your motivations? What’s made it worth being far away from family and friends for years on end? It’s clearly one hell of a motivator, and negatives are almost always stronger than positives. You want to be rich, sure, but you really don’t want to be poor.
And if your answer is “yes,” welcome. I appreciate your company and your openness. But for the record, let’s add an addendum to our club manifesto: It’s not that fear is bad, clearly. It’s not that it hasn’t driven us to do absolutely amazing things. I’m sure ourselves “in freedom” are curious, adventurous, and highly prize seeing and learning — freedoms that our fears happen to play right into. And because of all this, we’ve turned into interesting people with different viewpoints and incredibly vivid memories.
The only question it begs is, “When the fear disappears, what’ll we do next?”
If this seems like introspective mumbo-jumbo, well, maybe it is. At the very least, hopefully it’s stirred your pot on the perspective we view “non-travelers” with. Maybe they’re not that different from us, and maybe they’re getting certain things right — the things that matter to them. Maybe they were there to hold hands with their grandmothers as they pass, and that memory is utterly priceless to them. It sounds priceless to me. But I’ll never have it.
And that’s okay. Whatever camp we fall into, it’s our camp.