When the urge to leave is strong

I’m only content when I’m moving. A sentiment that keeps surfacing in my mind. There’s a certain stimulation that comes with constantly seeing new places that is intensely intoxicating. It can rip the rug right out from under you and make you wonder about that homebody part of yourself that craves a cozy, stable existence. Although it can often be stressful to manage a full workload while traveling around, the stress immediately fades for me when presented with the reality of one place, day in and day out.

I’m trying to put my finger on why it feels so paralyzing to stay still. Is it simply due to laziness? To a lack of commitment? It’s true that once we humans are in our home habitat, we tend to let the monotony of a place seep in. Instead of continuously discovering new things, we sometimes adopt an impression of knowing it all. We settle into the old grooves. And, if you’re like me, after some disappointing Google searches, find yourself stumped with how to hold a fulfilling and energizing social life outside of work and the chores of daily life. How to find my hook into the world of like-minded compatriots. Sure, there’s the occasional friend outing, and I try to stay abreast of cultural events, but it feels incomplete. I feel like I’m missing something. I feel like there is a pulse that is always flying just under my radar. A pulse reserved for the lifers of the city, the helplessly cool and hip, or the people who hold important positions in the social ecosystem. That’s not to say that I dislike my city, in fact I love it in many ways, it’s just that, for me, it doesn’t always glitter with the regard many people hold it in.

But then my mind turns to a larger reason always looming on the horizon: the weather. As an Amsterdammer (if I can call myself that..), I tell myself that if the sun made an appearance more often and it was at least 10 degrees warmer on average, then life would feel a lot less depressing. After all, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a recognized thing now, and there is no denying that we all have a little more pep in our step when the rays are warming our backs. But then again, maybe this is another excuse that denies my own agency, the role I play in my feelings and outlook. My own inability to feel rooted in a place. So what if I lived in a warmer locale, would that solve all my issues? The answer is assuredly no, but nevertheless, I have a feeling that it would help. That the activating energy of the sun could do a whole hell of a lot to brighten my daily mood.

And then, sometimes you meet people who are totally, 100% in love with a place. You know the ones. You can see the contentment like a rod straight through them. They give glowing reviews. They say that as soon as they arrived in X neighborhood/town/city/country, they just knew. They felt at home. It was theirs. Or, on the other hand, that once they built a community the place became vital, they could never dream of leaving. And that’s just it. Is it the people or the place? My dad always advocated the former.”It’s not the place it’s the people,” he would tell me in my moments of frustration, pointing out that no matter where you go, people fundamentally do the same things. We go out to eat, we see movies, we shop, we have parties, but when you’re with great company, that makes all the difference.

Throughout my travels, I’ve found this more or less holds true. Activities don’t range too widely across the world. And of course, I’ll be the first to admit that friends, and the laughter that come with them, are one of the most gratifying and grounding forces in my life. And yet, there is a small inkling deep down that says that the place still matters, maybe even more. The landscape, the environment, the weather, those fundamental things play an important role in our internal satisfaction and in our ability to shape a life. We are products of our environment after all, aren’t we?

Of course, as with all things, the truth undoubtedly lies somewhere in the middle. Between wanting to stay and wanting to go there is a delicate beauty. A transparent film of acceptance that begs you to look closer and have patience. So much of our happiness relies on our ability to see it. To be grateful. To feel loved. To give and build meaningful relationships. And maybe my dad is right, maybe once you have a community surrounding you, the rest falls into place.

But while this act of thinking out loud may not yield substantial answers, and may come across as privileged whining to some, it eases my mind in the wondering. In the acceptance, that maybe I just have that cringe-worthy term people love to toss around these days: wanderlust. And at this stage in my life, seeing, consuming and feeling out the countless places of this world, is a stronger power clouding my vision. A friendly, pillowy cloud that serves as an ever-present reminder of the adventure that awaits whenever I’m back to a somewhat routine life. That sweet pill of entering a new world is the thrill that it appears I will be forever chasing, swallowing down and chasing again.

Maybe it’s time I dig into the in-between state, knowing that adventures are always around the corner and that no one place can be all things.

What do you think? Can you relate? I hope to use this post as a forum for discussion, to learn, question and find peace together. To know about your experience with travel and home life. How do you balance the two? What is most satisfying for you? Where do your urges lie?

 

Thanks for listening,

Elizabeth

 

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3 Comments

  1. Anniek March 22, 2016 at 3:30 am

    First of all, I like your writing and I can relate to it a lot. I think about the same things and also try not to get stuck in it too often.
    Secondly, here’s my opinion about your piece. Hope you can understand… I think it’s all about balance within yourself. After all the traveling and after seeing so many new places we did kind of a routine in Thailand. Sleeping in, eating, biking around, going to movies, drinking some coffee, doing nothing. We needed that, because one craves routine sometimes. Some people more than others, they will stay for a long time or forever in one place and they are happy with this. Which seems so nice and comfortable to me! But the more you keep thinking you want to be or feel as those people, the more you will drift away from yourself. Simply, because you are not like that. Everyone is different. You have to accept that you will need this other lifestyle and that you will get energy from new impressions. Yes, weather does have impact on mood, but the ability to root in a place is not in outer factors (maybe not even people, although important, but you’ll find nice people everywhere) but it’s the/your inner factors that will keep you rooted. For example, I thought that I would come across a place during my travels where I wanted to stay forever. Truth is, I did not find anything like it. Maybe some place I could be for a while, but that’s it. So I hate to say it (and maybe I’m not right or you don’t agree, and I’m not saying I mastered this, not even close) but it’s not a community, the environment or a place, it’s you. Which is actually even harder. Be in balance with yourself and love yourself for wanting more/different or even not knowing what you want yet. You will find more rest if you accept that you have a restless mind. (Get it still?) So I think your conclusion is right, because the in between state is perfectly fine as long as you are fine with it. And it can actually be pretty awsome if you embrace it. x

    Reply
    1. esensky7@gmail.com March 22, 2016 at 8:11 am

      This is beautiful, Anniek! You took what I was getting at and went one step further, digging into the point that I was skirting around. I totally agree that, at the core, it’s about acceptance within. Isn’t that what it’s all about? ;) After all, that’s what colors the rest of our experiences, no matter the place or the people. Thank you for sharing your insightful perspective! I also thought during my travels that I may stumble across a place where I would want to stay forever, but the more I travel, the more I realize that this won’t happen for me. I think some people are more resolute than others, some people are more comfortable sticking their stake in the sand. I can also relate to sometimes doing “nothing” on a leg of a trip. I’ve had those moments too, where I just go to a coffee shop and work for a day or do the “usual” things I would do back “home”. It’s funny, my boyfriend and I usually end up finding our regular spots wherever we go. Even while trying new things, we create a sort of routine. We are all creatures of habit to some degree or another :) So I guess cheers to restless minds and self-love! Thanks for sharing, I think you hit the nail on the head. <3

      xx,
      Elizabeth

      Reply
  2. Anniek March 22, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Elizabeth, you are welcome and thank you for sharing your thoughts. You have a great ability to write in beautiful words how you feel about things. And yes, it’s all about acceptance within, just one of the hardest parts to learn for people with restless minds I guess ;)

    Reply

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