I Have Become a Lazy Traveler

February 15, 2018

My time in Japan has largely just been filled with a day-in-day-out mentality: wake up, go for a run, eat breakfast, shower, go to work, come home, maybe have a drink, prepare dinner, hit the gym, and sleep. This doesn’t bother me so much – I do have a full-time job, after all – if I didn’t exhibit the same pattern on my days off.

My first year in Japan, when the country and travel in general were still new to me, it would be a rare occasion for me to sleep in on Sunday. More often than not, I would be catching the last train into Hiroshima or Fukuoka, partying all night, then catching the first train to different small towns for adventures.

I didn’t establish a good group of friends this way, but I can definitely say I found enjoyment in these little trips. There was certainly no fulfillment in my life; I had the same doubts about finding purpose and meeting someone as I do now. In that respect, very little has changed. However, my passion for travel was unbridled, new, fresh. It didn’t matter that I spent all that time alone cycling down the Shimanami Kaido bridges to Shikoku and soaking in Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama. I was living the dream, or at least convincing myself I should try.

Two years ago, when I attempted a serious RTW trip to try and survive on a freelancer’s salary, I chose a variety of countries: China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, UAE, and Cambodia. Sri Lanka was the last leg in a journey that could have had me continuing through the holidays, but instead made me want nothing more than a break, a distraction from the monotony.

Yes, monotony. In a life of travel, by any measure. Sri Lanka was probably one of the most boring places I stayed that year. It could have been due to the fact that I found it difficult to connect with people, or that I was completely unmotivated to run or even leave the guesthouse some days… One time I didn’t even step outside the mosquito net and reclined on the lumpy mattress for a full 14 hours watching YouTube, catching up on movies, and doing some writing in between. In the end, I felt lazy, malnourished, and dirty. Most days I didn’t shower or venture out of Weligama.

Chiang Mai wasn’t too different. I set myself up in a comfortable guesthouse, monitored Couchsurfers coming to the area, and tried to run loops around the old city. I won’t say I didn’t enjoy eating authentic Thai food for the first time in years or getting a $9 massage, but I never caught a bus to Pai. I never bathed the elephants. The most I did was connect with a Texas CSer and walk through the night market.

I became so concerned with using my online income to pay off debt and build savings that I was unwilling to live comfortably or reward myself with trips, regardless of whether they were expensive or took away from my work time. There was also the issue of impermanence: I knew I wouldn’t be in one place for more than a few weeks, so why bother to establish something? I could have rented an Airbnb or found a proper rental for a month, joined a gym, and cooked my own meals. Instead, it was bouncing from hotel to hostel, settling for running and takeout.

“Sleepy Cat” by Julian Schroeder

All of this has me thinking about my namesake, Once A Traveler, and what that means for my future. I’ve always thought that when I returned to the states for work or family visits, my heart would always draw me back out into the world. Once a traveler, always a traveler, even if I stop for a time. The same holds true for me as a runner.

Am I still a traveler, if I can no longer appreciate life abroad on my own? When I had two friends with me exploring Bali, we climbed mountains, searched for obscure places to visit, ate exotic foods, and formed some genuine memories. When they left, I checked into a cheap room and repeated the same pattern – lazy days, maybe a little bit of movement to prevent bedsores, unexciting meals and activities, and few if any conversations.

This is the question I’ll have to ask moving forward. I’ll be in Japan for the next year, and how I approach my time in the country will have lasting consequences for me. If I can find no joy as a traveler, then who will I be?

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One Response to I Have Become a Lazy Traveler

  1. Earl on February 27, 2018 at 2:48 pm

    I had to ask myself the same question often enough. “Here you are in XYZ; you should be LIVING IT UP!” And the answer I came up with is “why can’t I enjoy being monotonous in other countries?” Everyone else is content living a Netflix and takeout life; what’s wrong with enjoying that in a new country every year? So that’s what I do. I fly to a new country, do like two touristy things…And then read a book in the park and eat out. I think being the world’s most boring world traveler is just fine.

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