Part of Your World

July 2, 2011

As a constant traveler, there are many things I miss out on, but stability is probably my biggest regret. Not financial stability, or even physical stability (staying in the same place). No, I miss mental stability. Yes, I said it: I am mentally unbalanced. In the way that only someone spending the majority of his time in an undetermined location can be.

When I left Japan in 2008, I was connected to that world. I knew the top blogs to check for the latest insider news. Vlogging wasn’t quite as big then as it is now, but I still monitored YouTube for the latest updates. I had English-teaching and Japanese friends I left behind with whom I assumed I’d stay in touch. But, as so often happens in the vagabonding experience, we just slowly forget. Not that I can’t remember every moment, every highlight, of my time in Japan. But it’s not a part of who I am anymore. It just can’t be: I don’t live there; I don’t share in their pain, their joy (I try to, but it’s a shallow effort).

This is especially ironic as most of the things that connected me to Japan – YouTube, blogs, news sites, Facebook friends – are still completely accessible from my computer in Korea. I’ve just lost touch with what it means to be a part of that world, and I don’t try anymore.

The same is no doubt going to be true when I leave Korea. Oh sure, I’ll follow Eat Your Kimchi and check for updates on Monster Island, but eventually, there’ll be more and more references I just don’t understand. The time difference will become an issue. I might even stop saying “나이스!” on instinct.

The truth, as I see it, is our surroundings define our reality. And in no circumstance could that be more obvious than among fellow travelers. I hear from people all the time saying “Sure, we’ll keep in touch, we’ll stay friends; our relationship is strong enough to last even when we’re apart for months.” I don’t believe that. Not in the least.

Just as two high school sweethearts find themselves drifting apart – even when Skyping, talking, and tweeting each other – when they attend different universities, so too do friendships and relationships weaken without physical closeness. Maybe this is rather cynical of me to say, but I can only judge from my own experiences. I have kept in touch with high school friends, friends I’ve met in Thailand, even ex-girlfriends, but it’s limited to Facebook and the occasional Skype call. I have a feeling if we were to meet face-to-face, there would be nothing to talk about after catching up.

Our worlds are just too far apart. They’ve been in one place, attending fundraisers, dating the same people, starting families, moving their careers along, building a future. I’ve been adjusting to life in foreign countries, finding the best way to get turkey into my refrigerator, writing about travel, discovering hidden hot springs.

If I were to stop everything right now, fly back to the states, and start living the life they had been living all along, I might find we soon have more in common. I’ve seen it happen before, as I get overwhelmed with the American media and start focusing on celebrity gossip over Japanese politics, which kind of Greek yogurt is best vs. understanding my friend’s problem with corruption in Thailand. It’s no secret travelers come back to their home countries and can’t help but toot their own horns, spouting every single thing that happened to them over the past six months. Some are fascinated, but eventually they wish you’d stop talking about yourself so much. It’s no different than living abroad and having locals ask you about life in your home country: the fact that you have experienced someplace completely different than anything they may ever know sets you apart.

I got a bit off track there, but my point is this: as a traveler, as a pretty lonely person at the moment, nothing but physical closeness will really make me feel a connection with anyone. I’m all for connecting with people online, but eventually you have to meet. And stay in one place to let that relationship flourish.

2 Responses to Part of Your World

  1. Mack Reynolds on July 23, 2011 at 4:58 am

    does this mean that you’re contemplating settling down somewhere soon (not necessarily the US)? or does it mean that you’d like a travel partner? or none of the above? being lonely sucks. i like the photo of ariel though; it made me laugh.

  2. Turner on July 23, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I’d consider any and all of those options.

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