The Travel Experience, Seven Years In

March 7, 2013

I walk alone

While I’m a little late on the ball with this entry, I’m just trying to get myself out of this slump and write something personal. North Korea is in the news making more idle threats; nothing will happen, as Kim Jong Un is a spoiled, immature brat. I’m dealing with some personal issues as I try to find what path is best for me after San Francisco, and whether I want to walk that road alone.

To be frank, I haven’t been depressed as most people think of it. I still run, sleep, eat, and entertain myself as best I can. But I have lost the motivation to do a lot of things I’ve been doing most of my life in the hopes of being a good and successful man. Now, to many reading this, it should be obvious I’m being a little hypocritical; long-term travelers are anything but society’s definition of normal (not that it means too much to me), and we all know doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insane. That’s not the reason behind this change in lifestyle.

I’ve been traveling the world for over six years, and while I know I haven’t seen it all, and would no doubt experience some spark of inspiration, something less mind numbing if I were to get back out there, I’m tired of the routine.

Routine??? In travel?? You must be joking!

Hardly.

I thought by running and eating well, I’d be healthy, help attract someone of the opposite sex, and develop my image into something I’d be proud of. I haven’t. I’m not satisfied with the way I look, nor do I think I’ll ever be. I’ve stopped caring about what I eat and how much I exercise.

I thought that by pursuing a variety of different jobs in different environments with different types of people, I’d eventually come to a grand revelation: “YES! This is what I want to do! I need to keep doing that!” I haven’t. I’m no closer to knowing my passion than a high school student blindly choosing a college. While I’ve had some ideas, they aren’t financially viable. I can’t pursue writing full time without financial independence; being on the lookout for opportunities to feed and clothe me distracts me from potential masterpieces, steals time. As a friend told me:

You’re unsatisfied because you have some dim notion that there’s something out there that WILL or COULD make you happy and depressed because you don’t know consciously what that could be. Me too. Same as us all, but you’re far more sensitive to it because you’ve chased it as hard as you have and now your feet hurt and you don’t see any more doors to open.

I thought I’d find fulfillment in waking up on a different continent each day of the week (hyperbole, of course), that travel would help me find where I belong, something I could be happy doing for a long time. I thought travel might have been the solution. Then I noticed I was rather lonely, and didn’t want to walk that road alone. The travel experience, even when I was landing in new countries with completely foreign cultures, wasn’t as exciting to me anymore. Maybe this was due to dealing with young ignorant backpackers in the same hostel scenes. Or merchants eager to practice the same broken English on me. Or realizing I’ve had the same shallow conversations with others – even when discussing politics and culture – and never getting to a level of familiarity (due to time constraints or incompatibility) in which we could share feelings, deep desires, existential ideas.

In that sense, I haven’t had any real friends. Part of the problem is me shielding myself from actually caring (more than just reaching out) about someone else. I could have initiated things. I still can. But it’s hard to find others like that when all I see and hear around me are “club passwords like ‘Have a nice day’ and ‘Weather’s awful today, eh?'” (Timothy Leary).

But if you think I’m going to end on that sorry note and give credence to the false idea I’m depressed, think again. I’m still here.

It’s a struggle, to put myself out into a world in which I’ve simply lost interest, but I’m doing my best. I still spend way too much time cooped up in front of the computer because I play out scenarios of what would happen if I were to go outside:

Meeting Someone New
Awkward smalltalk, basic introductions, perhaps some follow up, exchange of contact information, searching for each other on social media, realizing we have nothing in common, breaking off contact

Imagine what it’s like for me abroad. It’s the same routine with different players and settings: land; settle in; meet locals: “do you eat Kimchi?”, “can you use chopsticks?”, “do you believe in Jesus?”; turn to expats instead: “how long have you been here?”, “when’s your contract up?”, “have you seen/visited ____? You should totally go”; get tired of both groups and explore the culture on my own, writing intently; I do get inspired, but lonely; return home to consider other options and build assets; repeat.

It’s a terrible thing to not know one’s purpose, one’s true potential. I don’t feel destiny pulling me in a solid direction, but I haven’t completely given up hope that I have one, just become frustrated at the imprecise nature of life. I’ve been holding my head high to naysayers for years, telling them they should reconsider their 9-to-5 jobs in favor of some adventure, knocked down their arguments on my immaturity. But what else would you call a man who’s paralyzed by both a lack of direction and infinite possibilities? Who would want to be friends (or more) with someone who can’t find an alternative to living in limbo?

The only solutions are to learn to be comfortable in my own skin, with my own thoughts, and physically drag myself into situations I never would have considered otherwise. Easier said than done. I’ll keep you posted.

One Response to The Travel Experience, Seven Years In

  1. Carlo Alcos on March 8, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Hey Turner…it’s brave of you to put yourself out there like this, especially knowing that there will be those people who tell you to “suck it up” or, sometimes worse, “cheer up!” by well-intentioned but not very sensitive/understanding people. Have you heard of the Enneagram? Check it out…it’s personality-typing (more info: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/intro.asp) – I’ve found it to be extremely helpful in understanding myself better, and also understanding others. If nothing else, it can help one feel not so alone (when I read my chapter on my personality it felt like someone had interviewed me and written it specifically about me).

    I’m 37 now, and I feel like only now am I starting to understand what direction I want to move in, what my “purpose” is (although I can’t help but feel that that may change too). I think you’re thinking too future, trying to imagine scenarios, trying to figure out what you’re supposed to be…instead of just being. What do you love to do? Do it. Fully. The biggest thing that happened for me was moving to a place that had a community that I felt supported in and nurtured…this gave me permission to be who I really am. I was able to really listen to myself and start taking care of me, start loving myself. I think when we get to that point it naturally leads to this shining outward, and that is what attracts people into your life, when meaningful relationships occur. Of course, relationships (romantic or otherwise) are two way streets. To receive you have to give, so give yourself in meaningful ways. If talking to people feels too superficial, don’t forget you’re one half of that. I firmly believe that by being open and vulnerable you allow others around you to be the same way. And I think people (in general) want that…but we’ve just learned to be closed off and hold everything close to our chests.

    Have you ever considered counselling? I’ve gone for a handful of sessions and they’ve helped me immensely. You don’t have to be “crazy” to seek psychotherapy…in truth, I think everyone would stand to benefit from it. There is no shame in it.

    Whatever way you choose to go, just try to not be hard on yourself. The way we treat others is a reflection of how we treat ourselves. And don’t let anyone diminish the way you feel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to OAT



Created by Webfish.

Need Advice on Living Abroad?

Thinking of teaching English in Japan? Volunteering in Thailand? Backpacking around New Zealand? If you're looking for some insider tips on the places to go and the people to meet, check out my consulting services. If you just have a few questions, no worries: email me.