Traveling, for the most part, is a lot of fun. Instead of inundating you with the typical “You learn so much yourself!” happy go-lucky crap that so many popular travel sites chuck in your face like an angry ex with a drink in hand, I’m going to give you a spoonful of how being away from home for a long time can mess with your head (and heart). If you don’t like those blogs that read like diary entries, skip this one. If you happened to enjoy my “Once Upon A Time I Was A Writer” post, then you’ll enjoy the next few paragraphs. It sneaks up on you like an assassin making a hit with a sniper rifle from 8,300 miles away. While you’re innocently driving, the bullet breaks through the window of your being.
Out it pours, not blood but memories. The floodgates open and you remember all the people who love you in flashes, each moment drenched in longing, loss, and love. Suddenly, the most insignificant moments matter most. The frailty of the human condition slaps you in the face like an interrogation scene out of a Hollywood action flick. It demands your attention, your acknowledgement, your answers. With your heart bound, your eyes betray you as they reveal the truth you’re trying so desperately to cover up. In an incongruent instant, tears tumble precariously towards the truth you’re trying to keep secret. This is a new secret–one you’ve never considered possible. The realization that you may actually never see the people you love most in the world again suffocates you. You take deep breaths to calm your fear, but it only gives you wind for the next roll of nostalgia. You’re not so tough anymore. Not like you used to be. Not like the days where those feelings didn’t register in a fortress of solitude that Superman would eat kryptonite for………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
It’s the second morning in a row I’ve suddenly cried because I miss my brothers. Fort Minor’s “Where’d You Go” has dominated my psyche. I never thought I’d cry because I miss my brothers. It’s nothing really, just all those times we snuck off to the movies, or the handful of nights playing darts and drinking beer in a garage. At the time, those moments seemed so ordinary and not worth remembering. Now that I’m on the other side of the world, they’re the best memories I have of them. As I try to gulp down the knot of sadness in my throat, I start remembering everyone else I’ve left behind. Those rather mundane dinners with friends where nothing in particular was talked about with drinks in hand are suddenly priceless.
Those sparse meet ups for coffee at a new coffee shop–priceless. Quiet nights around a campfire–priceless. Long days of climbing (rock and ice)–priceless. On days like this, I question the value of long-term travel. Is leaving it all behind a worthwhile sacrifice to live out a childhood dream? It’s tough to say. Yes, you make new friends along the way, but the bond is different. You’re not held together by years of commonality, but by short-lived, shared wandering. You tend to love people who’ve been in your life longer, more. These people who’ve chosen to share their lives with you for an extended amount of time can get away with things new friends and strangers never could (and you don’t quite mind because for reasons you can’t always explain, you love them).
I remember helping a young woman find her way across a college campus. She walked up to me and pointed at a classroom on a piece of paper in her hand. She didn’t know where it was. When I realized she didn’t understand very much English and couldn’t follow my directions, I motioned for her to follow me as I walked her towards the classroom she was trying to find. She was ecstatic the entire walk. I was so surprised that what I thought was insignificant could make someone that happy. I finally understand why she was so thrilled to have my help. For those handful of minutes, she didn’t have to navigate a new and confusing world on her own.It takes a few moments of peregrine sadness to understand what those who cannot return home go through. After being away from home for only 6 months, I know that I’ll never look at a migrant, short- or long-term, the same. I’ll help them in any way I can without question. I’ll try harder to make them feel more at home. I’ll do my best to make them feel like they’re not alone, even if it’s only for a few minutes of their lives.