Have you ever felt like life just all of a sudden “showed up” for you? That things got pretty difficult fairly quickly, that you didn’t know what to do except escape for a bit to think things through? To have some peace?
This happened to me a few years ago, one year into marriage + stepmotherhood. Because my husband is so freakin’ awesome, I accepted all of the things that came with him that I swore I’d never be a part of: children, long commutes, suburbs, swim meets, play dates.
Quite the switch from single woman living in a tiny apartment in the city, traveling as much as her teacher’s budget would allow, right?
That first year was, as you might imagine, a HUGE adjustment. By the end of it, I was totally spent, worn raw and to be honest, feeling a bit trapped. I needed out. I needed to get back to myself and feel like “me” again.
I needed to travel.
And then I heard this: “It seems like you are just running away. You know everything will be here when you get back, right?”
Travelers, if you have never heard this from a friend or loved one, I’d like you to go ahead and count your lucky stars because this mess happens all. the. time. (I’m part of enough travel Facebook groups to know.)
If, however, this has happened to you and it has left you and your much-needed vacation feeling a bit less sparkly, read on. By the end of this post you’ll have some new tools for dealing with the travel mud-throwers.
The Mature Version of “I Know You Are But What Am I?”
When you are making a decision for your own adult self that goes against what is expected (by your family, by your peers, by society, whomever) then you are probably going to get some kickback. Repeat after me:
This has nothing to do with you. (This has nothing to do with me!)
When people that love you see you making decisions that are “different” they will start to feel one of the following: 1.) excited for you and your going-for-it-ness; 2.) worried about you; or 3.) plain-ol' jealous.
The first option is obviously preferred, and when you find someone who supports your awesome, go ahead and hold tight to that person and send them lots of handwritten cards with glitter.
If, however, the loved one in question opts for worry or jealousy, they will probably proceed to hurl those feelings at you all dressed up as loving concern, like so:
“Ooh, but have you thought about X at your travel destination?” (Where X = poisonous snakes, the possibility of abduction, being a woman and the risk of assault your gender poses, how expensive it will be, how cheap/dirty it will be, etc).
At which point you will want to sarcastically reply, “Why no, I haven’t thought about anything, really! What would I do without you? How do I even move through this world on my own??”
Remember what we repeated before? Let’s say it again: This has nothing to do with me!
When you go after what you need and end up living authentically, you will be holding up a mirror to all of those around you who are either doing the same… or not. When they plop their worry turds on your head, or warn you against just running away from something in your life, it is completely about their own wishes to yoga retreat it up in Guatemala for five days, and how they aren’t doing that.
So what do you do, if blatant sarcasm isn’t an option?
Love them. That’s right! Say it either out loud to their adorable faces or in your mind, but say, “Thank you so much for caring about me. I love you for that. I’m an adult though, and I know what I need. I feel really comfortable and excited about my decision.”
If that doesn’t shut them down? Fly off to your next destination in your imagination as they scroll through their litany of fear nuggets.
But what if it resonates with me?
Welp traveler, that is a horse of a different color.
When I decided to retreat for a bit from my new life as a stepmom, I was told I was running away from my life by traveling for two measly weeks. I knew in my heart and in my gut that this was not true, so I showed my friend love, told them I knew what I was doing, and went on about my business.
If however, I had heard that I was running away from stepmotherhood and had felt an immediate twang of recognition, I would’ve delved a bit deeper.
You, and only you, know what your true reasons for travel are (more on that in a second). This fact requires that you be brutally honest with yourself and go from there instead of ignoring the truth and plowing ever onward.
As the wise brothers Avett once said, “So when you run make sure you run, to something and not away from cuz’ lies don’t need an aeroplane to chase you down.”
In short, when you run from your problems instead of taking the time to deal with them, they’ll still be here waiting for you when you get back.
And yes, you could argue that my life was still a-waiting for me after my brief respite back into solo travel. I was still married (thank god) and still a stepmom. But, I had taken time for myself to recharge and assess the best way to move forward. I wasn’t trying to run away, I was trying to run toward my new situation.
Just as a better me.
Why We Travel
There are a gazillion reasons for traveling, none more valid than the rest.
Some travel to celebrate marriages and birthdays and new life. Some travel to learn languages. Some travel to study history. Some travel to study in foreign universities. Some travel to have adventures in high mountains and blue waters. Some travel to be of service. Some travel for their religious beliefs. Some travel to send aid after disasters. Some travel to learn about their past.
And some travel to gain some perspective and to just take a damn break for a minute.
When you travel, hold on to your reason and don’t let anyone take the shine from your trip.
You’ve earned it.