Traveling is trippy, no pun intended. If love is like heroin, then travel is something like acid. Still a drug, but less destructive.
Why? Well, there’s the obvious — it’s addictive, in a way. The feeling that comes with exploring new grounds, meeting new people, and discovering a different culture is kind of like a high.
Also, time changes when you’re traveling, and I’m not talking about time zones.
It took until my most recent trip through Europe to realize the difference between how the passage of time feels for people back home, versus how it feels for the traveler.
When I lived in Spain last year, I hadn’t picked up on it yet. I didn’t realize how much slower everything felt for me. When I came home, I realized that most people felt like I’d barely been gone, like that nine months had flown by.
It makes perfect sense, though. When you’re off traveling, you’re much more conscious of time. You’re trying to make every moment count. Even in a situation where you’re abroad for months like I was, you still know that it’s limited. There’s an ominous end on the horizon.
As the traveler, you’re doing so much more. You’re not simply zoning out, pressing autopilot like Adam Sandler did in “Click”. I noticed that when I came back home, I was instinctively pressing that button a lot.
It’s a trippy feeling, fully processing how truly different time can feel. A month abroad, searching, trekking, and learning can feel like a lifetime. You can come back feeling like you’re a totally different person, but then you realize everything and everyone at home is exactly the same — except when they aren’t. And that’s when it gets even trippier.
A lot can also happen in a month, or nine. People meet people. They get into relationships. They move. They get pregnant, and they get engaged (not necessarily in that order). Kids grow up. They start to talk, crawl, walk…they play on soccer teams and have birthdays. Family members get sick. They pass away.
All the above actually happened while I was living in Spain, but it happens to everyone — it’s life. It puts an aching feeling in my heart to come home and have that realization, but it’s what happens when you’re in a different world, your own world. You don’t mean to, but you check out.
Out of sight, out of mind. When I decided not to renew my contract teaching English in Spain this year, I got to see and understand the other side of it.
My friend and roommate who’d experienced it all with me did renew hers. After a few months of getting caught up in usual life back home (and pressing autopilot), I looked up one day and realized that she’d been going about her new life in Spain for quite awhile now. It felt like she’d just started the new school year, but it was already halfway over.
Maybe the key to all this is that autopilot button. The same amount of things can change home as they do living or traveling abroad, but being in a new place wakes you up a little. It’s like splashing cold water on your face, revitalizing the senses. Maybe we need to wake ourselves up more often, even when we’re at home.
The true sign of happiness is being able to appreciate our homes just as much as we appreciate our adventures abroad. Eventually we must realize that true contentedness is within us, not our surroundings (though I believe they do play a part).
That’s what I realized on my last trip (to Europe :)). I was able to more closely observe how slowly time seemed to be moving. My senses were awakened. I was so appreciative of everything I was seeing and smelling, the food I was tasting. I was happy.
So why not turn that around? Why not look at home that way, enamored with fresh eyes and an appreciative heart? When you’ve been away for so long, it’s definitely easier to do. Sometimes it just takes stepping away for awhile to be able to gain that clarity.
And that’s exactly why I love traveling so much.