About traveling, staying in one place, and leaving

Traveling

First and foremost, I am aware that it is a privilege to be able to travel. Nearly half of the world’s population has ever flown in an airplane. But only about 6% of the world’s population boards a plane every year (source). How mind-blowing is that?

Therefore, I’d like to take back everything I’ve said about traveling like “You must travel while you’re still young” or things like the most cliché quote ever: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page” (Saint Augustine).

To travel is not a basic human need. To travel, you need time and money. One should not feel guilty for not being able to travel, rather for having the opportunity then deciding against it. On my part, I am such a lucky mushroom to have adventurous parents, who think that it is important for their kids to explore new horizons as much as possible and as often as possible.

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Ly Son Island, summer 2017
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However, there is a myth about traveling that needs to be exposed. Every influencers on Instagram who tell you to travel to discover yourself, don’t believe them.

You will not discover yourself through traveling.

You have no reasons to believe me either, and I respect that. But, if you don’t know who you really are in this very moment, in this reality that you’re so familiar with, then how would you find that out in a strange place, among different people, where your instinct is to adapt?

Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with traveling. If you have the time, the resources and the passion, you should travel. You will not discover yourself, but you will grow. And mostly, you’ll have fun. Isn’t life all about happiness, at the end of the day?

I love the feeling of being on the road. To me personally, there is no other sensations more liberating than being on the road. Trips are like instant getaways from reality, to a place where I feel like I deserve to enjoy the finer things in life.

That’s why it’s also very dangerous to travel too much (yes, there is a limit). If you travel to a point where you cannot face your normal life again, know that you’re going down that overrated road of traveling-is-important-because-you-gain-experiences-and-it-is-worth-more-than-boring-routines and go back. Bread and butter is more important than superficial pleasures.

Keep it all in proportions, folks.

Staying in one place

I heard that eventually, at some point in life, a person will think about settling down. To literally stay in one place, for an indefinite amount of time. On the other hand, most people have actually been staying in one place their whole life.

Until now, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the concept. Somehow, it is hard for me to feel really belonging to a place. Born in Saigon, raised in Hanoi, started the adult life in Hamburg, each city gives me a sentiment, but none a grounded feeling.

This explains my jealousy very well, when my friends rave about “flying back home” and I just want to shrug and say, “well, I sure miss my family, but not necessarily Hanoi”. Dear Hanoi-lovers, here’s my sincere apology for this crime.

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Hanoi, summer 2017. I mean, I love the city so much. I grew up here, there are so many memories tied to this overcrowded and absurdly loud fleck on Earth. I’m just not desperate to be here all-the-time.

What makes a place a home? Is it the atmosphere, the architecture, the weather, the food, the noise, or the people? Or the unique combination of every factor that each person will feel differently? Is it scary to never have a place that truly feels like home? Must home be geographical?

All these questions that don’t have concrete answers. Ari Berk’s finding sounds alright to me:

In life, a person will come and go from many homes. We may leave a house, a town, or a room, but that does not mean those places leave us. Once entered, we never entirely depart the homes we make for ourselves in the world. They follow us, like shadows, until we come upon them again, waiting for us in the mist.

Ari Berk, “Death Watch (The Undertaken, #1)”

Leaving

Ever since I was 18 years old, I felt like I was always leaving. With 18, I left the comfort of my parents’ home to see the world. With 19, I left my first nest in this adult world to see more. Now, with 21, I am about to leave again.

What is it about leaving that’s so exciting yet unsettling? Moving to a different city is not like traveling. It means bringing your daily life to a new place and trying to make it the new normal.

And the danger is that in this move toward new horizons and far directions, that I may lose what I have now, and not find anything except loneliness.

Sylvia Plath, “The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath”

Sylvia got it right. I know that she struggled with depression her entire life, and that her view might be a bit too negative. But what she wrote about leaving described so well my inner battle. I had tried and failed many times to finally feel somewhat okay with my life right now. I am still trying my best to keep my life in a somewhat stable state. No extreme feelings. The small things are the things that make life worth living.

My fear is to lose all this progress, if I leave. This is not an irrational fear. We are social beings who share co-dependant lives. The people around us have a huge influence on the life we lead. It’s almost a luxury to find people who tick the same way as we do.

To leave, is to have complete trust in faith and to commit that these bonds will not be broken while you find new people. I’m envious of people who hop places as if it’s no big deal. Not only are they lucky enough to have the financial freedom, they also have so much courage. Regardless of the amount of money you have, you’ll always face the same question when moving to a new place: “How long am I going to be here?”

Besides being social beings, we constantly need a purpose to strive towards. It deems right if I reflect why I’ve always been leaving. Every time I left a place, there was a legit purpose. Therefore, I find it astonishing how I’m feeling okay with not knowing where I’ll end up. If you ask me where I’ll be in 2 years, I’ll have no answer for you.

I leave, and the leaving is so exhilarating I know I can never go back. But then what? Do I just keep leaving places, and leaving them, and leaving them, tramping a perpetual journey?

John Green, “Paper Towns”

Maybe, someday, I’ll sit down and decide to stay.
For now, let’s keep the matter unresolved.

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