Glorified Runaway: Reflections on Living in the Moment

This post was contributed by Carla Abreu.  

I might just be a glorified runaway.

It’s my third time fleeing home. Quite impressively, I’ve managed to drop everything while remaining a full-time student for 3 weeks, 2 months, and now 1 year at a time. Things always start the same way: I’m fed up with everything. The system, the deadlines, the doubts, staring at same sky, waiting for something or someone to surprise me. It’s hard to stay present these days and we often see that as a personal flaw. But let’s give ourselves more credit. Every day, we’re fed with ways to improve, ways to make people like us more, ways to get richer, smarter, hotter—not to mention legitimate concerns like climate change or navigating TWENTY–FOUR current U.S. presidential candidates. Jeez, I already want to open Skyscanner and I’m not even in the same continent.

These feelings of wanting to escape are amplified all the more when you’re a traveler. We book flights, we say our goodbyes, and we pinch coins when it’s probably easier to just take a seat. We love planning yet we’re impulsive. There’s always somewhere new to go and never enough time. Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I find it hard to believe I’ve even lived the stories I tell people because, at the time, I wasn’t fully there. Then I get sucked into this cycle of shame for not living in the present: I’ve lived—I’m living—a life that many people only dream of having. And yet I’m constantly dreaming up my next trip or at the very least worrying about the lack of time to see it all.

When I’m back in one of my homes, I’m ready to flee again.

Life and travel become all the richer.

But what happens when the runaway learns to stay put?

These past few months, living in the moment was something I finally started to do well. I was constantly out: tanning at Oak Street Beach, walking Michigan Ave, going to street festivals, and falling in love with Chicago all over again. The farthest ahead I was looking was to the weekend, and my impending year in Paris started to feel like a lurking monster ready to snatch away a beautiful summer. Maybe if I thought as little about fall as possible (despite needing to spend a total of 10 hours in the visa office… we love French bureaucracy!), I wouldn’t ever have to leave. In the past, I would’ve spent the whole summer anxiously awaiting my international flight, counting down the days until I could say “à plus !” to everyone in an annoying airport Instagram story.

But this time, Paris came without warning. Why did I ever think a year away would be a good idea? I didn’t want to run away anymore; I was happy in Chicago and flying across the Atlantic seemed absolutely insane.

Fast forwards two months, and this has been one of my best times abroad so far. When I arrived, walking around eating pain au chocolat whilst dodging aggressive cyclists felt pointless. Do I even want to travel if there’s nothing to run from?  I discovered, albeit slowly, that the answer is yes. It’s scarier to live in the moment and travel the world. It makes it harder to leave each place, and makes every goodbye hit you like a ton of bricks. But that’s the beauty of it all! When you do your best to stay present, each trip could last forever. Each person you meet becomes a real possibility and not just a character you’ve already tucked away for future story-telling.

Life and travel become all the richer.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have extensive travel-planning journals and a maybe not-so-healthy obsession with my iCal. But once plans are made, I make a conscious effort to take things one step at a time and to quit dreaming about what’s next.

All we’ve got is right now and right now we’re abroad baby!

Meet Carla: My name is Carla and I’m a university student from Chicago, currently living in Paris! Growing up in the suburban Midwest, the 10 square miles I called home sparked an early interest in discovering a world beyond that which I knew. Thanks to my Latinx roots and nerdy tendencies, I’ve always had a passion for learning languages and experiencing other cultures. Follow me as I try and form my own definition of success, being forever-overdramatic and moody along the way. For a look at the places I see, check out my personal photography on IG. 

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