I know what you’re thinking, and yes – the title of this post does sound like an offcut from an Adele album. But I swear on my physical copy of Beyoncé’s Lemonade (no small oath) that this is about travel.
If you, like me, lead a “nomadic” life, you’ll know how insecure it can sometimes feel. Long-term travel isn’t always mermaid-esque swims in Mediterranean seas and seeing how far you can push your body by eating pasta for literally every single meal the whole time you’re in Italy (What? Just me?). Sometimes, traveling as a way of life prompts a wave of anxieties.
I’m a noughties kid from Western Sydney.
Like many young Aussies, I’ve always been curious about the big, wide world that exists outside our isolated island. I’ve been embarking on extended periods of travel since I was 17 (BYE MOM!). My first overseas experience was a 6-week high school exchange program in Montpellier, France. I understood approximately 57% of what was said, but I enjoyed many delicious pastries, so no regrets. I’ve since returned to ‘L’Hexagone’ for my uni study abroad semester, traveled around Europe in €10-a-ticket buses that smelled faintly of diapers, lived off heavenly ramen while adventuring across Japan and, most recently, made my way around the US and Canada.
On each of my adventures abroad, I’ve had the most enriching, perspective-altering and tacky-souvenir-hoarding (nobody’s perfect) experiences. They’ve taught me a lot about the world and my own behavior, and one thing that has consistently stood out is that for me, the hardest part of travel is everything that occurs prior to the moment I step tear-stained through the Departures gate.
Once you begin travelling, it’s relatively easy to find like-minded people who validate your lifestyle choices with their own existence. Hostels are full of people who have quit their jobs to travel the world, students who are making the most of their study abroad semesters.
A couple of months ago as I hopped around the US, I met a recent divorcée in her 50s who said ‘see ya’ to an ex-husband who didn’t deserve her. Soon after, she said HELLO to the big wide world. People you meet through travel are often great comforts, examples, and inspirations for the continuation of your globetrotting passions.
But it’s the pre-departure period where other undermining voices can creep in.
I’m about to move to France for a year, and the most difficult part of this process has not been booking flights or preparing to say temporary goodbyes to loved ones. The biggest hurdle has been trusting that this move is the ‘right’ thing to do. What is the “right” thing anyway?
I’d always book a flight or message a prospective landlord and enjoy a few fleeting seconds of excitement, only to turn around and find my very loud and obnoxious friends – Doubt, Worry and Regret (we’ve gone from an Adele album to Disney Channel) tapping on my shoulder.
I knew I wanted to make the move and that I’d been missing France since the expiration of my previous student visa, but the “Should I? Should I? Should I?” became incessant.
Many friends and acquaintances around me had recently graduated – as had I, and I was watching them find full-time jobs, settle down, decide on career plans and basically begin future-proofing their lives.
*pass the bucket / cue the hot sweats*
They seemed content, secure, and responsible. I analyzed my own space in life and deemed myself irresponsible, acting on a whim, careless about my prospects and ‘potential.’ By this I mean the kind of potential we’re trained to value: ‘career potential,’ ‘potential for success;’ everything that fits a traditionally sensible model of adulthood. I wasn’t considering the many types of potential that travel provides you the opportunity to fulfill: potential to improve my foreign language skills, potential to grow in confidence and independence by living abroad, potential to make new friends while swapping stories with strangers across hostel bunk beds. The potential to have an international fling… literally anything!
I forgot that fulfilling this kind of potential can be just as enriching – if not more so, than whatever potential we’re told to pursue when we graduate high school.
The worst feeling was retrospective regret.
I was sure I didn’t want the kind of life people around me were forming for themselves. I absolutely knew that beginning a 9-5 corporate grind would have me depressed as soon as you could say business-casual. But my mind was doing a great job at convincing me that I should have wanted all of the above, all along.
I suddenly wished I would wake up the next morning feeling ready to dive into a 40-year long career, content as a one-job woman. I rolled my eyes at my inability to find Sandra-Bullock-movie level romance in the idea of a white picket fence and 2.5 kids by 30 (what the hell does 2.5 even mean?).
Quickly, I went from daydreaming about baguettes and French pharma to resenting the fact that I desired anything that couldn’t be accessed from the bottom of my street. Yep, I was craving a mindset I had never had and probably never would. It was almost as if I was… how might I put this… wishing I didn’t want this. (I’ll see myself out.)
It goes without saying that none of this is new. Feeling insecure while people around you commit to the ‘correct’ kind of adult life that has been pushed by society for decades… Ground-breaking.
But, the enduring quality of these pressures doesn’t make them any less powerful.
Sometimes, you’ve just got to sit with your demons. Acknowledge their presence. Maybe play some scrabble, watch a bit of Queer Eye, knife them in the back when they’re distracted by Jonathan swishing his hair.
All jokes aside, these anxieties are normal and perfectly okay. They’re never going to completely fade, and that’s okay, too. You’ll get there, and you’ll have been your own example, and it will make it that little bit easier the next time around.
Depending on others for your own validation isn’t beneficial in any direction. You shouldn’t feel confident about travelling because you think you’ll eventually meet like-minded people, just as you shouldn’t avoid travelling because your next-door neighbor’s not giving you permission to. Like, who really cares about Lucy’s opinion? Just sayin’…
Travel doesn’t have to be harder than telling yourself to ‘Shut Up and Go,’ but sometimes it just is.
It’s true – I don’t have a single grand, concrete plan for my life. And that’s my choice. So open your journal, sort your mind out. Give yourself a pep talk:
You is kind.
You is important.
You is gonna go to Paris.
Then shut up and gtfo.
Now that I’ve gotten all that emotional unpacking out of the way, I’m off to join Adele’s song writing team. See you at the Grammys.
Meet Alyssa: I’m a young Australian woman from P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. Before you ask, yes – I do love Vegemite and yes – growing up I did ride kangaroos to school*. I’m about to move to France for a year; you can follow along with how many baguettes I eat here.