How a nine-month backpacking affair terminated a 23-year relationship with vacation.
There’s no denying what we had together was one for the scrapbooks. For 7-14 days at a time, we would put aside our workday worries and make Kodak moment memories as we toasted piña coladas beachside or skied down snowy mountain slopes.
You couldn’t have seen this coming, but it’s over. I’ve lost my love for the short and sweet, all expenses paid resort escapes. I met the world when I turned the same two-week budget into months. I traded in private hotel rooms for sometimes twenty-bed bunks and learned what gratitude means in the shape of two squishy earplugs.
I don’t expect you to understand when what I’m telling you is in effect, affection for showers that freeze or scald, buses that break down, and plans constantly changing their course at the drop of an engine, er, hat. Yet somehow, there’s simply no coming back for a backpacker.
It was easy to understand Mandy Len Catron’s modern love story for The New York Times, To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This, because I’ve done it. I haven’t completed her research to the T following the doctor prescribed 36 questions, but I’ve stepped into a room of strangers repeatedly, alone and stripped naked of my homegrown securities.
What is it about travel that has created this wave of digital nomads, bloggers, freelancers and wandering souls? It’s really no different from how those people felt in the NYT discussed study as they didn’t fall, but found themselves in love. Fuck the banality of clichés; travel is transformative and the wanderlust tattoos of rose compasses and world maps are overdone because what they symbolize is as real as love itself.
The days are long and full of challenges as your patience is tested. More often than not, things won’t go as planned and this in itself is why my view of vacation is irreparably damaged.
That day the buses went on strike, a stranger was met, a car stopped for our waving thumbs, and the morning tears replaced by evening cheers as glasses clinked to newfound friends.
That time the bus dropped us at a dusty fork in the road and nearly on top of a pile of eager to play puppies. Local passengers smiled as they waved goodbye even though no words had been exchanged on the ride. We didn’t know where we were going or how long it would take, but that was far from our minds when we returned their waves.
Sit down with a traveler and don’t ask them the pointed questions of when they felt threatened or what was the strangest food they ever tried? The best true stories are those with the making of a Disney movie blockbuster. It’s unlikely this princess has blown-dry hair or clean fingernails, but there’s no question her self-confidence can match that of any knight’s.
So you see, Vacation, there’s no seduction left in your familiar itineraries. Instead, I choose the strange days and people that make me laugh and learn without realizing. I’ll take the heartbreak that follows every adventure’s lifecycle as another forever friend from a country far away heads left as I go right.
The road ahead is hard to see, curves sharply and sometimes stops entirely without warning. Still, I’ll bet it all on the journey ahead and know that though bruised and changed by the land they’ve walked, my feet will land exactly where they’re meant to.