I don’t know how to say this.
The thing is…
Okay. I’ll just come right out with it:
Phew, I said it!
What’s that? You didn’t understand me?
Okay, fine. I’ll type a little more slowly this time:
I. Don’t. Feel. Like. Traveling. Anymore.
(Please, don’t hate me.)It’s just that I’ve kind of lost that travel feeling – you know, the one that makes you impulse buy airplane tickets at midnight on a Tuesday even though you’re not entirely sure you’ll be able to get the time off of work… and you’re not entirely sure which country Muko-Muko Airport is located in. (But, hey, with airports named Muko-Muko, you’re pretty sure it’s going to be a fun country!)
You know the feeling, right?
It’s the one that gives you butterflies in your stomach the day before a big trip.
The one that makes you walk around a new town with a ridiculous grin on your face like you’re in love… or like you’re a total lunatic. (And you’re pretty sure, given the looks the locals have been shooting at you, everyone in town is placing their bets on lunatic.)
To be perfectly honest, I haven’t really had that travel feeling for some time now.
I think my enthusiasm for travel petered out somewhere around February when I first moved to China. In the past eight months, I’ve managed only a handful of trips outside of Wuxi despite having more than enough vacation time and, you know, the fact that I’m actually making cash-money these days.
Not that I’m saying it’s China’s fault.
Okay, maybe it is China’s fault – a little.No offense to China or anything, but China certainly does have a way of making it difficult to stay in love with travel.
Don’t get me wrong. I like living here. The food is delicious, the people are friendly, and the grocery stores are amazing. I mean, have I mentioned the fact that you can fish for your dinner in the grocery stores here? Not that I want to fish for my dinner, but it’s nice to know that I have that option, you know?
Plus, no one cares if you wear pajamas in public.
And, well, there’s my couch. Have I mentioned my couch before?
Seeing as I work in China, my only time to travel has been during the weekends, national holidays and breaks from school – which also happens to be the exact same time that everybody else in China is traveling. And, there’s like a lot of people in China. And when they’re all traveling at once, well, let’s just say, things can get pretty cramped pretty quickly.
Last semester, I went to Shanghai on a national holiday weekend, during which I spent most of my time involuntarily body surfing through train stations. I’m pretty sure I crushed a few of my vital organs. (Good thing I have more than one kidney… and absolutely no plans to use my uterus!)
Color me crazy, but I have no desire to do that again.Admittedly, I’ve never been the super gung-ho, global nomad type traveler anyway — no matter where I’ve lived. I hated living out of my luggage the year that I did it, and I sorely missed owning a couch.
Instead, I’ve always preferred the expat lifestyle – the one that lets me travel around in my free time without giving up my couch, my cable television and my collection of shoes.
In Japan, I went away almost every chance that I got. I had my travel agent on speed dial, and I participated in more than a few late-night plane ticket impulse buys. I even went to the States for a long weekend. (Ahem, twice. Because, uh, isn’t that how you want to spend your three-day weekend? On a plane for approximately thirty hours?)
But these days it seems like I can’t even muster up the enthusiasm to take the hour-long train ride to Shanghai.
This upcoming week, I have the entire week off for the National Day holidays, but I’m not planning on going anywhere… aside from, maybe, the mall. (This, by the way, is daunting enough in itself as it involves me flinging myself into a crowded public bus in the hopes that both of my kidneys will stay intact.)I’ve been pretty reluctant to confess how I’ve been feeling over the past year, to be honest – especially to all of you out there. After all, what kind of travel blogger admits she doesn’t want to travel anymore? That’s kind of like a mommy blogger saying, “Yeah, umm, about this baby thing? Not so much.”
But this has felt different.
It hasn’t felt like burnout.
It’s felt like a breakup.
But it’s not one of those fast and easy breakups.
This is one of those long, drawn out breakups — you know, the kind that take months.
At first, he stops laughing at your jokes and telling you that you look pretty. Then he stops calling you, but he’ll still pick up the phone when you call him. But then he stops answering your calls. And after a few days of that, you’re all like, “Whatever. I could do better than him. But maybe I’ll just try to call him one more time in case he lost my number or was kidnapped by Mongolian street bandits.”
And, when you do eventually get a hold of him, he comes up with some lame excuse for not calling you (that doesn’t even include street bandits).
And then about a week or so later, he finally tells you he doesn’t think things are going to work out between the two of you.
And you’re all like, “Fine. I don’t need you.”
Well, at least that’s what you were totally going to say.
You know, if you weren’t crying.
Yeah, it’s been kind of like that.
Except I’ve been the one avoiding the phone calls and saying I didn’t think things were going to work out between us, and travel was the one crying on the phone.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. (I mean, do I just hang up the phone or wait for travel to stop crying? Or do I say something stupid like, “It’s not you, travel. It’s me.” Even though we’re both pretty sure that it’s totally you.)
But, over the past eight months, I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve even been enjoying my time off from traveling — even if I’m a little ashamed to admit it.
So what should you do when you’ve lost that travel feeling?
Open up your relationshipI think one of the reasons why I’ve lost my enthusiasm for traveling is, well, because I’m tired of doing it on my own, to be honest. In Japan, I used to travel a lot with friends, but after I left Japan I spent almost a year going solo.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me some solo traveling. (Mostly because it means I can eat a chocolate bar and a tube of Pringles for breakfast, and no one needs to be the wiser.)
But, frankly, solo travel can also be really exhausting.
I’m tired of figuring out where to go and where to stay and how long to stay there.
I’m tired of haggling with taxi drivers by myself and getting lost by myself and then swearing at myself for walking ten miles in flip-flops by myself because the distance looked totally walk-able on my map.
I’m tired of sitting in restaurants pretending to be mesmerized by the label on my beer bottle while everyone else in the entire restaurant is mesmerized by the people they are with… actual real-live people, that is… and not, say, the imaginary people they’ve made up in their head.
Most of the trips that I have taken around China have been with other people. I met up with friends in Beijing and Shanghai last semester. And, then this summer, I met a friend in Xi’an, and traveled with her to Shanghai.
It’s been nice to have other people around to travel with — to help me with decisions and to haggle with taxi drivers. Or, you know, just to keep me company while we both stare at the labels on our beer bottles (because we’re too tired to talk to each other after walking ten miles in flip flops).
Maybe my problem is not that I don’t feel like traveling anymore.
Maybe it’s just that I don’t feel like traveling on my own anymore.
Maybe I just need to see other people… actual real-live people, that is… and not, say, the imaginary people in my head.
Cultivate your other interestsIn the five years before I moved to Japan, I hardly ever left the United States. In fact, other than a few trips I had to take for work and a couple family pilgrimages to the Midwest, I hardly even left New York State.
You see, back in those days, I only had a measly two weeks of vacation time. (This was long before I came to my senses and decided to be a teacher so I could spend my summer the way it’s meant to be spent – doing absolutely nothing.)
I was also pretty much poor all the time as I had this pesky habit of working in the arts. What little money I did make was spent on happy hour drinks and ridiculous shoes.
My passport expired.
My luggage grew mold.
My pair of sensible travel shoes got buried underneath my collection of ridiculous shoes.
Sure, I missed traveling, but I can’t say I really thought about it much.
I was too busy doing other stuff.
I performed with an improv comedy group. I went to a lot of local events and festivals. I took classes. I ran a lot, joined the gym and took up biking. I meticulously organized all my CDs (by alphabet and genre because that’s just how I roll). I made soup. I hung out with my family and friends. I even dated boys – real ones and not just imaginary ones. (Okay, so I dated the imaginary ones, too. But, I also dated human boys. Seriously. I swear.)
And, even though I wasn’t traveling, I was still really happy.
And, you know what, I am really happy now, too.
Since I haven’t been traveling much over the past eight months, I’ve had a lot of time to focus on the other things I enjoy doing. I’ve been writing and reading lots. I’ve started running again and recently joined a local gym. I’ve been making a lot of soup and testing out my baking skills in my new toaster oven. I’ve even been going out more, and not just hanging out on my couch all the time. (Seriously. I swear.)
Who knows? I may even start dating human boys again. (Although I’d sure hate to make the imaginary boyfriend jealous; he does get ever so envious of the humans.)
Don’t force itAfter my trip to Xi’an with my friend this summer, I thought maybe my little travel slump was done with. I had enjoyed my time in Xi’an, saw lots of things, and, for the first time in a long time, I was excited to be on the road again.
And I almost didn’t even miss my couch.
With only a few more weeks left to my summer vacation, I booked a trip to Hangzhou. The day before the trip, I felt the same pre-trip butterflies I used to feel. When I arrived in Hangzhou, I spent my first afternoon walking through the sun-filled parks with a ridiculous grin on my face. On my second night in town, after gorging myself on fried dumplings and cake, I sat in a local park and thought about how happy I was to be traveling again.
“It’s back,” I thought to myself, “The travel feeling is back!”
But it didn’t last long.
By the next day, I was ready go home.
So I did.
I could have made myself stay longer. I might have even enjoyed myself. After all, there were fried dumplings to be had!
But I didn’t want to risk it.
You see, you just can’t make someone love you.
Heck, you can’t even make someone kind of like you.
(And don’t even try to make someone call you back by leaving twenty-six messages in their voicemail asking them why they haven’t called you. Trust me on this one, okay?)
But you also can’t make yourself love someone or something that you don’t – even if you used to.
I don’t know if it’s truly over between travel and me.
I hope not.
I hope all we need is a little break right now.
I hope that one day soon I’ll get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about travel again.
And I hope when that day comes, travel will have me back.
Because it’s not you, travel.
(And this time, I totally mean it.)