“I think the constant traveling is getting to me.” I grudgingly admit to my husband, who gives me his charming whatever-you-say smile and returns to unpacking our books. We are in our new house in a small town on the borders of Arunanchal and Assam. The view from the windows is breathtaking – It is raining and there’s a tree plantation right next to my house. I sigh as I look at it from the window.
I was always the Travel Addict, romancing the idea of nomadic life. When I was single, I traveled a lot more than the ‘regular’ people around me. The fact that my frequent flier miles were sometimes more than the balance in my bank account, proves my point. I’ve traveled alone a lot of times and I enjoyed the rush it gave me – single-girl-with-a-backpack image was something I loved. I’ve spent weeks wandering around Singapore all on my own. I’ve partied hard in Malaysia and have developed allergies eating street food with a couple of girl friends who share the urge to explore the world, the freedom to just pack and leave on an impulse. I’ve traveled for fun, for vacationing, for even escaping. Always on the run, and it has been exhilarating. There were times when I used to go through a few months of work and daily hum drum of life just to gather enough funds to fly to the next destination. Plane journeys, train tickets, new culture, exotic food and far away beaches used to engulf my mind all the time.
Recently thing changed. Both of us travel a lot because of our work. Initially it was super exciting because both of us are complete travel junkies. He took me to Andaman Islands for honeymoon and to several not-quite-well-known hill stations and beaches suddenly, blaming it on his travelust. I wasn’t complaining at all! When we got married, the perpetual long term travel was always at the back of my mind, as an extra perk to marrying the man I love.
Travel is still amazing and it has all its excitements and joys, but what I realize now is that earlier we were two single people – living out of a suitcase was fancy and more importantly, easy. Post wedding traveling is a lot different, especially when it is a long term travel. This is the fourth time we’ve shifted houses in two years – four entirely different places in opposite corners of the country. And I hate to admit it, but I wish the travel was a little less, that life was a little more stable – home wise and people wise.
Every time we go to a new place, settle down in a new house, I throw myself into the decoration, interiors, exploring the new place, meeting new people and buying goldfish as an attempt to embrace the stability while it lasts. And before I know it, it’s time to move.
It’s amazing how no one ever tells us about the potential down sides of constant traveling. I recently came across Bernard Shaw’s quote – “I hate to feel at home when I’m abroad” and I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. The fact that there is no permanent home to go back to and ‘feel at home’ is quite disconcerting. Sure, the houses we take up at each destination are quickly stacked with old photographs, decorated with souvenirs from our various travel destinations and filled with the friendly fragrance of warm coffee – but we know that all of this will be soon moving to a different place, a different house and the feeling is just not ‘homely’.
Constant moving has affected our appetite for travel adversely and ‘taking a break’ now stands for anything but packing. Don’t get me wrong, we still take vacations to exotic places, but the frequency has reduced a lot. So how did our travels lost excitement, I often ask myself. The main reason I think is that we have managed to somehow, turn pleasure into business. This long term travel is now a part of the Job Description and this is what kills the excitement . None of my friends seem to understand my plight – being able to cover the entire world for work seems like a brilliant idea from the outside. Yet it has its side effects. The first thing I hate about long term travel is the constant good byes. You strike a friendship, build relationships and then you leave. It is heartbreaking how I have to start over again and again with everything from knowing the neighbors, familiarizing myself with the book-shops, giving tips to the lady at the beauty salon and even in finding a house-help. These seemingly tiny relationships are the most important ones that give you a sense of belonging – and I have to leave before I can really belong.
Old friends and people who are important to me have learned to live their lives without me most of the times, they adapt. It really sucks. And I can’t even begin on the exercise of packing and unpacking your entire life in boxes. I’ve ODed on emotions every time I wrap things up to go to a new home. A permanent gym membership and a lot of potted plants don’t seem like a bad idea anymore.
Before I wrap this up, please understand that I am not trying to downplay traveling – I still love to travel, its wonderful. My point is how can you appreciate travel if you don’t take a break from it every once in a while. Some might say that the key is not to get too emotionally involved with places and people, but I wonder if that is possible. Tolkien’s words are doing rounds in my mind right now – “Not all who wander are lost” and I believe it. I know I’m not lost even if I feel lost a lot of times. Maybe I’m not done with the road yet, maybe this restlessness is just a phase and I’ll start to love it eventually.
Meanwhile, the unpacking continues.