Choosing or surrendering to life?

August 23, 2013 in Life,Philosophy

As of today, I don’t have any travel planned beyond a long weekend in Sacramento in September. No plane tickets booked, no hotels reserved. No beaches to look forward to, no itineraries to plan, no suitcases to pack.

It’s a disconcerting feeling: for the first time in three years, I don’t truly feel like a traveler.

After three years of backpacking and road-tripping and expat-ing, my personality shifted: I was flexible, laid-back, happy. My priorities were simply to wake up, write, take photos, do something worth writing about and taking photos of, be happy. I did these crazy things that no one expected me to, that even surprised myself: paragliding, skydiving, backpacking solo through Southeast Asia. I had a certain sense of pride–this is the thing that you’re not supposed to say–in being different, in being daring, in living this life of tropical beaches and afternoon beers that is the stuff of most cubicle-dwellers’ dreams.

Now that I’m settled in New York City, I’m often jarred by the shriek of sirens and the pure noise of traffic and everyday life. I’m wrapped up in things that really, really don’t matter: fashion trends, number of followers, the hottest new workout or coolest new restaurant. I’ve found myself slipping back into the person I was before I boarded that one-way flight to Nice: constantly stressed out, anxious about relationships, often close to tears about situations I can’t control. Granted, life has thrown me some outside aggravation lately: moving apartments for the fourth time in a year, brokers fees and security deposits draining my savings account (aka my travel fun account), a long-ago-scheduled trip home falling right in the middle of Fashion Week and the day I need to be out of one apartment and into another.

An essay I read recently resonated deeply with me: “When I am honest with myself, I am terrified that I will settle comfortably into this place and my nomadic years will no longer be the core of my identity, but just a blip in my lifetime. Like high school or summer camp, something I endured or loved, but something that was only temporary. This fear catches me off-guard, mostly in the mornings when I am cycling to work and the sunlight catches the long grass bending in the fields, the air is fresh and cool, and I want only to be on the road. And then I wonder what my life becomes when it is anchored to one spot.”

For a long time, traveling was an escape disguised as a mission. I am a solo female traveler. This is your life. Even when the days were a chaotic mess of plans gone awry, I felt control over the life I had chosen, a life in which I proudly explored beyond the borders of the status quo.

Recently, my acupuncturist shared this mantra: Om Namo Narayani. In Sanskrit, it means I Surrender. It’s something I often need to remind myself: that we are not in control of everything we think we are, to do as much as we can and then surrender to the Universe.

But I’ve always preferred to focus on the ways in which I do have control: deciding to move to France, booking that one-way ticket to Australia, forgoing Australian sponsorship to travel Southeast Asia, embarking on a one-way road trip across the USA.  I chose to live in New York CityI chose to commit. I chose to submit myself to the craziness of living in one of the (if not THE) world’s most desirable/most expensive/most frustrating cities. I chose to forgo a hammock on the beach for an apartment with a dishwasher.

So maybe I won’t be traveling as much as usual, or as much as I’d like, for the rest of 2013. Maybe my days as a solo female traveler will just be a blip in the course of my life. I think, at least, I’ll be at ease with knowing that instead of surrendering: I chose.

  • Lauren @BonVoyageLauren

    I’m sure it’s a fear that most travelers feel at least once in their life. I wouldn’t compare it to high school or summer camp, although I understand what they were saying. Travel is a part of who you are. That will never go away (unlike high school, phew!). You can always CHOOSE to revisit your backpacking ways whenever you want. Like you were saying, everything in life is a choice. You’re just choosing to go down another path for now.

    Great post. :)

  • B

    I know how you feel. For various reasons, I haven’t been able to do much traveling this year, and that’s always a dangerous thing for me. I can be happy in a settled life, but I always need to have some sort of trip to look forward to. When I don’t have a trip to look forward to, I get antsy and dissatisfied with my current life, which makes me want to chuck it all and just go traveling for an extended period. But for me, dropping everything to travel isn’t necessarily the best (or right) choice at this point in my life. I’ve realized that I need to always have a trip to plan or look forward to in order to be truly happy in my settled life, even if it’s just a short weekend trip somewhere.

    For me, I think I’ll always be a traveler (and I’m sure you will be, too). But, I have come to accept that most of my traveling is going to be in one or two week chunks for the foreseeable future. I can’t see myself quitting my job again and uprooting myself to do open-ended traveling anytime soon. I’m trying to appreciate the things that I do love about being settled, while also balancing that with as much travel as I can afford.

  • What a small world, I went to school with your Acupuncturist! I didn’t know you were getting acupuncture, awesome!!!

  • dee

    what a very empowering post. i’ve never really been a traveler myself but recently my wanderlust fever has spiked, it’s crazy at how life brings us to these anxious places where we have to make big decisions.

    and apologies in advance if this comment makes no sense. i should really be sleeping but i felt compelled to comment, even if it might seem more like gibberish than anything coherent. Ha.

  • monicasuma

    Beautiful post! But count your blessings, it can be much worse. I wrote something similar yesterday, just 10 times the anxiety level :) http://www.monica-suma.com/2013/08/23/dear-new-york-are-you-worth-it/

  • From the Curious Case of Benjamin Button — For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

  • This is beautiful and poetic and one of my favorite posts you’ve ever written. I have nothing wise to offer here, but to simply say: this too shall pass. (Also, if you can fit in a quick gelato date when you’re here, I’d love to see you! No pressure whatsoever!)

  • Stephany Guerrero

    This is so well said, I’m sure more travel adventure will come your way. Sometimes you just need to lay roots where it feels right. Family and friends will always be there when you come back.

  • lindsaypunk

    can’t even begin to say how much this resonates with me. you’re totally right – it’s all about control. taking control of what you can and making the right decisions for yourself, AND being ok with the things you can’t control.

    you just have to roll with whatever’s working for you, and if it stops working – reevaluate. you ALWAYS have a choice, whether it’s to live the fixed life in NYC, or – if someday it loses its appeal – pack up and go overseas. you’re really good at knowing what makes you happy, so trust that and the good decisions will follow :)

    PS – let’s meet up next month, once you’re settled in WB!

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  • camorose

    Thanks, Lauren. Change isn’t always a bad thing–but it can be difficult.

  • camorose

    Yeah, I think that’s where I am right now too–odds aren’t good of me taking a super-long trip anywhere although I hope to keep traveling consistently!

  • camorose

    Yes! Such a huge fan of acupuncture, and Erin is amazing.

  • camorose

    No worries–thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • camorose

    What a story! I had no idea!

  • camorose

    LOVE THIS!

  • camorose

    Thank you, thank you. Gelato is a must!

  • camorose

    Very true :)

  • camorose

    I know–serenity prayer, right? Williamsburg date for sure, neighbs!

  • You seen the movie?

    Here is the clip – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmicfGmQZ9s

  • Marie

    I LOVE this post. I’m going to bookmark it an keep coming back to it whenever I feel like I’m just surrendering to my life. Thanks!

  • Anđela Ćenan

    it does make all the difference, doesn’t it? :)

  • camorose

    Love to hear that! Enjoy :)

  • camorose

    SO MUCH!

  • Anđela Ćenan

    :)))

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  • creativenomad

    LOVE this post! and hey there are certainly worst places to settle… living in NY is just another awesome experience

  • camorose

    So glad you love it!

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