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 City. I 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.