Getting from point A to point B is so simple when you’re in the traveling mindset: Where do you want to go? Great. Book the plane ticket. Arrive at the train station. Hop on the next bus. Sit back, take a nap, and stumble into a new city just a couple hours later.
Being constantly on the move felt so natural. A click on the computer and my job was done. There was always a blind confidence that somehow, someway, I would get to my next destination.
But now I’m home, and finding my way from point A to point B seems a bit more like a maze, muddled with potholes and roadblocks popping up in the form career choices, living arrangements, life choices, and plans to be made.
I find myself somewhere between where I was and where I want to go.
With my trip behind me and a blank slate in front of me, the abundance of choices and decisions leave an uneasy sense of uncertainty rippling through my bloodstream. I shift back and forth trying to find the answers to the countless questions: What kind of career do I want to lead? Where do I want to live? How do I hold on to the spontaneous mindset I had abroad while juggling responsibilities and achieving life goals? Do I continue with the comfortable life I had in LA before I left, or take a risk and try something new? How will the choices I make now effect the rest of my life?
The question, “Where do you want to go?” isn’t so simple anymore and the answers seem a little less clear. Time and age have added more weight to the decisions we make, tipping the scale further in either direction with each passing day.
At one point after I returned home, it seemed to me that whichever path I decided to follow now would decide my fate and last my entire lifetime. I was stressed out, plagued by indecision, and felt stretched in 100 different directions with no center. But when I took a step back, I started realizing we often dramatize the decisions we make at this age as “life-altering,” when they’re really just a change of pace. Once I started embracing these possibilities and thinking in terms of next steps rather than life decisions, the shackles came off, and the questions that clouded my head started to clear out.
Maybe instead of searching for answers all the time, we should start enjoying the questions a bit more. Shouldn’t that be the fun part? Transition, uncertainty, spontaneity? If traveling has taught me anything, it’s that the journey really is far more important than the destination. When you think of transition as the intuit for growth, then point A and B become just bookmarks at the beginning and end of each life chapter.
When I stared contently out the windows of the trains, planes, and buses I took to get around Europe, everything seemed so clear. Unhampered by daily routine, creative solutions to life goals popped in my head immediately as we cut through the continent. But right when I got home, all of these thoughts and initiatives that had somehow made me feel like I had a clear plan upon return seemed to bottleneck in my brain and jump right back on the next plane back to Amsterdam, leaving me dazed and confused on my old stomping grounds.
But this quote from “The Art of Travel” has it right on point:
“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than moving planes, ships, or trains. There is almost quaint correlation between what is before our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, and new thoughts, new places. Introspective reflections that might otherwise be liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape.”
In fact, the rides across borders were some of my favorite parts of my trips. But I’d take it further. I think these times of transit, physically or metaphorically, are the times we can slow down, give up control, and reflect on where we’ve been and where we want to go. It’s all in how we look at the blank slate, or landscape, in front of us. Will the largeness and expansiveness scare us? Confuse us? Inspire us? Motivate us?
One of the first questions people always ask me is, “What are you going to do now that you’re back home?”
Well, to be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m throwing paint at a blank canvas right now, hoping in time a masterpiece will appear in front of me.
But until then, I’m going to start enjoying the mess.