Wherever You Go, There You Are.

Greeted by sunshine in wine country

It seems a little redundant, doesn’t it? Wherever you go, there you are. Duh! I thought so too, but I let the words sink in a little. I think everyone has the all too obvious realization at some point in his/her life that they are the only person who has the pleasure of accompanying him/herself the whole way through life. Cynics would say every one of us is alone, and no matter who comes in and out of our lives – friends, family, partners – we all have our own separate journeys and we ultimately go at it alone in the grand scheme of things. I may be cynical about a fair amount of things in life, bu that’s simply too depressing! Before I left on my adventure I was slightly terrified, and although I had different people to meet up with at some points along the way, my biggest fear was the ever threatening combination of loneliness and homesickness. Now, sitting in Auckland on my last night abroad, I’m writing what I cannot believe is my last dispatch from the road. I have been traveling “alone” (that is – not accompanied by anyone from home) for a little over two months, after some plans were cut short, others fell through, and many, many new ones materialized involving new friendships and experiences. Honestly, I wouldn’t feel human if I hadn’t been petrified of the thought of being alone for any part of my trip, not to mention for as long as I ended up traveling solo. Now I’m grateful for the experience and a little sad about it being over soon.

Through it all, I’ve come to view the idea of alone-ness very differently. I have come to appreciate my friends and family more than I ever thought possible, because the reality is no one goes through life completely alone, but the people in one’s life tend to change from time to time. I have accumulated such an amazing community of travelers over the past months who, though they have not served as replacements for loved ones at home, supplemented them to provide feelings of belonging and relatability while I’ve been on the road. I’ve formed such strong friendships along the way that make me certain that no one is ever really alone unless they want to be, it’s just a matter of a smile and a friendly hello.

Not a bad first view of the day! Kaikoura, NZ

And you know what the best part about it all is? I got to be myself. Actually, there was no way around it. Although I was rarely alone during my time traveling solo, I wasn’t with people who knew me at home. All that they knew of my life was what I told them, and the friendships I made started on the basis of the constant commonality: travel. I appreciate life and home and recognize that we are each a product of our lives and surroundings, but it was invaluable for me to be able to temporarily step out of the mold I so comfortably fit in my normal life and see what was left of myself. And I have to say, I’m pretty awesome. On the rare occasion that I had a day or two on my own, I was forced to do everything because I wanted to do it. It really surprised me how much time I’ve spent relying on other people to make daily decisions for me, or at least to be there to think out loud. With that luxury gone, it was much more difficult to convince myself to do something I wasn’t all too crazy about, and it was all the more empowering to go out and do something purely because I wanted to. (One caveat: this certainly works the other way, too. There were many times I did amazing things I never would have done had I been alone.)

Fox Glacier
More sun in Lake Wanaka!

As I wrap up the actively traveling portion of my blog and move towards more retrospective and reflective writing, I have to say I am content. I maintained from the beginning that this blog is not one of absolute truths of travel, but an account of my journey of stumbling over these past 4 months. Though neglected at times, it has helped me to maintain a standard of self-reflection for which I have been repeatedly grateful during the various times I felt overwhelmed by the lack of structure in my life.

Top of the gondola Queenstown, NZ
Milford Sound - pictures don't do the size of it justice...those mountains are just shy of 2,000 meters, straight up from sea level!

As for the last few weeks, I survived the burnout with the help of New Zealand feeding my soul with its beauty and serenity, but it’s time to head home, and I couldn’t be more excited! It feels surreal to know that I’ll be back in Seattle in a matter of days and hours instead of weeks or months, and it’s all the more unbelievable to think about the incredible (if not crazy, I’m sure) family filled Thanksgiving weekend I have ahead of me. I’ll be saving up and planning my next trip before long, but for now I’m afraid to do anything – afraid to breathe even – for fear that somehow I could do something to prevent the next few days from happening. For now I’ll just quietly simmer with excitement and try to prevent myself from running up and down the halls screaming. I’ll be back writing soon with promised reflections and thoughts about the various complexities of my travels. For the time being, it’s over and out.

Mountains around Milford

Next stop, Seattle.

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