“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.
You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”― Cesare Pavese
I recently spoke to a friend about why I’m continuing to travel. A few days ago, I landed into Ho Chi Minh City, and on this new trip something occurred to me. It’s not just that the more I’ve traveled, the more I’ve pushed away from home, and the less meaning I’ve found in it. This I already knew, and actually don’t have a problem with at all. The truth is that most of that is growing up, and most of that would’ve happened regardless. But what I’ve recently realized is that traveling has allowed me to become simultaneously invested in society while also actively not choosing to live in it.
Let me explain. I’ve saved a lot of money while traveling and working my full-time job. This amount of savings I’ve created probably wouldn’t have happened if I stayed stateside. So for me, traveling is not only a cheaper way to live,but also a way to grind out professional experience without actually feeling beholden to it. With my remote job, I work when I need to, and not just for the sake of it. In other words, I work to live, I don’t live to work. I’m not working a 40 hour week, but I’m getting all of the benefits of working one.
That’s why for me, travel is a brutality and a contradiction. I’ve cast off all familiarity (aside for Alex) and instead opted for a simple life of escapism. But the reality is that it’s not that way at all. I’m getting to discover the craft brewery scene in Ho Chi Minh City while contributing to my 401k. I’m a functional member of society without even living in it.
For me, that’s the ultimate irony. I haven’t had to change my life or my habits to integrate or feel valued personally or professionally. There’s really not much else I’d be doing if I were back in the United States. I’m not off-balance so much as I’ve learned how to balance on a different beam. My life isn’t unbearable so much as it’s just lightness; it’s the kind of life where I can grow a travel beard and then trim it down because I can.
There may not be meaning to it all, but if there’s no meaning to life anyway, you might as well pare it down to the basic essentials. The sites, the smells and, of course, the food is really all you need. It’s not so much minimalism as much as the lack of the unnecessary. Travel is a brutality because you know what waits on the other side. It’s different for everyone but essentially the same; trapping yourself by the constrains of somebody else’s rules.
And while those rules and standards become more attractive with age, I’m just not there yet. I’m giving up nothing and gaining something ― but what that something is I’ll never know. It’s elusive and intangible, but also I’m not at the point where travel is a sacrifice. If everything is unfamiliar, than familiarly holds no sway over your actions in the short-term.
Maybe I just don’t want to make a decision ― or maybe the decision was made for me long ago. But either way, I’ve become a part of society without doing it at all; I’ve both beat them and joined them. This contradiction is inherent to me, and inherent to my continuation of travel. And until that contradiction no longer serves me, I’ll just live it.