March 25, 2008

No one hears you when you say you’re sick of traveling.

In high school, I’d hear stories of jet-setters who would be traveling non-stop for work, hopping from city to city, hotel to hotel, never staying still and living the fast-paced life. I dreamt of being one of those jet-setters, living the high-flying life.

I was seriously deluded.

As someone who now spends a considerable amount of time traveling—and a considerable amount of time living in unfamiliar hotels, crowded airports, and stuffy airplanes—I can now admit that the jet-set life is highly overrated.

My friends don’t seem to understand my traveling malaise. They keep reminding me that I’m getting paid to fly to places like London, Paris, Brussels, and Lisbon on a regular basis. They remind me that I’m getting the opportunity to meet new people, explore new places, and have new experiences, all under the aegis of my freelance career.

I agree with their perspectives, and am thankful of the opportunities that I have. My traveling woes are perhaps somewhat more melancholic: I miss routine, stability, comfort. I love the bliss of strolling through Portobello Market or having dinner at a charcuterie near Champs-Elysees, but I miss the sensation of being in control of my time and activities.

What am I talking about?

While it’s not exactly the same, Rosencrans Baldwin expresses a similar sentiment of his experiences in Paris:

No one hears you when you say you’re sick of Paris. Sick of Paris: three words that make sense to people separately, but not in sequence. And they’re right–what am I talking about? What about champagne for sale in gas stations? And aisles dedicated to yogurt in grocery stores? And grocery stores that only sell frozen food of such high quality that, when reheated, it beats most bistro meals? And my boss and his thousand Lacoste shirts in every color? And all the gossip and insights: how French men go to pieces when they’re dumped; how Parisian girls won’t sleep with you unless you have permanent residency papers.

No one hears you when you say you’re sick of traveling. Sick of traveling: three words that make sense to people separately, but not in sequence. And they’re right—what am I talking about? What about being treated to fancy dinners at over-priced restaurants? And staying at hotels I could normally never afford? And watching rugby in crowded and rowdy bars? And having a choice of various kinds of bottles of water at ever meal? And walking past the line at customs and walking straight to baggage claim after getting my iris scanned?

I’ll tell you what I’m talking about. There are a lot of things I miss when traveling. What about the luxury of opening the fridge at any time of the day and drinking milk straight from the carton? And the comfort of being able to do your laundry whenever you feel like you want to wear that t-shirt again later in the week? And the ease of going to the gym and working out some aggression after a long day at work? And the ability to call a friend at any time of the night and grab a cup of much-needed coffee?

This year, my travel schedule has been much lighter, and I’m much happier for that. I’m looking at new ways of slowing down and making my life work for me, instead of my life being work.

Next time you hear me complaining about my travel schedule, please don’t look at me in contempt. It’s just my malaise being vocal—next week I’ll be grabbing lunch in Parque das Naçoes and smiling at the ocean. Remind me of those times when I’m a bit fed up.