I don’t travel often. I’m pretty devoted to being at work – no, not devoted. Kind of obsessed with being at my job. I bring my work home with me, check my many email inboxes first thing in the morning and even scroll through my phone on the weekends when I’m supposed to be having my down time. My ‘me’ time. I am in love with my job and to me, that is my time. All day, everyday.
So when I do get a chance to travel and go somewhere I’ve never been before, it’s always equal parts exciting and heart-attack inducing. A couple of weeks ago, I went to New York City for the first time to attend Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Had I been invited at age 16, I would have spent dozens of weeks prepping a suitcase and ordering clothes from catalogs (because dial-up was still a pretty new thing in technology back then) in advance. I would have had so much more time to squeal and scream and jump around my bedroom in excitement. Back then, I worked at a sandwich shop where my biggest priority would be getting someone to cover my weekend cashier shift. But here we are, in the middle of my adultness, a world apart from 16-year-old me who was free and clear of responsibilities. I was ecstatic to go, really I was! But I didn’t have time to really express my joy too soon. Even though it was a weekend trip, I spent every moment leading to the morning I left prepping my interns at my job with plenty of material to work on and packed the night before the flight while watching an episode of 30 Rock.
I arrived in NYC, I went to the shows and I flew home, going to work immediately the day after.
I didn’t give myself any extra time (apart from the flight back) to feel all the feelings I had about visiting that city. That city that was 20 degrees and freezing and where I ate so many good deli sandwiches at and got starstruck at all the fashion and felt the world pulsating underneath my feet. The place that both made me furious at times (there were a couple) and where I secretly hoped I could just take up residency in my hotel room forever. Once I finally did allow myself some time, how I remembered New York was through my iPhone, where I had taken photos and videos of everywhere I had gone. I didn’t have time to visit every place or see all of the sights I wanted but I assured myself that I’d return. Eventually.
These were the moments where it got quiet inside of my head. And where I began to feel so small.
These are the truths of traveling.
You’re always afraid you might not get back to the destination that touched you.
And if you do, you’re even more afraid it won’t have the same effect like before.
You can start off hating a new place and gradually warm up to it and fall in love right before leaving.
No matter where you go, there is that unavoidable moment where you imagine what life might have been like if you had decided to live there. Or had you been born there. I got that feeling in spades in New York.
You want to treasure every moment of your time in a new space and try to absorb all the culture you can, but sometimes there really isn’t time to stop and smell the roses because it’s winter and they’re not in bloom. Life needs to be lived and you do make the time. Eventually. Hopefully.
After traveling to one new place, you feel pumped to go quit your job and take on the hobo chic lifestyle with a little red sack tied to the end of a stick. Aaaaand then you realize your bank account is empty. So you don’t. But you wish you could. You wish it so hard it burns every bit of you.
You want to talk about the new place you went to with everyone once you get back and sometimes you’ll sit there with a smile on your face, patiently hoping your best friend or your parents or even a stranger who just met you will ask you more questions about the city. And it’s always terrible when they don’t or when they don’t get it.
You curse that you didn’t suck up some more debt and stay a few days longer. I WISH I HAD, BELIEVE ME.
Going home is both a blessing and a curse. Weather-wise, I was definitely looking forward to being back in 70 degree temps with zero wind chill factor. Then the plane touched down and moments after running outside of the airport and yanking my heavy coat shackles free, I looked around and realized that nothing had changed. Home was home. The palm trees were still there, there was a delay on the freeway and our mailbox was still stuffed with mail. I hated it and loved it all at once. I got home and went to bed, dreaming of being split into two versions of me, East and West coast selves who would both meet up in their Midwest hometown to trade stories of everything they had seen and lived.
I’m still dreaming it – but this time, I’m working on going above and beyond to dream of more versions of me in more places than just bi-coastal cities. For longer than I may even know.