I’m sure, like me, you’ve seen many pieces on how travel makes you happy. Of course it does – whether it’s long term, a few months travelling or one or two holidays a year, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who’s said it’s not worth it.
To directly answer my blog post title’s question: yes, I believe not travelling can make you unhappy. Happiness or unhappiness can also have nothing to do with travel, it just depends what things inspire and motivate you as a person (kind of what I touch upon in my rant about traveller stereotypes and why they suck). But obviously, for the purpose that this is in fact a travel blog (surprise!), I think you know which topic I’ll be talking about.
I recently saw Huffington Post’s 11 Reasons Travel Makes You A Happier Person pop up on my screen, and I almost didn’t open it. There have been a few times this has happened, where I’ve actively ignored these kind of articles. Truth is, I’ve read loads of them, and I enjoy reading them, so it’s partly that I can guess what they’re going to say. But it’s also partly because it sparks that sad longing in me that currently in my life, I’m not feeling those happy things from travel.
The last time I was abroad was actually in February when I went skiing in France, then shortly after visited my boyfriend in Boston. It’s now May (how is it already May?!). There are a few reasons for this lull, which unfortunately I can’t speak about at the moment. I’m sorry, I’ve become one of those annoying people alluding to some secretive thing as if people are dangling on my every word. I sicken myself.
So I’ve stayed in my London home, working away each day in my job and have seen other people’s great adventures.
It’s ok now and I don’t feel sorry for myself these days as I know things are coming up and everyone has their life-defining moments at different times, but it got me thinking about how putting travel on hold and adjusting to a “travel decrease” of sorts can make you feel.
Maybe you’re like me: I know I’m a person that needs change. I’ve always said to my boyfriend that my ideal situation for travel would be to have a home base, but be there for 2-4 weeks, then off travelling somewhere. Even when I go for a run, I need to switch it up otherwise I completely lose patience and motivation. It’s why I changed to a different school for sixth form – I didn’t need to, just wanted a change. It’s why I was happy to go to a university where I didn’t know anyone. It’s partly why I chose to study abroad in Australia for a semester. It’s why I’m now ready for something other than London (I still love you, I swear).
So when someone like this gets a job when they were already in need of a change, they go through the same routine every day, and then on top of that they aren’t travelling on their weekends to the extend that they could be or taking much time off, it’s not surprising that they can feel a little trapped. (First world problem, I know.)
This was especially bad for me when I was still trying to ‘get over’ Australia. My time there is such a big part of me – it’s the experience that I truly believe triggered me to be the person I am now – and it took a good 2 years after I got back to come to terms with it. Travel can make you extremely happy: it shakes your core, broadens your mind, changes you, constantly makes you acutely aware of everything around you, it heightens every sense and forces you to adapt and learn in the most hands on way.
For a while I dealt with it by always talking about it. I’d relive it over and over, looking at pictures, reminiscing with my boyfriend (who I met there), keeping in touch almost every day with friends made there. Then I felt sad, I missed it, but it was still fresh.
Next, I felt like it was slipping away from me, that I was losing who I was there, when I was constantly stimulated by the things around me – and reverse culture shock took hold. I desperately tried to hold onto it, until the point when I realised with complete surprise that it was now about a year and a half or two since I was in Australia… and I knew I had to make more of an effort to move on.
Sadly, what I did then was just not think about it. It’s always part of me, but I no longer looked back every day and instead I tried to focus on the 8:30-5:30 daily work routine I now felt obliged to do. I used to look at those typical inspirational-type travel pictures on a daily basis and soak them up, freely daydream with no restrictions, but now it felt like torture.
My cork board where I’ve pinned so many memories from travelling – the plane ticket to Australia, the goodbye card my closest friends made me, the Melbourne Eureka Skydeck ticket, a postcard of colourful surf boards and a picture of me and my best friend in the sea on the Great Ocean Road looking blissfully happy – went from something I observed each time I walked past with a smile to something I didn’t let myself ponder on.
It wasn’t that it stopped meaning anything to me, but the opposite. It meant too much to me that I could no longer bear the heart-tugging longing (“gut-wrenching” seemed a bit too dramatic…) that came with seeing pictures and being reminded of my former home.
Luckily, through this bit of self-pitying doom and gloom which I know so many others have felt, you learn to do exactly what you’ve done abroad: adapt. It took a suprisingly long time for me, and I can still get pretty down during the periods when I’m not travelling – it makes me feel stagnant and I can almost feel my mind get less enthusiastic and more sluggish by the day. But I’m always so pleased to see people out there exploring even when I can’t.
Of course I wish I always knew when I’d next be on an adventure (who wouldn’t?!), but I realised that the thing to remember is that our lives happen at different speeds. When one person is having the best time of their life and is doing everything they’ve been waiting for, the other might be really down in the dumps and feel like they’re not progressing. In a matter of months, the roles could be reversed.
The problem can so often be comparing your own situation with the bloggers, friends, family or strangers around you, and I don’t think I could ever say “stop it”, because it’s just so easy and tempting to do. But when you’re feeling crappy about not travelling, (as little a problem as that seems) allow yourself to dream and plan that next trip with the same passion you had for the last one you’re missing so much.