Pondering the waves in Koh Chang, Thailand
Addiction. It’s a strong word. It is also very, very much overused and, in my opinion, not taken seriously enough anymore. People commonly refer to themselves playfully as “shopaholics”, “chocoholics”, and so on. “I’m so addicted to that show!” “I’m totally addicted to cat memes!” “OMG, I have a major shoe addiction!” Sure. You like something- maybe even love something- a lot, so does that mean you’re addicted to it? Not necessarily.
I named this blog “Chronicles of a Travel Addict” not because I was looking for a cute or catchy title. Yes, I do say that I am “happily addicted” in that I have no intent to change. But addiction is real, and I am a junkie. Not for heroin, but for travel.
I’ve been back in the States for ten days now. Those ten days have felt like ten months. I have been bursting on the inside, exploding, imploding, pacing, thoughts racing, plotting my next step. The plan was to move to Spain by the beginning of 2014. I have no idea how I’m going to make it happen, or if I will choose to live elsewhere, but it will happen.
I wasn’t even supposed to travel, but I did. I got a call from a friend asking if I’d like to volunteer for a couple of weeks in Taiwan, teaching English. And then came the opportunity to help film a documentary in Borneo. So I jumped on that. Then, since I was in the neighborhood, I moseyed my way up from Malaysia to Thailand. From Thailand to Cambodia, and back to Thailand again. Vietnam was so close, I couldn’t not go. As the daughter of a Vietnam vet, visiting this country held a lot of emotional weight. It was a way to try to understand why my father became the person he is today. And, in effect, why I am who I am. But that’s another story.
When you think of an addict, what comes to mind? Someone who would sell her belongings in order to get another fix? Someone who is just a completely different person without her drug? Who thereby goes through withdrawals- physically, mentally, and spiritually? Yes, yes, and yes. When people say, “Travel is my drug of choice,” they’re not fucking around. Or maybe they are, but I am not.
I would do pretty much anything to maintain a lifestyle in which I am able to live out loud in the roaring, chaotic beauty of this crazy, incomprehensible, vastly curious world. I don’t believe in gods or devils, but if I did, I would have my soul sealed up in an envelope, ready to hunt down the devil and make a deal. The way I see it, when I bought that one-way ticket to Buenos Aires long ago, my fate was determined. My soul is committed fully, unabashedly, and unapologetically. I know my purpose.
Five years of my life were spent without leaving the United States. For someone who had been out of the country at least two months per year for the previous seven years, it was torture. Could I have done something differently? Absolutely. But I was too busy lying to myself, telling myself that if only I were able to live a “stable” life with someone else, I would be happy. That “stability” was rockier and more precarious than a three-ton boulder tumbling down Mt. Everest, aimed straight at my head. It changed me, weighed me down, killed me. My body didn’t die, but I did. I committed to the wrong things, to the wrong person, thinking that a god damn rock on my finger proved that I was loved and had a place in this world. It didn’t mean shit.
But I woke up. When I did, I was confused as hell. Didn’t know who I was anymore, who I had let myself become. All I knew was that I needed to travel. So I sold that ring on eBay, not to mention a shit load of other stuff, erased a ton of photos, and rebooted myself. I got back to the core of who I am, of what makes me happy, and started doing instead of wanting to do. I gave into my addiction again, and it was the best thing I could have possibly done. After a couple road trips to Los Angeles with a best friend, and another whirlwind journey with another best friend from San Jose, California to Portland, Oregon, Kennewick and Seattle, Washington, and Vancouver, BC, Canada, that spark came back. I felt human again. The fire had been starved for far too long, and it had a voracious appetite.
See, maybe addiction is not always a bad thing. Take, for example, people who are addicted to exercise. (I used to be one of those people.) It’s not a bad habit, per se. It’s still something that consumes you, has you sacrificing in other areas of your life, and makes you feel awful if you skip a day at the gym. But when you’re working out, you feel good, you feel at peace, you feel alive. What’s so wrong with that? This is a natural high. No consumption of toxins is necessary. The same with travel. When I am out in the world, and not just incessantly dreaming about it, I feel that I am at my full potential. The three months I was in Asia, I wrote more frequently, challenged my fears, and achieved what many people seek and can’t obtain- the art of living in the “now”. People randomly commented on how happy I was. I loved that. No one told me that- nor did I feel it- during my five-year, so-called remission.
To me, travel is equivalent to life. All I want is to be able to travel and write, and I am completely content. Is that too much to ask?
What do you think? Are you a travel addict as well? What is your perspective?