I, as many travelers around the world, can’t stop thinking and talking about how much it sucks not being able to travel and live the life we want to. I hear people around me saying that they feel trapped, or they’ve been down about canceling vacations they were really excited for.
But for me, not being able to travel feels like something bigger than that. Travel is the thing I’m most passionate about. When I describe myself to people, the first thing I say is that the most I like to do in life is to travel. I feel like I’ve been cut off from the thing I cared most about, from something that defines me. I’ve even struggled to answer the question “What do you like to do?” recently, because normally I’d just say: travel. It’s also something I’m really good at. Most of my friends used to ask me for travel advices, or even for help scoring a cheaper flight or accommodation. And that made me happy!
I feel like I’m having a bit of an identity crisis, and I have no idea how to handle it, especially since it seems like it’ll take a while before we can travel like we used to. And as much as I try to embrace it, “virtual travel” or trying to be a tourist in my own city is just not the same. So please, help me God to find the strength that I need to pass trough this rough period!
My Dear Self Lost Traveler,
There’s so much to discuss here. So from where do I even begin?
Like maybe many of you, I’ve noticed that I feel I’ve lost a piece of who I am. Travel for me represents more than just a vacation, so not being able to move isn’t like losing one hobby, or one relationship — it’s like having an entire means of interpreting and relating to the world taken away from me.
I ask myslef “How does travel serve me?”, “What does it allow me to do?”, “What does it allow me to feel?” And the answer is that travel represents an area of my life in which I allow myslef to be spontaneous, outgoing, and even more playful, than otherwise. And this makes me feel alive!
For me traveling is how I celebrate, it’s how I mourn, it’s how I fulfill my curiosities about the world. It’s how I meet people. It’s also how I get to know people I’ve already met. And it’s how I get to know myself. I even used to think that traveling is my dream job. Having to pause the one act that allows me to be my true self, and give up this therapy, is a challenge I hadn’t faced before.
Being realistic, this feeling might not go away anytime soon. What’s been really hard about COVID is this ambiguous timeline. I’ve kicked the can down the road on grief—what if summer [is when I could travel again], what if fall, what if—and there is this kind of reckoning with myself, at least for now, that I’ve lost something. I let myself feel sad about the fact that travel as I knew it is off the table for the time being, while resisting the urge to replace that sadness with a false sense of hope settled to an end-date in the future—especially because, when those dates come and go, the pain only grows.
I am trying to accept the state of things, but it’s not easier to start working through these feelings, and figure out what I can do in the meantime. And spoiler alerts, taking a virtual tour of the Taj Mahal or the Eiffel Tower isn’t working to cut it down.
Simply trying to transport myself to a new place isn’t going to deliver those same benefits. Sure, I tried knitting and crochet and watched opera and ballet from The Metropolitan and Bolshoy Teather, and it helped for a while, but it’s not the same thing—and it isn’t helpful when everyone tries to convince me that they are.
Filling the gap travel has left in my life is still a work in progres and when all feels too much, I decide to just take it day by day. The psychological experience of things stretching out into eternity feels unbearable to me. And I find some peace in just tackling it one step at a time, for now.
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Thank you! 🙂