One thing that I often forget about until it’s almost time to head abroad, is what it means to hit pause on life for the x number of days I’ll be abroad. Work is simple enough, you make sure that you have cover for anything that requires cover and ensure that you enable an out of office auto reply before leaving the office. But what about friends and family?
It’s easy for me to come to terms with my constant need to leave my nest and explore the world. Obviously, I live and breathe that desire every day. But the honest truth is that those around me don’t see my situation in the same light that I do. For the most part they can’t understand why I’m committed to going about my travels on my own. Next comes the horror stories about how it’s not safe for a woman to be on her own in the big bad world.
Thankfully, my family have gotten over the fact that I will do what I want when I want. I think they gave up trying to control my actions back in my teenage years. And, somewhere in the mix of New Zealand culture flavoured freedom and their inability to control my dreams they wish me well whilst genuinely not understanding why on earth I do what I do. It’s a happy relationship.
Beyond my family it’s a different story. Just because I’m a solo traveller, doesn’t mean that I have no man in my life and it can be difficult to convince that man of my travel plans and the intentions I have during those plans. During the last 3 years of various solo adventures, I’ve dealt with a few cases of begging, pleading, puppy dog faces and ill mannered accusations.
So, what does it mean to hit pause on life for a while? It means having to have that serious talk your significant other(s) and forcing the discussion of how committed we are to each other. What are our expectations when I return home? What if I don’t return home? What if one of us finds someone else during this time apart? Did you want to come with me? Why do you think I would cancel my plans just because you say so? How will you feel about me constantly making new friends that include the male species at every turn? Travel changes me a little, always for the better, but how prepared are you for that?
For those that don’t travel, or those who travel for longer periods of time, I think this situation is a little easier. Because you either break up or commit to the long term thing. But my situation is unique in the sense that I maintain a normal corporate life at home while my mind is busy planning the next adventure. Sadly this makes it difficult to commit to someone in the first place, and even more difficult to articulate how I can be in love with someone and in the same breath pack my bag and essentially ‘leave’ them.
It’s hard to have those deep and meaningful conversations when the bulk of your mind is caught up in the next adventure, with little thought for what goes on at home in my absence and even less concern for what life will be when I return home. To be fair, I don’t really know what it feels like to be the one left behind. Until I spent an evening last year whilst in Cambodia on skype with my partner at the time who is a strong uber masculine character having tears in his eyes demanding to know when I was going to give him some good news and tell him that I’m coming home. It’s easy to forget how it feels to miss someone when you’re distracted by an ever changing environment.
Hitting pause on life forces you to take stock and make it a priority to consider what the next phase of life should be when I return to the motherland. Whether that phase should include said significant other or not. Whether my job is the right fit for me. Whether I can really go on balancing severe wanderlust with the corporate life.
For me, it’s a beautiful thing. Because it makes me feel like every time I return home, I get to create the life I want with a clean slate and fresh perspective. It’s even more apparent this time around as I will figure out somewhere to live when I return home rather than coming back to the same environment adorned with the same habits.
It’s not easy saying goodbye to the people you love. But at the end of the day, the only person who is able to make decisions for my life, is me. And if I had to live in line with the expectations and demands of others, I would be miserable. I had that life in my past, I learnt from it and I’ve moved on.
If you’re meant to be with that person, it will sort itself out. Our hearts will find a way to find each other again and reconnect. My dreams can not be put in a box and saved for a rainy day. They are real and all consuming. You’ll either love that about me, or hate it. Either way, your feelings are outside of my control.