Love at First Trip
"I sell drugs." That's the response I wanted to give to the thirty-something Canadian man sitting beside me at the Costa Rica bar when asked what I did that had me in Costa Rica for so long. Instead, I responded with my usual short, aloof response; "I'm a writer." While he shook his head in agreement and turned back around for a sip of his beer, I knew that this conversation was long from over.
A half-hour later and I was still answering his questions about my work, justifying my profession and why exactly it was that I traveled like I did and how I made money doing it. However, amidst the barrage of questions, it struck me that it wasn't my work that had come into question, but rather my lifestyle choices, because what he saw as a way to make a living, I rather saw as a way of life.
The last few weeks saw me reflecting on the balance of personal life, travel, and relationships, but it was my travel writer friend, Candice Walsh, whose poignant article last week on travel and dating really brought it full circle. Her article explored the challenges she's faced while keeping such a strenuous travel schedule and I found myself nodding in agreement throughout its entirety. Maybe it's at this point that you're saying to yourself, "Finally, Spencer is going to let his guard down to talk about his dating life." The fact is that there's not much to talk about, being that I've been on some first and second dates in the last year, but haven't dated anyone in some weeks months years (If this is getting out of hand for you, talking about dating, then have a look-see at the "Look at this Instagram" Nickelback parody).
The question that shortly follows, "What do you do", often is "Well, why aren't you dating anyone?" In which my response often includes something about my divorce, how I don't like talking on the phone, and that I haven't lived anywhere for any longer than 18 months over the last 10 years (Which some people would take to mean that I can't do the "C word": Commit). But really, my reasons for not dating go deeper then that. It's neither you, nor me. Rather, it's traveling. I have a love affair with travel. My best friend believes that as long as I keep up the travel lifestyle that I do, that I'm not likely to meet a girl I find "dateable" in any city I live in, but rather find her when I'm not looking for it, while traveling.
This isn't a blog post about my history or philosophy of dating. It's not a pity party. It's about my lifestyle choices - about the conscious choice I've made to have a lifestyle centered around travel, no matter what the risk, consequences, and rewards of it are (My friend Carol Cain shares a great perspective on the lifestyle choices she's made from the family angle in this blog post). Am I lucky? Damn straight I am. I feel so extremely fortunate to be in such positions that I am, but I'd be remiss if I didn't say that I worked my ass off, which at times has involved multiple jobs and 80-hour work weeks. But for me, the greater risk and consequences aren't the choices themselves. The greater risk and impending consequences are to never risk at all.
Most times, real life doesn’t measure up to what’s in our heads, but every now and then, it comes pretty close. - The Magic of Belle Island
Travel is as much a part of my day-to-day life as working out, spending time with friends, or enjoying hobbies. Some people make it a habit to brew their own beer, while others play team sports with their pals every weekend, while others enjoy hosting parties, and others are involved in coordinating play dates for their kids. We all have "our things". My thing is travel. While travel was ingrained in me at an early age, I lost my way of travel a few years ago, and when I rediscovered it, my life was changed. Travel changed my life and has since touched every part of my life, from planning trips with friends, to watching television and movies, to reading guidebooks and essays, to getting on a plane.
I live what I consider a high quality of life, from the top down. It's something that's still rather new, since it has really just been in the last three years that I've begun expecting so much from life. I know what it's like to settle - to live an unambitious life that was more like a machine, going through the motions, rather then actual living, and it wasn't until I was at the bottom that I decided that there HAD to be more to not just life, but my life, and that I wanted the best quality of life. I have high ambitions and expectations of life, be it friendship, work, hobbies, free time, and travel. Dating is no exception.
The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have. - Randy Pausch
Am I living the dream? I think that's subjective. I just know that I'm living my dream. Make life what you want it to be. There's a good chance that it won't be a lifestyle of travel like I have. Maybe that means working faithfully as a secretary for years to support your family or starting a non-profit to aid the city you live in. Whatever it is, own your life choices, or find that lifestyle that you can own. When I see travel's influence on my life, I can't afford to have a life that is absent of it. I am my best version of myself when I'm traveling and upon immediately returning. One day I may meet a girl on my travels who challenges my love affair with travel by having such an impact on my own life, prompting me to make room for both, but until then, and long after, I'll keep a packed bag by the door with no regrets. In the words of Bob Marley: "Love the life you live, live the life you love.”