When Travel Loses its Sex Appeal
"I can't do this any longer." I sat up in bed after yet another sleepless night. It was something that someone would say in the midst of a dead-end job or a bad relationship. But I wasn't. Not even close. I was in Costa Rica in an apartment just a few blocks off the beach. I had been traveling for months and had all intentions of continuing this with a trip to Europe on the horizon. So what was the problem that made me feel so physically and emotionally drained that I couldn't travel any longer? Was it just a funk? If I kept doing it would I eventually start to enjoy it again? Was there a red or blue pill to take? I wasn't sure what needed to happen, but I knew that something had to change.
Travel just has this inherent sex appeal to it. It long has. There's a romanticism to travel. You never see a movie whether young or old and see this ambitious young man talking to his family who says: "All I've ever wanted to do is just work in an office from 9-5. That's all I've ever wanted to do - all day, every day, to work a full-time job." No, who says that? They talk about wanting to go out and "see the world". And for good reason. Destinations are often like humans. While they may have some of the same universal characteristics, their makeup is so complex, that no two are alike. And how one person experiences a place will be so much different then the next person, even if they do the same things. There's a fascination with that type of lifestyle.
Yet there I was - on a Costa Rica beach doing what many would have called "living the dream" and I had nothing. I was ready to just pack it in and call it a day. Because that's what you do when you reach that point. Right? I mean you either keep doing it in misery or you go back to what you knew before. Those are the two options. But in fact they aren't. I took a third route. I knew that my decreased satisfaction in travel was part of a bigger problem. While some may have said that I should keep traveling in order to find my travel mojo again, I instead did the opposite. I went to find a home. One that was 2,500 miles away from where I had grown up and spent so much of my life.
My good friend V and I were having brunch in Berkeley a couple months ago. I reflected on the past year that had been the most significant of my life and my love affair with San Francisco. He remarked that even with my love for San Francisco, that he thought I would stay there only until I no longer wanted to and then at that point, move on. He's right. However, that's not the way I lived for 27 years. Even if I was miserable doing something, I would stay in that position out of security and comfort. I've since realized, ironically first by setting out on a stint of long-term travel, that that's no way to live. People around us will always have misgivings about out decisions, but at the end of the day, it's each one of us who have to live with the decisions we do or don't do.
I'm sitting in a hotel room in Los Angeles writing this and while Los Angeles certainly isn't my favorite destination in America, and even California, I couldn't be happier. The sex appeal of travel did in fact return. What it took for that love to return was making a significant change by establishing a home base. That and living in a place that I feel like allows me to travel every single day without stepping foot on a plane. It's given me an even greater view of this world that I live in. Sure, traveling abroad can offer the richest travel experiences, but I'm finding satisfaction and joy in travel experiences in my own backyard.
Travel, like a best friend, significant other, house, car, hobby, or career, is going to lose its sex appeal. But does that mean you hang it up when that happens? Do you quit your best friend when you go through a streak of not feeling like hanging out? No. It just means the flame needs to be fanned. I can't stress enough the importance of embracing change. This has been one of the most important things I've learned over the last couple years. We often view change as something that is so discomforting and unsatisfying, yet those discomforting valleys of change are what are often required to take us to the mountaintops where a new contentment in life awaits.
It's often been said (Typically attributed to Albert Einstein) that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. Yet how many of us do that, whether it's with travel, or otherwise? Throw a change-up this year. If you typically take a beach vacation on the east coast, then go to the west coast. If you've always traveled with others, then travel solo. If you haven't traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, then make this the year. While we rarely no what's on the other side of an experience we've never done, the suspense of it is often half the fun.
How do you react when travel (Or other parts of life) lose its sex appeal?