Traveling has always been low on my list of priorities. I know that’s shocking to some people. I’ve heard plenty of times about how amazing it is to see the world and experience new cultures. To me though, travel — especially the international variety — has always been more anxiety-inducing than fun.
My family could never afford international trips when I was growing up, but I was fortunate enough to get a grant to study in Israel for a semester in high school, and again for a summer in college. A day trip to Canada and a short Caribbean cruise are my only other experiences in foreign countries.
I’ve certainly had the opportunity to travel more than many Americans, forty percent of whom have never left the country, but I’m a far cry from a globetrotter. In the last few years, the farthest I’ve been from North Carolina is Virginia.
I stopped traveling because every trip seemed to leave me spending more time worrying than enjoying myself. Although I liked seeing new places, the stress wasn’t worth it.
Over the past few years, however, I’ve made great strides in getting my anxiety under control. Near the beginning of this year, I began to wonder whether I should make traveling a higher priority. Would I still have any issues with stress, or could I finally really enjoy myself? How much was I missing out on by next visiting foreign countries? I started planning a trip for this summer, although I was still on the fence about whether I’d actually go.
Then, of course, the pandemic spread throughout the world, shutting down almost all international travel.
As soon as I realized that I could no longer leave the country, I wanted to get out more than ever.
The pandemic has caused almost everyone in the world to rethink their priorities. People who have never exercised once in their life are suddenly working out every day. Folks are learning new languages, studying chess, and writing the novels they’ve been dreaming about for years.
It’s truly the biggest global upheaval of our lifetimes. It has completely altered our day to day lives, and made us fundamentally rethink our dreams and goals.
For me, it’s made me realize that I don’t want to spend the next decade within a 100-mile radius of my home. I want to actually see the world.
When I thought about traveling near the beginning of this year, I was envisioning a relatively short trip. Now, I don’t think that a quick vacation would be enough to satisfy my travel urge. Instead, I’d like to find a way to spend months visiting, or even living, in new countries.
Some international travel is already open, but I’m committed to doing the responsible thing and waiting until travel is safe, even if that takes another year or more.
In the meantime, I’m doing whatever I can to make the option of long-term travel more realistic. Although the digital nomad lifestyle is often mocked, I have to admit that it greatly appeals to me. I’ve been trying hard to build up remote work that I can do from anywhere in the world, and so far it’s going well. I’ve also been attempting to learn some Spanish, with the hopes of traveling through Latin America.
Life After the Pandemic
It will be interesting to see how our lifestyles change again after the pandemic is finally over or contained. Will I still be so eager to travel, or will the urge dissipate as soon as borders reopen? Will all the new runners and weightlifters still be going strong, or will they ease back into a sedentary lifestyle?
I can’t imagine life going back entirely to the way it was before the pandemic, but perhaps we really will be ready for a return to normality. I don’t know for sure what I’ll want to do afterward, but for now I’m going to continue to work hard to keep the possibilities open.