A different kind of addiction

Written by on July 5, 2011 in 30 Life Crisis - 20 Comments

So, it’s been nine months since I returned to America.

And, I have a confession:

I am starting to freak out knowing that I’ve been living a stationary existence for nearly one year.

It scares the hell out of me.

More and more I have been feeling waves of panic wash over me as my one-year anniversary of being home ticks ever closer.

It has left me paralyzed, lying awake at night, just thinking about having to think about my future. And what I want. And what I don’t want. And, imagining a life of not moving.

The fact that in September I won’t be able to end my day thinking back to where I was at the same time last year makes me cringe. It nearly physically hurts me to know that almost a year has passed since I left Croatia.

I watch everyone here go about their day-to-day activites, talking their business deals, shaking hands over lunch, cell phones at the ready … and it bothers me. Not because they do it, but because I am doing it, too.

Why does it effect me like this?

There is a morning I remember so clearly. So perfectly.

I was walking along the roof top terrace of  a hotel I had been invited to visit. There I was … in the heart of Marrakesh’s medina, looking out over the pinky-orange roof tops playing off the bright blue sky, of the minarets piercing the horizon … when BAM! my life  made sense.

It’s that moment every person craves — the moment of clarity. When everything just clicks and you wonder to yourself “why on earth didn’t I realize this sooner?”

For me, it was coming to the conclusion nothing made me happier than traveling. It was committing to myself, on that rooftop terrace, from that second on, I was going to do whatever it took to make sure I could continue feeding this passion once I returned to America. I didn’t want to fall into the lifestyle people are accustomed to in America. I wanted to remain the way I was that morning …free. Happy.

From Morocco on, I had plans.

Spain. I was going to live in Spain. Somehow. And write and travel and write about traveling. Somehow.

And then, something happened. I got my American re-entry stamp on my passport.

I had sworn when I returned to America, I would no longer let things that didn’t matter, matter. I held tight to this resolve until I started looking for a job. Then, in a dressing room of a department store, I was resting my self-esteem on a dress and whether it made me look fat, instead of on my inner self. I was judging myself based on things I promised I wouldn’t judge myself on anymore.

Yes, I returned in an instant to the land of superficial.

When I got home, my promise to continue traveling wasn’t necessarily side-tracked, but put on hiatus. I had a dwindling amount of money left to my name, I had bills to pay. I had a life I needed to pick-up, even if temporarily, and whip into some quick shape.

It wasn’t easy.

Yes, within a month of returning, I knew I had a possible job. I knew where I wanted to live. I had put my mind to the challenge of re-entering and not falling on my face, and had aced it.

But, that inner turmoil was raging inside of me.

In the process, the promise I made to myself had faded. Now, it was more important to make money to live. Travel would still be there, but it wasn’t something I could wrap my mind around in addition to everything else.

Sure, I still talked about my plans. There isn’t a person in my life who doesn’t know I want to end up in Spain. But, those words, the love letters to my adventures, weren’t backed up by any action.

Suddenly, travel was just a dream and no longer a reality.

As these nine months have passed, I have been spending a lot more time wrapped in my thoughts. I find myself just sitting and thinking about a year ago, recalling things which had slipped my mind entirely — people, places, moments that meant so much to me and somehow had vanished in the desert.

I’ve been battling the same thoughts a lot in the past month:

What if I can’t settle down somewhere?

What if, as soon as I get comfortable, I can’t bare to feel that way anymore?

I mean, there isn’t a reason in the world I shouldn’t want to stay in Las Vegas. I have a great job. I have phenomenal friends. I have a nice and inexpensive roof over my head. I have belongings. And yet, not too deep down inside, I keep thinking over and over how easy it would be to just pack it all in again and go back out on the road.

There is something about travel that overwhelms me. Makes it hard to breathe. Makes my heart race. As an ex-smoker, I can confidently state remaining stationary for a long period of times makes me feel the same as withdrawing from nicotine.

Yeah. Traveling is an addiction. It’s also my reality check. It reminds me I don’t need a cell phone. Or a fancy dress. Or a nice car. I can be happy with a lot less. Happier.

Of course, all of this has been exacerbated by the recent presence of amazing people in Las Vegas whom I met on the road … back when the thought of moving back to Las Vegas made me shake my head and smile at its ridiculousness.

First, it was seeing Katie. Then, I had drinks with a couple I had met in Turkey when I was really a mess. We talked for a few hours and I marveled at their story. These two had spent years saving up money so they could travel. They did it for 18 months and are now wrapping it up for the time being. And of course, I am constantly reminded of my time in Bulgaria because Abby and I both live here and talk travel.

To help with my addiction, I turn my free time into work time. I spend my time when I’m not working, working. I have taken on some freelance travel blogging and travel writing gigs. So,  not only does it provide some money to nestle into my baby baby savings account, but it lets me put my mind back into my clouds of travel, even if I’m not physically traveling.

It quiets the withdrawal, but doesn’t silence it.

So, I’m trying something new. For those times when I start to freak out about hitting my one-year mark, I am going to focus on the things I can do to make my Marrakesh realization a reality.

It won’t happen over night. Or in a month. Or six months. Or a year. But, it makes me feel better just knowing I have never not succeed at something I have put my heart and soul into. And, sooner or later, that addiction will be quenched.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is a travel writer and expat currently residing in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In 2010 she quit her job in PR to go on a solo backpacking adventure and tackle her 30-Life-Crisis. After seven months abroad, journeying throughout Europe and Africa, she returned to America and relocated to Las Vegas. Following a year-long stint back in PR, she once again quit her job to follow her dreams; this time her journey took her to the elephants and Elephant Nature Park where she is involved with raising awareness about responsible elephant tourism. Recently, Diana was named a finalist in the Destinology Travel Bloggy Awards for travel writing. She has been a regular contributor to Viator and recently served as the Las Vegas contributor for OneTravel.com and CheapOair.com. Her work has appeared in print and online, including The Huffington Post, Matador Network, Travel + Escape, Vegas Seven, World Nomads and more.

20 Comments on "A different kind of addiction"

  1. ayngelina July 5, 2011 at 9:43 pm · Reply

    I have only been back two weeks but I can completely understand how you feel. I think it’s such drastic extremes but I am happy to hear you are writing to keep the next dream alive.

    • The Adventures of D July 8, 2011 at 2:23 am · Reply

      When I first got back, I had a few friends who were on long-term travel and returned right around the same time, and we would call each other, at least once or twice in full-on tears because we were having such hard times being “home.” I still think we should start a Traveler Support Group or something. I’m so happy to be writing now, and so thankful for the opportunity to keep my dream kicking …

  2. Erica July 5, 2011 at 10:36 pm · Reply

    I think that sometimes you have to be back at home to really appreciate the fact you love travel so dearly. I know so many people that become complacent in their travel lives and that spark of new just isn’t there anymore. When you look at a beach as “just another beach” or a waterfall as the same, you’ve lost that sense of wonder. Maybe it is time to rethink things?

    At least you have a starting point to make you dream a reality. It is better than consistently putting it on the backburner.

  3. The Adventures of D July 6, 2011 at 12:03 am · Reply

    Erica, that is so true. If there is one thing I learned before I changed my life, is that I REFUSE to be complacent and just go through the motions. As for rethinking things, yes. I love home. I love my bed. My apartment. My comforts. My “routine.” But, I also love the awe of travel, and combining my love for travel with my love for writing. I miss it very much these days. Like I said, it won’t happen anytime soon, but at least I know where I would like to end up. :)

  4. Federico July 6, 2011 at 11:35 am · Reply

    I hear you. I have also remained stagnant for 6 months now and am going ballistic. I was supposed to go on a sponsored trip a month ago but it was cancelled. Now there is a chance I might move inside Mexico a bit, but that’s still to be seen. It is then that travel blogs come in handy, to read about others´ trips and imagine, while thinking *bloody bastards!!* lol

    • The Adventures of D July 8, 2011 at 2:21 am · Reply

      Yes!! Although, sometimes I get bummed when I read them, especially when posts take place the sames places I was in my travels and I can actually visualize with they are writing about. I’d say I started to feel it at 6 months, and now, 3 months later, holy moly.

  5. Stephanie - The Travel Chica July 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm · Reply

    For someone who is 8 months into a travel sabbatical, this was a really great post to read. I often wonder what it will be like to go back. I have the same thoughts as you that I want to keep certain parts of this experience with me (like not getting upset about things that are not really important).

    I like your statement about travel being your reality check. I have realized I can be happier with a lot less as well.

    • The Adventures of D July 8, 2011 at 2:19 am · Reply

      Thank you, Stephanie. :) I did a whole series of posts on what it was like when I got back, one of them is linked in this post. It was really weird to be back, and a huge culture shock. But, I adjusted pretty quickly on the surface. Travel definitely makes you realize what you can and can’t actually “live” without. Which is nice, and eye-opening. Keep me updated on how you get on once you return.

  6. Allie July 6, 2011 at 5:12 pm · Reply

    D, I have every confidence that you will succeed! Traveling is indeed an addiction, and a passion. As we’re finishing up our trip, I wonder how we’ll feel in 2-3 months when we’ve settled back down, started jobs, bought a bed, etc. Buying furniture seems particularly overwhelming at the moment.

    Right now I feel like I want to be stationary, to build face-to-face community…but I also want the freedom to work for myself, from anywhere. At least part of the time. Will the travel itch stay scratched, or will we be desperate to hit the road again? Stay tuned, and know we’re rooting for you!

    • The Adventures of D July 8, 2011 at 2:17 am · Reply

      I love you and Mark so much! Getting to reconnect with you in Vegas truly had such an impact on me, and it also made me so happy that we had something so life-changing in common, and experienced a portion of that together. When I first got home, I felt the exact same way — I wanted to start a life somewhere. Now … well, you know. :) Thanks for the mention on your post, and thanks for your support. I can’t wait to see you again!

  7. Mica July 10, 2011 at 12:35 am · Reply

    I remember how depressing I felt every time I returned home from a trip. Talking, writing, dreaming about travel will help keep your dream alive. You’re a great writer. Keep working at your dream. You’ll get there!

    • The Adventures of D July 11, 2011 at 7:26 pm · Reply

      Thank you!! :) That just made me smile real big. Baby steps … this is a huge world … we need to write about it!!

  8. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ July 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm · Reply

    GUH. It’s been about 7 months for me and although I’m enjoying a drunk Canadian summer… I’m totally itching to get back on the road. I was hoping to be ready to go by Sept, but it may take me a bit longer :(

    You need that excitement! blarg!

    • The Adventures of D July 11, 2011 at 7:25 pm · Reply

      A drunk Canadian summer! Sounds great!! Excitement is definitely needed!! :)

  9. Cody August 5, 2011 at 12:48 pm · Reply

    So true about looking back to realize how long its been since your last travels! Not to mention how easy it is to get sucked back into the working world. It’s definitely a double life, having a job and friends and house at home but at the same time yearning for your next stint pinching pennies on the road. It’s almost a curse – but one I’m strangely happy to suffer from. :)

    • The Adventures of D August 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm · Reply

      Yes. It is. It’s funny … I look at things completely different now, too. I am far more impressed with someone who has a passport than with anything else … which is a good thing. :)

  10. Dwain Grant October 18, 2011 at 6:30 am · Reply

    C’est fantastique

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