2.14.2010

this wanderlust, it rules my life

Many factors combined to send me to graduate school and a career change; I needed the change on many levels. But the biggest incentive has been my unsated wanderlust. With our current income and lifestyle, we don't have enough money to travel. And I just can't stand it.

You know that I consider myself extremely fortunate; I'm very aware of my privilege. In general, I have a very good life, and I know it. But...

But as much as I keep that perspective, we want what we want, and when we don't have something that feels integral to our happiness, it chafes. This doesn't feel like a want. It feels like a need.

Apart from the people and dogs in my life, there's nothing I love more than travel. And we simply can't afford to travel as I would like to. "As I would like to" doesn't mean a fantasy of a year-long trek around the world or my lifelong dream of cruising North America with no fixed address. All I mean is one good trip each year - a two- or three-week trip to someplace I've never been.

This year, like last year, we have an important family wedding to attend. Last year's took us to New Mexico; this one is in northern California. It's beautiful there and I'm sure we'll have a great time, but I've been there many times and at this point, it's not where I would choose to spend my incredibly scarce travel dollars. I'll go to New York and New Jersey to visit family and friends, once on my own and once with Allan. And we might squeeze out a short, local trip, like Stratford.

So we'll get away. I understand this would be sufficient for someone else. But for me, a few days away is great fun, but it doesn't scratch the itch.

I have this great hunger to see the world. Sometimes it obsesses me, makes my heart ache with longing. Each trip Allan and I have made together (as well as my travels before we met) has been a revelation. But looking back on where I've been never dampens my desire to see more. It only feeds it, like an addiction.

And as I get older, it gets worse.

In the past, there were many years when we didn't have money to travel. That was always a disappointment for me, but in those days time seemed endless. Now I live with a sense of my life being very finite, and rushing by at breakneck speed.

I fear that past a certain age, we won't have money to travel at all. We don't have a house to sell or big retirement income coming our way. It's realistic to think we'll be financially constrained in our senior years.

So, rightly or wrongly, I imagine I don't have that many years of real travel left. And too many places I want to go. And not the money to go there.

Friends older than me laugh at this. Why should I feel this way at 48? Because I do.

* * * *

I look at the balance in our so-called retirement savings, and I think... I could get five or six really good trips out of that. That would make me really happy. And isn't that what money is for? Who knows if we'll live long enough to spend that money on retirement... We should use it to get more out of our lives right now...

I drive myself crazy thinking along those lines. Fortunately Allan intervenes. He has loved our travels together, but he's not an addict like I am. So the money stays there. Taunting me.

* * * *

I drafted this post almost a full year ago, before I had any thoughts of graduate school. I wrote:
I'm not one to complain about a problem without trying to fix it. Is there something I could be doing differently? I've thought myself in circles about this.

I could get a full-time job in the field of my day-job. I'd be sacrificing the work that gives my life meaning, in essence making my day-to-day life miserable in exchange for two weeks a year. In my heart, I know that's not a wise trade-off, and I've resisted it.

We could cut our budget to the bone, have no entertainment, live like paupers, just to save all our money for travel. But again, it seems unwise to live your whole life for two weeks, and it's not like we spend that much money as it is.

I suppose we could forgo any smaller trips, and save the money we would have spent on those, and put it all towards travel. But we're long-distance from close friends and family now. How can I not see my mother, my siblings or my best friends?

The only other thing we spend money on is our dogs, and I can scarcely imagine life without them.

At the time, I saw no possibility of change on the horizon, just endless discontent and frustration. I was on the road to coming up with a solution, I just didn't know it yet.

But the benefits of my Big Life Change are still far off. It will be years until I get my degree and a start my new career. I have patience for the process. I just don't have patience for the trips I won't be taking until I get there.

* * * *

My family likes to say that travel is in our genes. My grandmother traveled all over the world, before travel was accessible or typical. Everyone wanted to know, Where is Dora going next? She and my grandfather went on group tours, and never ventured off the beaten track. She wore her status as an American like an armor. But she saw the world, and kept seeing it as long as she possibly could.

Her daughter - my mom - had it bad, too. My parents took us on great travel vacations when we were kids, and when my mother became single, she ticked off all the places my father hadn't wanted to go: Russia, Alaska, China. Now my brother clearly has The Bug, as do two of his three children.

When I went to Europe for the first time, with my great friend NN after we graduated from university, I announced my plans to my grandmother. I expected her to disapprove - as she generally did of everything. To my surprise, she lit up. She said, "It's so wonderful, what young girls can do on their own these days. I had to wait until I was married to see the world, but you can just go." For the rest of her coherent days, my Nana always wanted to hear about my travels, always asked if I was planning a trip. I think of her a lot when I travel.

* * * *

As part of this post, I started writing a list of where we've been and where I most want to go, but I'm purposely not including it. Feeling this way, the where is almost irrelevant. It's the go that matters.

I have a group of photos on the wall of Allan and I with various landmark backdrops: Eiffel Tower, Stonehenge, Machu Picchu, the Golden Gate Bridge. Looking over the photos, a friend (someone I don't know well, the partner of an old friend) said, "You guys have traveled a lot!" I stuttered over an answer. "Well, I guess... not really..." Allan said definitively, "Yes, we have," then looked at me pointedly and said, "You have."

Maybe I have, maybe I haven't. But it's all I want. And I can't stop wanting it.

29 comments:

MSEH said...

I hear ya! Too many places and not enough time or enough money...

johngoldfine said...

I don't have your wanderlust exactly, but I do have your sense of time running out. I'm 64. One of these days that old rocking chair is gonna get me.

The two travel things I do both depend on a certain level of fitness and health: riding horses in Iceland and the UK; backpacking from point to point in the UK.

So, I do drain off some of those retirement savings and go...now.

L-girl said...

I hear ya! Too many places and not enough time or enough money...

Mm-hm. And add to that too many years where we don't go anywhere.

* * * *

Ah-ha! John, that's why you were in Iceland. (You were coming back on the day, or possibly the day before, JoS1.)

Yes, the sense of dwindling time. I'm glad you're using your retirement savings now - you should. Maybe when I am your age, I will do the same thing. :)

L-girl said...

Also, there are at least a couple of trips we want to make that require a level of health and fitness. Those are particularly painful to postpone, as I don't know if/when they will happen.

johngoldfine said...

What a memory, l-girl!

I was really tempted about JOS1. My plane from Keflavik was due in about an hour before game time, and I probably could have grabbed a cab at Logan and made it to Fenway by second or third inning.

But what about my duffelbag with 3 tons of horse gear? I'm sure Red Sox security would not have been impressed.... And with the midnight sun in Iceland, my inner clock would already have been spinning when I got off the plane--not sure I could have coped with the added stress of 37,000 shouting people crammed into the Kenmore Square neighborhood.

Not to look over your shoulder at your unincluded list, but where do you guys want to go requiring special health and fitness? I hope you haven't been reading 'Into Thin Air' and getting big ideas!

L-girl said...

I was going to offer you our hotel room to ditch your stuff and wash up - we were right near Fenway - but it seemed a bit more sane for you to decline. Maybe in our younger days...

Should I put The List in a separate post? I blogged about it a long time ago, but I could update.

The big thing is a dog-sled trip. We fell in love with dog-sledding and sled dogs in Alaska. We had a big trip planned to the Boundary Waters Area of North Minnesota, to go on a week-long guided dog sled expedition, where you are taught to mush, you take care of your team, and all the equipment is provided for you. Crazy expensive, but would be soooo amazing. Imagine being in that wilderness in the winter - and sharing it with dogs.

I found an outfit that really cared about their dogs and had a great outlook about nature trips, and we were ready to put down a deposit...

...when we decided to move to Canada. We needed all our money to go to that. Then we skipped travel for a few years while we saved everything for the Big Move. (continued...)

L-girl said...

(part 2)

...I promised myself if the move went well and we both found jobs quickly, I would take some money from savings for a great trip. That was Peru in 2006, a dream for me.

And good timing soon, as the firm I worked for went out of business, I lost my job and our money woes began.

Now we have a blog-friend (and, I hope, a real friend!) who lives in the Yukon and raises sled dogs. We hope to visit her and learn to dog-sled with her.

I fear/wonder if we'll be able to do it while I still can.

L-girl said...

Dogsled Stacie's blog. Her Rupert looks just like our Tala!

L-girl said...

We also did a bit of dog-sledding in Quebec, which reminded us of how much we love it. Some pics.

Amy said...

I have loved every trip we have ever taken, though I do not have your level of passion. I hate flying, so that puts a damper on it for me, though the desire to see places generally outweighs the fear of flying (and xanax helps also). We have not really traveled anywhere new in several years, and like you, I have a list of places I would like to see before I lack the energy or ability to see them. I have not really been to many places, but every place has opened my eyes in some way. Cost, family obligations, and work get in the way. I have only been on two continents---this one and Europe (plus Israel). The older I get, the more I have to accept that there are many places I will never see. So how do we narrow down the choices and prioritize, given limited time and money?

L-girl said...

I have no trouble priortizing my trips, but my priorities change over time. What seemed an obvious and important choice in, say, 1991, now would be semi-ridiculous.

For me the only obstacle is money. I can always make the time. We've purposely structured our lives that way, because it's such a high priority.

*sigh*

PS Hooray for Xanax. All my friends who fear flying sing the praises of anti-anxiety meds.

Amy said...

For me, prioritizing is hard because I know that our travel opportunities are limited so I have to figure out what I want to see most. Do I go back to a country I love like Italy to see places there I have not seen? Or do I go to a place I have never been at all? Do I choose based on natural sights, cultural sights, outdoor experiences, historical reasons? There are so many places I want to see: many countries in Europe, parts of the United States like the northwest where I have never been, Asia, Africa, Australia, South America...it's overwhelming!

L-girl said...

You don't have a sense of what you most want to see?

Our opportunities are also very limited but I always have a prioritized list in my head, from the top-top must-sees to the "would like to one day" to the "can live without going there" and everything in between.

johngoldfine said...

Sled dogs! I wouldn't have guessed it in a million years, but now that you mention it, seems like a no-brainer!

Stacie's photography makes me want to go to the Yukon again, like I don't have enough snow and cold in Maine and didn't have enough muskeg, mosquitoes, bannock, and woodsmoke the time I actually was way up north....

Amy said...

Nope, no clear list. Sometimes I read an article and say, "I want to go to xxx for our next trip." A month later it might be some place completely different. Right now I think I'd like to go to Amsterdam and do a bike trip through the Netherlands. But then I also want to see Seattle and Vancouver (not because of the Olympics!). And then I'd really love to go to Spain.

I also am realistic enough to realize that some trips are probably not going to happen: Australia and New Zealand, Vietnam, the Galapagos. Too far and too expensive. Pictures will have to do.

L-girl said...

Sometimes I read an article and say, "I want to go to xxx for our next trip." A month later it might be some place completely different.

Yes, I do that, too. But I do also have a strong sense of travel priorities, esp with this feeling of time ticking down.

I may have to jettison NZ, because Allan doesn't think he can fly for that long.

Re Vietnam, you probably know this, but it's very inexpensive once you get there. Only the flight is expensive.

I hope to get to Angkor Wat one day, in that part of the world.

BUT... I don't want to get into the list here. Maybe I'll do a part 2 post to this.

Amy said...

Yeah, for me it's more about the length of the flight when it comes to NZ, Australia, Galapagos, and Vietnam. Getting to Israel was so hard---a flight longer than that would be unbearable, even with xanax. Rebecca and Brian went to Australia for their honeymoon and raved about it. It made my mouth water, but the thought of 24 hours on a plane? Not a chance. There are enough places I want to see that we can get to in less time that I know those far off places will fall off the list.

L-girl said...

You should double-check on the Galapagos. It may not be as far as you think. The flight to Quito is 7 or 8 hours.

Amy said...

Really? I will have to check with my brother, who did that trip a few years back. He also went to Ecuador on the same trip, and for some reason I remember thinking it was a long time flying. His photos were incredible.

redsock said...

Good reminder to go to Stacie's blog. Looks like Rupert (aka Yukon Tala) in the lower left corner and maybe under the "YA".

Also great shots of elk and news of Pooh Bear! (the exclamation point is part of her name, btw) laying in slush and having to be yanked out before it freezes her in. (Hmmm, PB! looks a lot like Tala. (Great shower curtain in that last link.)

L-girl said...

Really? I will have to check with my brother, who did that trip a few years back. He also went to Ecuador on the same trip,

You kind of have to go to Ecuador on the same trip, at least a little.

NYC to Lima, Peru is 8 hrs. So Quito can't be much different than that. Then you stay there for a day or so, then go to the Galapagos.

I plan to get there one day. :)

tornwordo said...

We share the same affliction. It's not where, it's go. I have traveled more in the past year than at any time in my life and it still isn't enough. It's a malady.

Amy said...

Yes, it looks amazing. I am fascinated by all the unusual animal life.

Like I said, definitely on my list, but probably a long shot.

L-girl said...

Tornwordo, yes, it sounds like we share this malady. Each trip only settles you down for so long, then you must be off again - somewhere.

[I'm always so glad to hear from you, btw! You've been reading this blog a long time. Hope you're well.]

Some Person said...

I recommend couchsurfing.com. I've managed to travel to a lot of new places and meet interesting people by staying at their house - all for free. The catch is that you're encouraged to open up your own couch to other couchsurfers, but doing that has allowed me to get to know others passing through.

L-girl said...

Thanks, SP. That's not for me. I'm happy to have people stay at my place, but I'm not cut out for couch-surfing myself.

L-girl said...

Meant to also say... It's great that couchsurfing.com has worked out for you - the website is a great way to formalize and extend an age-old idea. 25 years ago I would have been all over it.

Dharma Seeker said...

Have you ever checked out Dog Paddling Adventures? It might combine two of your favourite things: new places and dogs.

http://www.dogpaddlingadventures.com/

There are day trips, weekend trips and week long trips. Camping, horseshoeing, canoeing, skijoring. Some of the photos ie. Killarney put a longing in my heart similar to what you described.

L-girl said...

Thanks, DS! Hmm, very interesting. I love the photos of the dogs in their life jackets.

For a loooong time, I've wanted to do something with Wilderness Inquiry. They lead outdoor/nature expeditions designed for people with no experience, and they include many people with physical disabilities.

After we tried kayaking for the first time, on our trip to Newfoundland, I was hoping to do a WI kayaking trip. I still think about it.

Time to play lotto...