I had this vision of what leaving would be like: bittersweet and semi-heartbreaking, in that really annoying way, like a bad romantic movie, the great lost love or some shit. I thought I’d have a lot more profound things to say about it—poignant insights and such—and I thought I’d be blogging a ton, documenting the process.
But I just got really busy, ping-ponging around, and it felt just like I was running a ton of errands, rather than dismantling a life and saying goodbyes that will have to last a long fucking time. It didn’t even feel like I was leaving for a trip. It just felt really fucking surreal.
Giving hugs and saying goodbye, I had a version of that feeling you have as a kid, when you know that there’s something big going on that you can’t quite grasp. So you carry on with your playing—a Skipper doll in the corner of a San Franciscan Victorian—and you try to hide, and when the grown-ups notice you, you go through the motions, emulations and approximations of what the people around you are doing, what you thinking you’re supposed to do or feel. Because really, you don’t feel much of anything. But you know you should.
So basically, it’s a helluva a lot lonelier than I thought it’d feel. But otherwise it doesn’t feel like anything. I know it’s coming—it’s in the post, so to speak—but I don’t think any of this will hit me until I’ve been settled in Phnom Penh a few weeks.
But in the meantime, I’m roaming.
All I can say is that it struck me as a really good idea at the time: I had a shitton of frequent flier miles, did a little digging, and figured out that it would cost the same to a) fly directly to Phnom Penh, and b) take a meandering, round-the-world route. So of course, I opted for the latter.
And of course I can’t actually afford the round-the-world segment, but that’s beside the point. Here’s the plan: 5 days in New York; fly to Rome; 2 weeks in Italy, making my way up to Milan for a food festival a work buddy is in; fly to Tirana, AKA my soulmate city; 2 weeks in Albania; fly back to Rome and catch a flight to Cairo; party with Nick for 5 days; fly to Bangkok; stock up on Western products like thyroid medication and contact lens solution, then make my way over to Phnom Penh.
It’s kinda epic.
And it could all be a big distraction from what’s really going on—the fact that I’ve completely dismantled, sold off and left my life at home, and am embarking on this crazy-ass new life, where I don’t know where my next check will be coming from, or if I’ll even be able to do what I’ve set out to do—write this book on this uber-intense topic I barely have access to to begin with. So yeah, I’ll roam a little first.
But it’ll be different, I suspect. Already there’s a few things different: I’ve decided that it’d be a really good idea to haul half my life with me, so I’ve got two bulging bags full of tshirts and cardigans and patterned tights it’ll be too goddamn hot to wear in Cambodia anyway. I have no guidebooks and no real itinerary, just two nights booked in Rome and some mass FB messages sent out to friends in places where I’ll be.
But I think the biggest difference, which also hasn’t hit me yet, is that whenever I’ve traveled before, I’ve always had something to come back to. I’ve had this base I was operating from, a life poised and ready and waiting for me back home: a job, a car, gym memberships, a place to live. I’ve never set out with nothing behind me, nothing waiting, save a half-closet of boxes and the people I love, who I’ve all said goodbye to, without really feeling it.
I landed at JFK last night around 11:30, texted my friend I’m staying with. He’d just gotten home himself, after a week spent working on an art show in New Jersey—he apologized in advance for his apartment being in shambles.
“No worries!” I wrote back. “I don’t even have a home anymore.”
And then I started humming Woody Guthrie and haven’t been able to stop. But still, still—none of it feels real.