I got a new job. (You know, those things us writers and artists do for rent money.) It’s a good job and I wanted it bad. It’s a major step up from the place I’d been for the last two years, one of the foodier (yes, I just made that a word) restaurants in the East Bay, full of good vibes and positive people and no ex-boyfriends. But it’s put a hitch in the go!-go!-go! giddy-up of my travel plans. So, instead of reconciling the home versus travel conundrum stretched taut beneath the surface of nose-to-the-grindstone work days, I went for the fast and easy fix: late-night impulse buying. On Orbitz.
Timing is a funny thing. Three days before I was called in to stage, I was about to buy my tickets to Southeast Asia. Like seriously about to hit the “purchase” button. I’d been saving, had tracked down a friend in Hanoi, had plotted out a vague itinerary. But something told me to wait. This is notable because nothing ever tells me to wait, especially when it comes to travel. It persisted, like the even but firm voice of an old school teacher. Well, shit, I thought, I guess I’d better listen.
I told myself that my consolation, if I didn’t get the job, was that I’d buy those tickets. But I did get the job. And contrary to what some people still seem to think, waiting tables isn’t a no-brainer gig for ditzy cute girls, especially in the Bay Area. I received 20 pages of wine and liquor notes to memorize (read: spending all my time not actually at the job pouring over my flash cards—go ahead, ask me about the dominant Sicilian varietals, I dare you). Training at one location while phasing out of my last job, then training at another location while working my first shifts at the new spot—it added up to more work than I’d busted out in a couple years. I felt immersed in work, distant from my writing, and even more distant from travel.
It’s not, I’ve told myself, that I’m canceling my Southeast Asia trip, just postponing it a few months. The weather, I’ve consoled myself, will actually be better in the winter anyway. And in the meantime, I’ll head out on shorter jaunt to an amazing sounding street art festival in Italy. I’ve given myself three weeks, which means I’ll have roughly two weeks after the festival to cruise (literally) over to Montenegro, Albania, maybe even trek all the way to Istanbul if I get the gusto. For most people, I’ve reassured myself amid sheet-tossing attempts at sleep, this would be one of the epic trips of their lives. For me, it’s a tide-me-over until my real trip. That’s not bad.
But something doesn’t sit right. It’s either all an elaborate cop out, or else I’m exercising some degree of acceptance that feels entirely too mature.
On my first trip out of the country, I went to Buenos Aires. I’ve been dreaming of going back ever since. It’s been my ultimate goal, in various imaginings, to move there, live there. But there’s always some trip to come first, one more thing I’ve got to do. It’s been “next year” and “next year” and finally, it’s been five years and I’m nowhere closer to packing up and moving than I was when my plane took off from the Argentina earth.
I recently read Revolutionary Road, which completely rocked my world. In it, the main characters have this plan to move to Paris. It’s going to solve all their problems, set them free of the confines of 1950s suburban America. But the guy in the story just can’t break loose. He doesn’t have the guts, is a little too comfortable in the familiar misery. He accepts a good job, assures himself and his wife that Paris is merely postponed. Then everything falls to shit.
It’s not that my life is going to become Revolutionary Road. (Mostly because of modern-day divorce and abortion rights.) But there are some striking parallels, no? Maybe I don’t have it in me. Maybe I’m too attached to the comforts and predictabilities of home to break loose and do some serious long-term traveling. Maybe I’d gotten a little too close the last few months, working part-time and focusing on my writing and having some successes. Maybe I wanted a reason, an excuse, something to anchor me in the familiar. Maybe Buenos Aires will just be a little fantasy I harbor, in the reddest part of my heart, until the fire of it dims and it becomes one of those youthful fancies we raise a half-smile to. Maybe it’ll become that dream deferred.
Or it could be that I’m accepting my life—my real life. (You know, that thing that happens while we’re making other plans.) Barring some unforeseen stroke of overnight success, I won’t be supporting myself writing anytime soon. Best case scenario, I’ll be waiting tables for a least another few years, and better to do it at a solid, legit place that I really like instead of being unhappy in a place that’s steadily sliding downhill. I love travel, but this is as much of my life as the galavanting-around-the-planet part. Maybe it’s more.
At the end of every yoga class I go to, they ring the Tibetan singing bowls and read an inspirational quotation. (You know, that hippy shit you like to scoff at but find yourself contemplating later.) It’s cheesy as hell, but the one they’ve been on lately seems to be speaking to me, in that bang-you-over-the-head-with-symbolism way we like to think only happens in novels:
For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
Damn yoga, damn good jobs, damn my own ideas of what my life should look like and be like and feel like. Buenos Aires or not; Southeast Asia or not; having a successful travel blog or supporting myself writing or just being a goddamn waitress for the rest of life. Either way, I’m still pretty happy, and still lucky as hell. And going to Italy to boot.