You know someone long enough, you know their patterns. And people who know me—for example, my dad, this morning, leaning back in a chair and giving me that long-view, that what-are-you-doing-with-your-life look—will ask me, “So, where’s the next trip?”
And god-damn if I don’t shock us both by shrugging my shoulders and replying, “I don’t know.”
For the past six years, I’ve been constantly planning The Next Trip. I’ve heard other chronic travelers say that they’ve caught themselves planning their next trip while on a trip. I’m afraid I’m one step worse: I plan trips before I even take the next trip: the Next Next Trip, and the one after that. My brain is like a Netflix cue of destinations: a constant adding, shuffling and reordering of an insurmountable list one will never actually make it through, but will happily spend their lives trying to.
But since returning home from my last trip, I haven’t been experiencing the same hamster-wheeling of obsessive planning/flight-price checking/guidebook-browsing/logistic-izing. The thought of another trip is, admittedly, exhausting. I’d have to get shifts covered at work. I’d have to scrimp and save. Sure, I’d get those exhilarating moments of wonder and awe and newness, the head-rush of travel addicts, and I love that, will always love that, I think.
But somewhere underneath that, it feels like it’d be more of the same, the travel equivalent of a one-night stand. Sure, it’d have its exciting moments, but in the end it’d be just another go-round: see some shit, learn some new phrases, reaffirm how bizarre and beautiful the world is and how little I can ever really know of it. And come home. Broke.
I’ve realized: I want something deeper.
It’s startling, something like a die-hard bachelor suddenly discovering that he wants a relationship. Where the hell is this coming from? I ask. Am I getting soft in my old age? And more importantly, more deeply unsettling: Why isn’t this thing that I always chased, that I based my life around chasing, suddenly so much less appealing?—as though the things that fulfill us are static, never change, don’t evolve the way we do.
I don’t have answers to these questions. Just to the one, the “where’s next?”, and my answer is “I don’t know.”
I suppose it’s symptomatic of the whole late-20s, Saturn-return thing (don’t laugh, that shit is no joke): the end of one phase, the beginning of another, the looking for What’s Next. But it’s shaken my whole idea of myself, the identity I’ve constructed over the last few years. Who would I be if I wasn’t The Traveler? What would I do with my brain if I wasn’t constantly chewing on the Next Trip?
Sometimes I meditate. (Don’t laugh, that shit is no joke.) I’m crummy at it: I set my timer for 10 minutes and try to listen to my breath, but mostly I just chase the chatter of my thoughts; I’m lucky if I get 20 solid seconds of thoughtlessness.
Mostly I ask for guidance (from what?), then try to just listen (to what?). They say the answers come. They say that if we feel an urgency to act, it’s our will, and that if we feel a calm certainty, it’s our Higher Power’s (fine, laugh).
I don’t have answers to any questions. Just a big giant “I don’t know.”