One-Night Travel Stands and The End of Next Trip-itis

Evidence

People have been asking me.

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.”

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7 Responses to “One-Night Travel Stands and The End of Next Trip-itis”


  1. 1 Richard July 24, 2011 at 2:42 am

    I’m so glad to read this. I have had similar questions over the years, and was wondering if I was just overthinking it for a time, given the literally thousands of travel-for-travel’s-sake blogs. It’s reassuring to hear someone else voice the same questions 🙂

    As best as I was ever able to answer the question, it was a case of stripping away the novelty of the new, and asking myself why – deep down – I enjoy traveling so. It’s not about aeroplanes and backpackers, but (for me) was more to do with pushing myself emotionally and physically into new places and opportunities to learn more about the way lives are lived in places that, but for an accident of birth, I could be a part of instead.

    The answer to the question, then, may lie in trying to see what it is that traveling does to you. What drove you emotionally/spiritually to go to those places and what were the most valuable changes you took back. Travel may be the medium, but the medium to doing and being what?

    And if you find answers, please tell me. Because I am anything but free from those questions 🙂

  2. 2 Spencer Spellman July 24, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Love. Love. Love. I think for those who travel frequently, it appears that not having a direct answer to this question is almost inadequate. That somehow we’re not “true travelers” or something like that. It’s like the answer “I don’t know”, is a form of weakness in our society. After traveling for a few months, I found myself in this boat, and I confidently said “I don’t know”. It was like this for a couple months and wasn’t even trying to plan travel. I needed a break. Now I find myself planning out travel for the next 12 months, but the last couple months have reminded me that I don’t have to have an answer.

  3. 3 Sarah's toothbrush July 25, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Sometimes an “I don’t know” can be a good thing though, right? (Okay, final exams and weddings aside, of course).

    On an unrelated (but also kind of related) note, I’m envious of your 20 seconds of thoughtlessness. I’ve worked myself up to a solid 5-6 seconds and afterwards? I’m completely exhausted.

    In the end, I think it’s okay even if your Higher Power doesn’t have an answer. Just as long as they aren’t standing at the alter…

  4. 4 Bluegreen Kirk July 25, 2011 at 11:15 am

    You are the first that I have that put it this way. I have read other travel blogs and it seems that if they were young when they started traveling its gotten to the point where they want something a little different. What that is yet though no one seems to know. However i can only imagine how your brain works to be thinking of the next next trip before even going on the current one. That must be exhausting.

  5. 5 Luther Blissett July 27, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    There may be no answers or there may be many. Sitting in meditation and listening to the silence could possibly reveal the answers you seek.

  6. 6 Nico July 29, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I’ve always thought that being a traveler was a sort of curse. A poor soul with an agitated desire to always be somewhere they’re not, always be broke and always running off to places where their more stable, home-owning circle of friends aren’t. The internet age has made it easier, but the traveler lifestyle still brings what others might feel to be questionable decision-making: don’t buy a washer/dryer because Indonesia IS THERE. I think all travelers have “but why?” moments. It comes with the territory. And however ambiguous the answers are, it’s also impossible to articulate that blissful feeling of stepping on a plane again.

    Great read Lauren. Nice to meet you last night.

  7. 7 Ekua August 14, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Definitely having some of the same thoughts… I’m guessing there’s a correlation between the doubtfulness about the worth of hopping from one place to another and your upcoming move. It’s crazy how you may not even be searching for anything in particular in your travels, but then you stumble upon what you didn’t know you what you were looking for and it changes everything. It sounds like that may be what happened in Cambodia and I’m slowly beginning to realize that that’s what happened to me in Mexico. Everyone wants to know where I’m going next (beyond visiting my mom in Namibia) and I can’t muster too much enthusiasm to come up with an answer that satisfies them. I think my feelings of apathy about picking a future travel destination also has a bit to do with being fed up with the tourist trail. So, if there’s not a move in my future, there definitely will have to be an all out adventure 😉


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Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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