(Interestingly, I wrote this piece pre-pandemic, planning on submitting it to a travel site on which I have previously been published. But then I went off the grid for a bit, writing personally, privately, taking a writing hiatus. Then the pandemic happened. Almost a year later, I opened this up, reread it, and was surprised by its poignancy. How apropos for the yearning traveler. Anyway, I post it here now. Always relevant.)
Currently, I am not traveling.
Often, I wish we were, because I don’t feel like much of a traveler when I am not. Sometimes I even feel like an imposter.
For: Are you a writer if you are not writing, a painter if you are not painting, a traveler if you are stalled?
Oh, the mind of the traveler, a sojourner most of the time, wherever she is, even if she feels at home in her own home, even if she enjoys being a homebody and among the people she loves, wanderlust is always nearby.
That is where I have been lately, traveling within and among my imagination, my daydreams, and my wish lists. I travel via Netflix’s Taco Chronicles and Tokyo Stories: Midnight Diner. I travel with Rick Steves on repeat. I travel with the muses of Almodóvar. I travel through the Met Opera HD app. I travel through music, I travel through story, I travel through food, wine, and language books.
I do love to travel.
Because immersing oneself in other cultures and languages, in regional foods and dialects, and various landscapes and experiences is like breathing to those of us who love to wander, seek, and dive in. Once the love of travel bites, we are never the same. I might speak for many when I say that, without travel, we become a bit antsy. A void needs to be filled.
Lately, my family and I have not been traveling as much as we would like, even though we recognize that this time in our lives of staying put is part of the path. Gone are the days as a single traveler of my youth or as a couple, when travel happened more easily and often. Now, travel considerations include the needs of our daughter and our business. Travel plans have been pruned.
Love, dedication, devotion, and discipline evolve in ways we never imagine when we add new relationships to the mix, and so does freedom and independence, especially when it involves travel. Life as we had in mind is never quite the same. It all happens differently.
Our last round of travel was fulltime around the U.S. in an RV for almost three years. Living tiny as digital nomads worked for us at the time, but as our business grew and our daughter, too, everyone and everything required a little more space, both physically and mentally. Soon, we resettled — or rather regrouped — in our in our home state in the Midwest.
I was unnerved.
For when one’s life itinerary is a series of other various, innumerable travel itineraries, life at a standstill can be overwhelming, possibly even downright scary. I wondered, Will I ever travel again? Will I travel in the way that I had dreamed?
Well, we all know that travel will happen again, it just may look differently than what we had previously idealized. But that’s okay, because the gifts of life and change in all of their many forms constantly shape us, even while we sleep, rest, wait, and wonder. Our life’s work is always at work and will be waiting for us to realize what it has in store for us when we are ready.
In the meantime, what to do when we are not traveling as we so desire? For me, very much like a dreamer in a bookstore full of travel guides, I immerse myself in every way possible that connects me to travel, language, food, culture, and geography. More than just hobbies, they are born from and for the love of wanderlust.
For instance, there is sport. I joyfully — and sometimes highly emotionally — watch fútbol, or soccer in the U.S., and cycling, both of which have become very international and intranational. The global reach excites and inspires me. I practice speaking the beautiful names of athletes. I want to know from where they come, what are their stories? How many languages do they speak now that they compete abroad? Through sport, I feel as though the rest of the world is just around the corner.
I also keep up on studying languages. There will never be enough time to study them all. Oh, if only. “Ojalá!,” we would say in Spanish. The Internet makes language learning much more fun, exciting, and productive than when I was studying languages in school long ago.
I delve into my kitchen cravings and love of wine. What embodies language, culture, and region more than food and wine? I study language to study the grape, the region, the culture, the terroir, as well as the ideas and histories behind food. Food and wine keep fresh the list of places I want to visit.
There are travel memoirs and film, and, of course, there is always — always — music. A slowly dying operatic diva makes comprehending language much, much easier, and operas themselves are always set in a romantic time and place.
And maps are cool.
Finally, there is genealogy research. The deeper one dives into ancestor sleuthing, the more one needs to be able to read and comprehend other languages and geography. From baptisms to marriages, from immigration to migration, from province to county to country, the older the record, the more language and culture comprehension and savvy is required. It keeps me busy, and it keeps my passion for history, culture, and language fueled.
In other words, the world, and, thus, travel, is never really very far from reach.
As mom, wife, and business partner, as well as all of the other creative roles in between, I accept that all of my travel dreams will not happen in this lifetime. Much of this, of course, is of my own making. It is important to me to be present, and so this is the life that I choose.
But it is also the life that has become. My travel days of old are gone, and my travel itinerary is not quite so long anymore. I really anticipate what future travel looks like. As a family, we prefer low and slow travel, and we include longer stays in fewer places in order to really experience cultural immersion.
A traveling hiatus has allowed us to reflect. Halting travel has made room for other creative endeavors in all aspects of our lives. We have been able to focus on the other things in life that bring us joy and help us grow and thrive, all of which leads to a balanced life.
Someday, I may travel solo again; I look forward to that. Soon we will travel again as a family in a way that fits our life plan. In the meantime, I dream, I watch, I study, I write, I read, I listen, I cook, so that my travel dreams are not out of reach. One itinerary at a time.