As of mid-April, 2018 Jay and Tanya have been traveling nearly non-stop for the last 17 months. For some professionals, touring musicians and global consultants come to mind, this is quite normal. And for us, this has become fairly normal as well, although we are looking forward to spending the summer in Wiesbaden and trying to stay put for awhile. We’ll see how that goes.
Our philosophy has been that as long as one feels comfortable in one’s surroundings and with one’s self, the idea of home is wherever one is and therefore one never leaves it. We still believe that, up to a point. But there are certainly places where we do not feel at home or at ease and some of those places are within our home country.
What we’ve found is there are times when we’ve felt at ease with our surroundings but at the same time we often lose track of where we are. We’re still comfortable but we often end up asking ourselves, What town is this? What state or country? What currency are we using today? Are folks speaking a language we recognize or will we have a more challenging time figuring out what’s going on today? And, it’s not like the old reference to package tours, “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium”, where we’re physically in a different place every day. We can have been in one place for weeks and still experience a sense of disorientation in the morning.
We often encounter people, retired or otherwise, who travel for two or three weeks at a time before heading back to their primary residence. Then a month or several goes by before they head off again. We used to be like that. Maybe we will be like that again someday.
Why do we continue with this, some might say excessive, behavior? Well, one reason is that we can. We know we are in a very small minority of people in the world who are able or interested in engaging in the luxury of this nonsense. But there’s more to it than that. One of our friends says he frequently experiences severe bouts of FOMO, Fear of Missing Out. Perhaps there’s a bit of FOMO in our travel compulsion. There must be something happening somewhere that we simply cannot miss out on. Or, maybe it’s the exhilaration of continually exciting our senses with new experiences. Maybe we’re running away from what most people recognize as normality.
We once thought that there was at least some altruism to this travel affliction, that we were acting as goodwill ambassadors of our country, helping others realize that Americans were not all a bunch of selfish, ethnocentric boobs. We always try to act politely and respectfully and we suppose it is true, to a point, that our travel does help the lives of others less fortunate than ourselves. Our travel dollars are spent on local businesses as much as possible and when that’s not possible at least other people’s income is partially dependent upon us. But today we find the distinction between altruism and and self-centeredness blurred. Our journeys have become primarily a means of discovery of ourselves and of others, with any direct economic or psychological benefits to others a mere consequence of that personal discovery.
Certainly the most satisfying aspect of all this travel madness is when we’re able to connect one-to-one with people whose life experience and way of looking at things is much different than our own. We’re often taught things like, “We’re all the same, basically.” and “We all want the same things out of life.” Well, that’s simply not so. Other than we may all want to fill our bellies daily and have a dry place to sleep at night, people from different cultures and backgrounds are just not the same. Values and norms are often vastly different than what we, as Americans, have been acculturated to. We’ve both have had our mental jaws drop when hearing what ideas and beliefs come out of people’s mouths, including from other Americans, but we always try to be understanding and look at these experiences as an opportunity to grow.
Within the last thirty days, Jay and Tanya have turned 70 and 60 respectively. Milestones in life’s journey. Is it time to stop traveling? No way. Will our travels become more targeted and concentrated on specific regions, cultures or themes? Maybe. Will we be content to stay “at home” more to reflect on what we’ve learned? Perhaps. Whatever happens we know that personal connections are what counts, including friends and family. We look forward to what’s next.