A body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force.
-- Newton's First Law of Motion
I've traveled more this year than when I was at my cap for accruing "use it or lose it" PTO. London, Manchester, Liverpool, Amsterdam, New York City. Maybe more as the year continues. Wanderlust is a real thing, a thing I forget isn't just something that Instagram made a platitude. After all, curiosity and exploration have long contributed much to human success as a species.
I would do well to be grateful that my privilege has allowed me to stoke such fire. Good to know that those embers still burn. For a while, I was convinced I was all but ash.
I spent around 5 years in Corporate America, playing the role of that guy who never went on holiday. I made a relentless work ethic part of my identity because I revered hard work, and wanted to live in a way that spoke it. Looking back, I realize that it might have been a case of toxic workaholism.
I lived for work, and dismissed "work/life balance" out of hand because I was convinced that I didn't have a life. Single, no dependents. Introverted, and gradually losing my grasp on social interaction. My eyes are so accustomed to scanning code for those goddamned stray semicolons that I can feel myself have trouble maintaining eye contact. My unsteady footing in human interactions gave me new anxieties, its missteps gave my speech a weird rhythm, and feeling this off beat and out of place has made me generally and perpetually uncomfortable.
I'm coming to terms with the notion that this isn't healthy, thanks in no small part to hindsight, which is why blogging is good for you. I became an inert object, uninteresting and deteriorating. Friends stopped nudging me because I resisted, and it wasn't long before it was lonely when your reputation includes "is busy, don't bother."
And then I wasn't busy. And I had no idea what to do with myself.
I hear from many different social circles that travel is good for you, and that broadening your perspective helps to calm existential anxiety. Helps you see your place in the world. Lets you find yourself.
No such luck here. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
But I do feel differently for having made good memories in places far from home. Saw the London production of Hamilton (it is as amazing as you think). Had a pretty notable tea at a cafe in Manchester, during which I learned the Swedish word fika. You can explore a lot of Liverpool in a few days, but you can only start to understand Liverpool after a few bevvies. Familiarized myself with the sound of Nederlands, and now I can hear all of those Rembrandts from those art history classes back in college. First professional sporting event I've attended is now the US Open, which might have been too high a standard to set for my perception of sports.
Of course, travel experiences entail more than just a few sentences. I'm being curt because I don't think there's anything I can say about travel that hasn't already been said by people more perceptive and eloquent. I started writing this thinking that I'd learn a lesson about myself, and after 500ish words you will notice that I haven't learned anything, and all I have to show for it is a metaphor about physics.
Maybe lessons aren't the point about writing about travel. Some travel writing is very to-the-point in stating "this is what it was like, here's me doing that, here's a thing I found, isn't that neat?" And you know what? Yes, it is neat. It was a pleasant 15 minutes to learn about something that made you happy. It didn't change my worldview, and it didn't need to. You take that memory and keep it somewhere safe so you can smile when you remember. I can support that.
So travel is good for you in that it stimulates your brain and spirit in often unexpected ways. It improves your chances of getting un-stuck from a rut, even ruts you've willingly dug yourself. Travel is worth noting and remembering and treasuring, as even the misfortune can teach us new things. Travel does not let you run from your problems for long, because you can't run away from yourself.
I knew these things before setting out earlier this year. I'm betting you also knew these things, even if you aren't a seasoned traveler.
But these messages feel different after they've become tangible. And they wouldn't have been within reach if I had kept waiting to be acted upon by some external force.
And why did travel make me feel better? It wasn't the cities themselves, even though the tourism is more than enough to shake loose those gears in your head that might be screwed on too tightly.
My memories aren't city sights or sounds or tastes. They're experiences shared with friends, real friends, people who have no obligation to be so generous to forgive my missteps because they see through my idiocy and into my heart and know that I mean well. It was a ragtime piano bar speakeasy. It was a homemade cookie in my jacket pocket. It was watching a hilariously rowdy group of locals hang from the rafters while singing Livin' on a Prayer, and me asking "So, this is just a Tuesday around here?" It was time travel by way of museum, and ruminating about how there is no certainty how far into the future the things we make will last, all we can do is keep trying to make cool shit and hope that that's enough. It was picking the name "Axolotl" for trivia and feeling seen when I heard "Oh, that one's definitely Nico."
These are some my memories. This blog is my somewhere safe.
And this is me, smiling, because I remember.