Naming the Fear

From the minute I read about Remote Year, I knew I needed to do it. In typical me fashion, I pretended to debate for a while, batted around pros and cons with my friends and family. I am secretly a very decisive person about huge life changes, but I like to disguise that by venting my fears at every given opportunity, almost like a superstition, an anti-jinx. As long as I name the fear, I might be able to avoid it coming to pass. And since I am blessed with a creative (and overly active) mind, I could imagine a lot of fears. A million ways this trip could go wrong.

But I never voiced the real one.

I told my coworkers I was worried about going freelance, possibly running out of money halfway through this trip. (I wasn’t.) I told my family I worried that I wouldn’t get along with anyone in my randomly-assigned travel group. (I was actually pretty sure that out of 80 people, I’d at least like a couple.) I told my friends that I worried I’d hate some of the cities or countries we visited. (But really, most were on my to-see list anyway.)

I made up all these fears to try and exorcise the one that was really eating at me.

I was afraid this trip would go right.

Fortunately (unfortunately?), it has.

We’re approaching the 6-month mark of this trip. That has made me look deep in the mirror and face what comes next. Because I already know in my bones that this will not be enough for me. One year is not enough.

People talk about getting the travel bug out of your system. People talk about “the trip of a lifetime” and “the last hurrah,” like a honeymoon or a babymoon, those trips people take before they settle into “real life” (as if any other iteration of life is not real, as if anything but the house and the spouse and the 2.5 kids is pure fantasy).

That’s not what this trip is for me. I knew that going into it, and it scared (it still scares) the shit out of me.

This is the start. This is tearing up my roots and growing the wings that have been itching to sprout since I was a kid. This is what I have always wanted to do, where I have always wanted to be. I cannot imagine ever being ready to give this up.

Sure, I can picture a future where I want to stay in one spot for longer than a month at a time. I can envision a few months here, even a year or two there. But I cannot see myself settling down in the traditional sense. I cannot imagine one house in one location ever being enough. I understand how it could be for some people, I understand why that’s what most people want.

But that just isn’t me.

Part of me has known that all along, but it took this trip being what it is to really force me to see it. I would never be happy with normal. I cannot settle for it anymore.

Which leaves me with a lot of questions to work out. What does an unsettled life mean? What the hell does a future without an anchor look like?

It’s not a life most people would sign up for. It’s not a life you can share with someone, except maybe for brief periods at a time. It looks lonely as hell, to be frank.

Is that okay? Is that doable?

I’ve always made my home more in experiences and people than in places or possessions. But if I’m chasing new experiences, how do I make a home with people? Am I doomed to a constantly rotating stream of surface acquaintances, a lifetime of goodbyes?

I’ve always considered myself lucky because I grew up with friends scattered around the globe (the magic of the internet). But any blessing turned on its head can become a curse. My heart has never really been whole because there are pieces of it scattered around the planet, and they’ll never all be in one place at one time. Some days that’s fine and some days it hurts like hell, when someone I care about is in pain and I can’t be there because they’re literally a thousand miles away.

I’m only setting myself up for more of that now.

Remote Year looked perfect because it was a stepping-stone. A way to dip my toe into the deeper waters of solo travel without getting immediately drenched in loneliness on the way down. It has been all of that and more.

But eventually it’s going to end. My new friends are going to go home, or move on to new lives, or keep traveling to other places, but probably not the same ones as me, and definitely never again as a group this big, an actual community that feels like a mobile home, the perfect balance between change and constant, the chance to chase new experiences with the same people, people you can actually get to know on a deeper level, people who have become friends faster than I imagined possible. And once we all go our separate ways, I’m going to have to figure out how to keep moving without them—how to swim in the deep end without a life vest.

I’m going to have to figure out what a future on the drift looks like. How to strike a balance between wings and roots, between constant flights and enough of a layover to keep me grounded.

I have to learn to be lonely.

In a way, I knew that’s what I was signing up for when I dove headfirst into this trip. I jumped anyway. This is just me naming the fear—and perhaps still superstitiously hoping that will allay it somehow.

1 comment to Naming the Fear

  • Judith Christodoulides

    Inspirational bit of writing. I admire all of those who do this remote year thing. What a wonderful experience.

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