My passport is still sitting on my bedside table.
You know, the table that holds a little lamp, the latest book I’m reading, my (cheap) jewelry, a few hair ties and whatever I may empty from my pockets at the end of the day. Oh, and on nights that I can’t sleep or have a little cough, there’s also a glass of water just waiting to be tipped over when I reach across to silence my alarm in the morning. This is not the proper place for a passport to rest.
Upon returning from a recent trip to Argentina, I immediately threw all of my clothes in the wash, but the rest of my bag and all of its contents lingered. I removed my passport out of my purse and probably just placed it on the table in passing before returning it back to its rightful place in the safe. But now I just can’t bring myself to do it.
It feels like putting it away is acknowledging that a chapter of my life has closed. The chapter where I travel to different parts of the world and experience all sorts of new things. Whether that’s true or not, I do not know. Without a firm answer to that question, I cannot bring myself to tuck it away. Every morning, there’s my passport…simultaneously inspiring me and taunting me, suggesting there’s more to explore and another adventure yet in store.
I’m not sure what I’m more afraid of: the end of an era or what it would take to call myself a world-traveler.
I love to travel. I love learning about another culture and talking with people who live in an area so different than my own. This isn’t a quest for a nonstop vacation or spending time in countless resorts. To me, travel is about exploration…in hopes of bettering myself and the world. Hearing the stories of others, challenging myself to go outside my comfort zone and helping those I encounter along the way.
But when do we know it’s time to stop? When is it time to focus on what’s in front of us instead of constantly searching for more? When is it pursuing dreams and when is it discontentment or worse, disillusion? What if a pursuit of travel is far from meaningful–barely even personal development and merely selfishness in disguise?
What is it that I am trying to accomplish? Is it worthwhile? Is it necessary? Is it beneficial? At what cost?
I’ve wrestled with these questions constantly, leaving me unsettled and almost frantic for some sort of resolve or conclusion, to no avail. Hence, my passport and I maintain our standstill, unable to move forward and unwilling to turn back.
Why? Why is this my response? Normal people can take a trip for two weeks, show off the photos and talk about how they had great a time before returning to regular daily life. Either I’m not normal, or I don’t want to be.
Call me naive, but I so desperately want to be intentional with my life–to do something, to make it count. At home it seems that I can’t help but fall into a routine between work, friends, a few hobbies and some TV. Maybe that’s why travel is so appealing to me–it forces me out of that routine. It asks so much more from me, and I eagerly comply.
I see travel as my opportunity, my challenge to do something more than live a predictable and average American life. What if I set foot on every continent, learned another language and propelled my life towards a bigger story full of excitement and uncertainty? A few weeks of travel here and there over the course of a lifetime hardly feels like enough time to embrace and understand another culture. What if I challenged myself to leave everything I’ve ever known for some sort of unknown across the world? What a life to live, what a story to tell…isn’t that worth pursuing?
Conversely, what would I be leaving? Career aspirations, friendships, community, roots. Would the pursuit of international exploration risk or overlook my commitments, lasting relationships or long-term investments? Could that leave me feeling empty and shallow, despite the collection of incredible photos?
I was given this life, my life, and I can’t stand the idea of just letting it slide on by. I don’t want to “play it safe” and gradually surround myself with comfort and routine, yet I don’t want to chase a life of adventures merely for the sake of a bucket list or another story to tell while potentially undervaluing commitment, consistency and responsibility.
Maybe it’s not one or the other. Maybe there’s a balance to be found in it all without compromising one or the other. For some, perhaps the answer is more clear, but for me it continues to be a struggle. So, my passport, a simple booklet with a few stamps, sits by my bed and waits while begging the question: what’s next?