I’ve been back in the US for over 8 months as I write this. This is significantly longer than I thought it would be when I came back in December. I thought I’d be heading back to Europe by April or May. The plan eventually became leaving in June. Then it was July. Then August.
‘What happened?’ you may ask. The best answer I can give is that life happened. I have a beautiful and adorable niece who turned one at the end of July. I have a loving and caring mother and a great family. I have a job that, though not always entirely rewarding, does more than pay the bills while still leaving me the opportunity to pursue other activities. I have friends with whom I genuinely enjoy spending time. None of these things would be particularly easy to give up if I should decide to leave.
Yet the desire to leave persists.
What do I do with my life and, specifically, what remains of my fleeting youth?
I can’t help but feel as if there is a clock ticking with regard to my youth. “Youth and the dawn of life are fleeting,” Ecclesiastes tells us. I’m 32, and while that still is relatively young in the grand scheme of things, I do see and feel signs of aging. My body doesn’t heal as quickly as it once did. Lines on my face are increasingly more visible. What I put into my body has more of a, shall I say, lasting impact. This is just to name a few.
With the fleeting nature of youth and my awareness of it, I know I want to capitalize on my youth as much as I can. The way each of us uses our youth, and our lives as a whole, is ultimately up to each individual. I suggest all people ask the question of what they can do with their life, regardless of age.
So, to follow my own advice, I ask myself, “What do I do with my life and, specifically, what remains of my fleeting youth?”
For anyone who knows me personally or who has read more than one or two posts on this blog, it should come as no surprise that travel comes to mind as a means to fulfilling this desire to use my youth well. It is easily among my most passionate pursuits. The capacity in which I would like to travel is, essentially, on my own terms. I’ve done some traveling in the past, and I’ve had a great time. However, if I were to head out again, it would be on a one-way ticket and without pretense. I would want to be where I am, living entirely in the moment. I would simply go, explore, meet people, write, and take photos. Those would be my goals.
However, to go with such ideas would require me to give up what I have now. That list that I gave above that includes my family and friends would necessarily become secondary, if not disappear entirely (e.g., that job with the decent income is no longer available if I’m exploring foreign cities and countries). Essentially, it comes down to a form of cost-benefit analysis.
I hope my stating it in economic terms doesn’t make me sound cold or uncaring. I didn’t give that list out of some rote exercise. Within that list is a group of people about whom I genuinely care. To leave them behind would be extremely difficult, to say the least. I can’t deny that I want to go, but neither can I easily leave those close to me.
Throughout my travels, I’ve lived. I’ve tasted the freedom and richness of life in ways that I never before did and in ways I never thought possible.
It’s important to note that ‘a significant other’ is conspicuously absent from this list. This is due to the obvious fact that I am currently unmarried. My singleness is a bit of a difficulty for me because I really do want to have a family one day. I’m very much of age to do so, but, suffice it to say, the circumstances have not yet been right for me. There are various reasons for this, and I can’t say that I’m entirely without blame. Still, I want a relationship and, as of yet, finding a lasting partner has been elusive.
I don’t say this to evoke pity. I hate pity. Nor is this some shout into cyberspace asking someone to find me a mate. Rather, I mention it because it better informs my current situation. I wouldn’t have such a strong desire to leave if I had a wife and family of my own to keep me here. In this moment, I have neither. Every other person in that list could be seen as an anchor (and not in a negative sense) that would keep me here, but without the permanent fixture of marriage, there’s still the desire, and thus the possibility, to pick up and go.
Throughout my travels, I’ve lived. I’ve tasted the freedom and richness of life in ways that I never before did and in ways I never thought possible. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had.
When I mention my travels, there are occasionally those who tell me that they themselves wanted to travel but never got the chance due to various circumstances. I’ve often thought that I never wanted to be one of those who said something similar as I looked back on my own life. And yet, among many of those who relay to me their unfulfilled longings to travel, there are lives filled with experiences that I myself haven’t lived. Holding my newborn child. Making love to my spouse. Receiving the keys to a home that I purchased.
I haven’t yet known any of this, and frankly, if I choose this path of continual travel, the possibility exists that I may never do so. This could be seen as a grass-is-greener-situation. Still, I can’t ignore that traveling would force me to sacrifice other aspects of what could well and accurately be called ‘the good life’. I’d essentially be trading one version of ‘the good life’ for another.
To be sure, I can’t see precisely what I’d be giving up because of my limited perspective, but I know I’d be giving up something. With this comes the nagging sense that maybe it’s time for me simply to give up and settle for ‘normalcy’.
Yet even here, there are no guarantees. What if I never do find love? I feel like I’d be mortgaging adventure and excitement, and for what? A ho-hum existence and an empty bed? This doesn’t seem like a good trade-off.
(I want to be careful here not to insult anyone. I’m considering this with a ‘worst-case-scenario’ mindset. I have no doubt that a meaningful and fulfilling life can be lived apart from travel. In fact, I know it can, which is a large part of my difficulty in making this decision. If, however, I don’t travel and don’t find someone with whom to share my life, a lonely, ho-hum existence feels like the probable outcome for me. As such, this is not meant to be a universal statement.)
The reality is that I have, seemingly, two competing and mutually exclusive desires. One is a quiet, family-oriented life. The other is a life filled with adventure, travel, and uncertainty. Again, to be sure, neither has any guarantees, and they both have their pros and cons. I also know that some may argue that there is adventure and the like in a family-oriented life. True, but this isn’t quite what I have in mind when I say ‘adventure’. And, if there’s a way to have both of these lives, I haven’t yet discovered it.
What, then, do I do? Do I continue to wait, putting off my dreams of travel in hopes of a lasting partnership? Or do I throw myself into the unknown, seeking adventure where it may lead with the knowledge that I may never find the relationship I want?
When I know the answer, I’ll be sure to let you know.
A pilgrimage is an intensely personal journey, but it is not one that a pilgrim undertakes alone. I don’t want to ‘talk’ into a vacuum. I want to hear other voices, too. What I’m trying to say is, I want feedback! Have I spoken something to you? Is there something you think I should know? Do you have a question about something I said? Please leave a comment below or contact me at Pilgrim.Brett@gmail.com.
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