Today, which I spent wandering the lovely streets of Vienna, Austria, marks 8 months of traveling for me, the 66% mark. It was a good day to reflect on my travels in the larger picture, and there's something on that topic that's worth saying.
I've met a lot of people during these 8 months and a lot of travelers. And I've talked to even more travelers than that, through internet forums, Twitter, etc. Many of these travelers spoke about fatigue, about burning out. Three, four months, they'd say, then they need a break. They get exhausted. They stop enjoying themselves. They are homesick or culturesick or actually sick.
But here's the thing: 8 months in, I still get a travel high every day. Literally, a day rarely goes by without at least one five minute period when I can't wipe a goofy, profoundly content smile off my face; when I am just so damn glad that I am where I am doing what I'm doing. Tonight I had a light dinner--cheese and ham toast and a tiny mocha, sweet and strong, at a gorgeous Viennese cafe that also happened to be one of the sets used in "Before Sunrise" (which is one of my favorite movies.) The atmosphere of the cafe was so perfect, and when I came out into the lane there were all sorts of other open air cafes packed with people eating and drinking beer and chatting. The sky was glowing with the last part of sunset, and when I got to my metro stop there was a free wine drinking event happening sponsored by a bank and someone just... poured me a glass of wine for standing and gaping at it all, smiling goofily, like I always do.
I sometimes think that I've been happier this year, even with just these daily bursts of travel high, then I was for a long time in my life before. That might be true, and it might be that I can't compare lives that are so profoundly different. But keeping in mind this legendary travel fatigue that I just don't feel and these daily sublime moments, here's something important: I know this is the right thing for me to be doing this year. Readers that know me are aware that this trip might not have happened if I had not had a series of failures Spring 2008, several fellowships that fell through just before the last step. Yes, I sometimes think about what would have happened if I had surmounted those last obstacles that kept me from a Watson or a Fulbright. I don't doubt I would have had amazing adventures on those paths as well, but when I go down that road I don't wish for anything different than what I've made for myself this year. And for me, the perpetually regretful, the one alwazs wondering what if, that is no small thing.
Eight months in. I have ups and downs, sometimes big ones. I had a short period this summer where I was happy but missing that everyday high, but something in Turkey brought it back for me. I'm looking into these last four months now, with trepidation, sure. It won't be easy, it will be tiring, it might be lonely or disappointing. But I'm so glad I'm here.