Sunday, October 18, 2009

Keeping pace

I may be only 22, but I think I'm getting an idea of what it is to age.

A month ago I wrote here about hitting the 2/3 mark in my one-year trip. I hadn't felt burnt out then, and I don't feel it now. But I've been traveling solo in Europe for 1.5 months at this point, and I've started to notice a change in pace. I don't do as much in a day anymore; I need more moments to rest and unwind, more time to start my engines; I take more hours"off," not sightseeing or exploring, just sitting in cafes or watching TV or reading. I am still loving every day, but I'm tired. I'm getting travel-old.

At the beginning of this trip I spent a few days in each city, moving as often as I liked or could manage. A few months in I figured out, through calculation and observation, that I needed a complete day off, with no obligation to see or do anything except lie around, about every 7 to 10 days. This was sometimes difficult to do because there was always a little voice in my head jabbering about wasting valuable time in a place I might never see again.

But the longer I traveled the quieter that voice got. I still experienced an awful lot, and I realized that the necessity for downtime made me human. One day, while I sat in an anonymous room in an anonymous country surfing the net mindlessly, I realized that in some way this break was like creating a home for me to go to. Whatever strange place I found myself in, I could recreate the same setting-- a nondescript room, a comfortable bed, a long stretch of free time, a book, a computer, some junk food--that would be like a return to home base. It wasn't just dealing with exhaustion, it was a way to make a safe haven, something familiar in all the strangeness that was the same whether I was in Taiwan or Turkey.

When I got to Europe my pace changed. These past months I've spent more time in each place-- averaging about a week per city, with some shorter stints and day trips thrown in-- and done less each day. In part this was a conscious choice. I decided at the beginning of September, as I set out on my 4-month European adventure, that because I had the time to settle in and let a city get under my skin, I should take advantage of that opportunity. So I've slept in more often, seen one museum in a day instead of two, read my book in cafes and parks, and given myself permission to do less seeing and more living.

And it's lucky I did, because what started out as a lifestyle decision has become more and more of a necessity as the time ticks by. Even a traveler so in love with this lifestyle (Today I walked down the streets of Leiden in the Netherlands and thought,r "I was born for this") gets worn out. So I relax, I adjust, I rest. And then I move on.


Anonymous said...

Bless you!

antonio said...

I hear you :) On a smaller scale, it is exactly like when people leave the hotel at 8:00 am armed with a guidebook and a map of the city, where they pinpointed at least 100 places they want to visit, in 8 hours. When they come back, at 18:00, exhausted and annihlated by all they've seen, they're left with just that: exhaustion and annihlation.
Human is the keyword: every place is made mostly of its people, more than it's made of churches, buildings and other concrete artifacts.
Have a good one and enjoy Europe, from a milanese :)

Marcel said...

oh yeah, antonio has a point there. even i thought while travelling around the world that the most memorable things were always the people i met and spent time with, and not any of the buildings or nature.
you're only 22. there are a lot more years and a lot more travels to come. don't haste. take your time to let those things you see sink in. its better you see a lot of one city than a glimpe of many cities.