Everything has changed since I’ve gotten back to the States. I’m trying to hold onto this change as long as I can, but the trip already seems like a dream, like it never happened.
It’s just that I like the person I am so much more when I’m traveling. When I’m home and in my normal life, I’m boring. I’m tired. I’m not remotely adventurous and I spend more time worrying than living. I can barely wake up in the morning. I go to work and then I come home and stare at the computer or TV until I’m tired and want to go to bed, and then I go to sleep. I’m socially anxious, I’m lonely, I’m frustrated.
When I’m this other amazing version of myself? I’m happy. I’m full of wonder at anything and everything. I’m adventurous, I’m outgoing, I’m the first on the dance floor and the first to make a new friend. I feel beautiful and strong and like maybe I can handle the not-so-desirable things in my life. I take pictures and I sing and I forge relationships. I flirt with Italians and play beer pong in bars. I feel like I’m sixteen again and relating to the “I feel infinite” passage in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
When I think about what I missed on my trip, it’s the boy. It’s my family. It’s a few certain friends. I missed a regular bed (not a hostel-sized bunk bed), I missed American conveniences, I missed having a working phone with internet and texting. I missed walking around without a twenty-five pound backpack on my back.
What I didn’t miss was spending hours staring at a TV. I didn’t miss the internet quite as much as I thought. I didn’t miss hours of alone time. I didn’t miss having the option to say no (and taking it). I didn’t miss being a homebody, I didn’t miss being shy, I didn’t miss worrying.
I feel like I’m trying SO HARD to hold onto this better part of me and I’m terrified it’s going to slip away. I don’t know how to cultivate it. Amazing Magical World-Traveling Me is who she is because that’s not real life. In real life there are things to worry about: there is work, there is a social life that can’t compare to the out-of-nowhere friendships you form when you travel. There are obligations and time constraints and bills to pay. But I don’t want to get bogged down by it all.
I want to continue feeling that alive. I’m suddenly more in love with music than I’ve been in months. I’m suddenly saying yes to everything rather than hoping for another night of rest. I’m dying for a creative outlet but still all I have is this halfhearted attempt at writing. I’m already planning other adventures.
I don’t know what all of this says about me. Sometimes when I travel, I meet people who answer the “what do you do?” question by saying they’re world travelers, on the road for five months and counting. They look at me with disdain when they find out I have a job, and not just a job but a career and an apartment and a stable life. I judge them just as much, sometimes, because my independence and financial wellbeing are so important to me that the daily grind is more than worth it. But maybe it’s not – maybe this is what being passionate feels like, and maybe the reason I’ve missed Rome all these years is because it gave me that feeling to begin with and I’ve been trying to find it ever since.
It seems I’ve found out where my best self lies. I just have to figure out how to reconcile that with my real life, and I’m not sure I quite know how yet.