There are hours of the night when we reach our lowest ebb. Dark hours when doubts creep in. We question ourselves. And everything is up for grabs — even our most deeply held beliefs.
I wrote the following words in Spain last summer. I was sitting on a bench in a deserted Barcelona airport concourse at 3am, struggling to stay awake.
These are the worries I confided to my notebook:
I find myself getting bored with the road. Or perhaps I’m questioning once again the validity of a life philosophy based on travel.
Maybe I’m just getting bored with traveling Europe? Maybe a change of scene is the thing? To drop into a completely new region, country or culture?
But sometimes I think I might just be happier dropping into a book. It’s harder to leave the comfort of my routine. I like my palazzo with its many rooms, and a pleasant place to read.
Maybe renting longer term in some of these cities is the thing? I’m tired of the drudgery of travel. The endless waiting. And I fucking hate flying economy class.
But I’m still extremely curious. There are so many places I want to see. Certain names still light a spark: Budapest. Berlin. Vienna. They have weight in my imagination.
But if not travel, then what? I definitely can’t imagine myself going back to Canada. What would it be but more of the cold frozen sameness I’ve experienced all my life? And what would I write about if not travel?
Perhaps that’s the crux. I’ve based my entire philosophy on it. Created my image and brand around it. And so much of my self-identity too.
But maybe I’m meant to write memoirs, both funny and insightful, preserving these stories that I feel are so important? And perhaps those travel books are just memoirs of a later phase?
I would write a book about Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang next — about what came after Vagabond Dreams. And I would write a book about Malta — an island book in the spirit of Durrell. And a book on certain memories of my childhood. About the woods around Hangman’s Bridge. About my grade 10 year with my friend Rob Wilson. About the things we did and dreamed of doing.
I feel these many layers of memoir piled up inside me, waiting to come out. Maybe I don’t need trips to create a subject or a period? Maybe I should be creating the past instead?
That’s what I wrote in my journal from Andalusia last summer.
It was a time of self-doubt. A low ebb brought on by a period of discomfort. Moaning from the darkness in the midst of a privileged life. Hey, it happens to all of us every now and then.
But then the plane touches down, and curiosity takes over…
Of course I had an incredible experience in Spain last summer. It gave me new insights into myself. New ideas and new goals. And a new conception of how I’d like to live. And of course I didn’t want to go home.
A friend asked me if I travel and do exotic things as a way of rebelling against the small town life I grew up in. Or as a way of hiding an inner mediocrity from myself.
I think in the beginning I did leave for those reasons — it was like the next shell I put on after martial arts. The next way to feel special or different, in a sense. To be recognized as something cool and original.
But that was a very long time ago. And I don’t feel that way anymore.
I’m definitely chasing the exotic much less than I did 10 years ago. It’s been a long time since I set out on a trip for those reasons. I’m sincerely curious about the world and about history and how people live — about our larger story as humans. I always have been, since I was old enough to hold a book.
And these days I just feel an expansive sense of freedom. I don’t feel “localized” or Canadian, or that I’m from a small town close to Ottawa and I’m just living here in temporary foreign dislocation.
I feel like I can fit in anywhere.
And I feel especially comfortable in certain cities or landscapes of Europe. I like that I can spend my time in different places depending on what I need at that moment.
I’ve spent a lot of time bumping up against the frustrations I feel with life in Malta. Those things that leave me wanting to pick up my pack and go in search of a place that’s more closely aligned with my inner self.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I genuinely like living here. Sure, there are cultural differences I’ll never understand, or accept. But I still like living here, and even more, I like living in Europe.
So it doesn’t look like travel is finished with me just yet.
Something about Europe and the general outlook of the people here seems to resonate with me. And I feel at home in a way I never did back in Canada.
What about you?
Do you ever struggle with your doubts and frustrations during those long 3am airport nights? And have you found your ideal place? Or are you still searching for it?
I’d love to hear your story. Please share it with me in the comments below.