I am an addict. Travel is my high. I gave up fighting it a long time ago, but I have never fully shared how it makes me feel. I know I am not alone. If you or someone in your life is afflicted, you may not fully understand the addiction. So here it is: this your brain on a journey.
It starts with the research. You spend eyeball-searing, brain-numbing hours at the computer. You cannot get enough. You miss appointments. Your hearing shuts down. Your appetite wanes. You muddle your way through work and boring conversations, just waiting for the next moment when you can be alone with your planning. You lose sleep. Did you brush your teeth this morning? Don’t remember. You’re lost in the mass of open windows on your screen. You’ve read reviews, price checked everything, verified your credit card balance. Then BAM, you click the final reserve button. Life is good. There is a plan in place. You can relax and live an almost normal life.
Until travel day arrives. You are locked and loaded at dawn. No matter what the purpose of your trip, you feel a freedom that was not there just moments before. You have closed the door on what is and stepped into what will be. You’ve cast off the lines; the wheels are turning. You begin separating yourself from everything normal and mundane. You have forward momentum.
But this is a different you. You are a hiker, biker, climber, photographer, diver, speaker of foreign languages, explorer. You are a traveler. You cloak yourself in the persona of the journey, each step more purposeful than the last. The road is your new home. The path before you is illuminated by your confidence.
Your body hums with the excitement. Your brain awakens to new sights, new smells, a world of different textures. Your vision is sharper; your taste buds scream new flavors at you. The sun feels warmer. There are no obstacles, only challenges. Snow is no longer the thing you dread shoveling; it’s part of the mountain you came to conquer. Wind in your face isn’t an annoyance; it’s a fragrant breeze to be enjoyed. You delight in raindrops and puddles put in your path purely for the joy of the splash. You swim through every moment, absorbing them through your pores.
Your brain needs connections, so once you leave the familiarity of home, your mind pulls you in the direction of new ones. You study other travelers. Most are simply automatons moving through their travels in the same rote way they move through their everyday life. It’s just another place for them. They don’t see the things you see, feel what you feel. But fellow addicts see you for what you are. You make eye contact across crowded terminals and share an instant of recognition. If you’re lucky enough to travel with a fellow junkie, you suddenly see each other in a new light. You are now strung together with a solid lifeline, every movement choreographed and synchronized.
You find yourself reaching out to strangers in this new place. Shopkeepers, taxi drivers, tour guides, maids, barkeeps all simply going about their lives, become meaningful to you. They are part of the world you have come to experience. You crave a chat with them. You ask them details about their lives in a way that you would never do in your other life.
You connect with the colors of this place; they are extraordinary. You vow to paint your world with these colors once you return home. The music is foreign to your ears, but it moves you. The drumbeat that paces this world clears the clutter of noise in your head.
This land begs to be touched. Soil and rock look foreign. Water here moves with a grace that defies imagination. You attempt to capture it all, knowing that like fireflies on a summer night, the magic will not keep. You cannot bring it home, so you are left to simply stare in wonder.
The journey home is always sad. Your brain wraps itself in the fog of over stimulation. Your ears and mouth seem filled with cotton. Words struggle to form. The high is replaced with slumped shoulders, toting bags heavy with what you know to be inadequate attempts to retain some tiny piece of the journey.
Then there is the moment when you step back through the door of reality. The trappings of your journey are set aside as life greets you, welcoming your return. A quick look around and you see that your belongings have taken on a new look, new value. You realize that the magical sharper vision is still with you. The colors of home see warm and welcoming. The sounds of your life bring comfort. You breathe deeply and know that you are changed by what you have seen and done and that your view of home has been forever altered. Will you move? Probably not, because if you are honest, you realize that you are destined to find greater appreciation of the place you call home by leaving it from time to time. You unpack your bags, download the photos, and begin again.