As the temperature outside barely topped 10 degrees Celsius, and I found myself with a rare day-off, I happily spent the majority of the day at my grandma’s sitting inside with cat Sammie curled up on my knee. This was a moment that I had longingly craved whilst abroad, and in such a moment I found myself wondering if I could bear going away again.
I spent four months working and traveling across France during the northern hemisphere summer. When I returned back home to Australia in July, I was not only season-confused and flipped upside down, but also left wondering how to keep my restless feet fixed upon the ground. As I sat cuddling my cat, I thought to myself – surely this is enough. This is what I missed while I was away. Why can’t this be the reason to stay?
A similar feeling encompasses me when I take my beloved dog for a walk, or admire my horse and feed him carrots simply for being adorable. I grew up on property with sheep and chickens and ducks, being the weird horse girl at school with my best friend, and my life has always revolved around my pets. My animals are all the trusted care of someone who I know will give them the love and support they need. My sister, an avid animal lover, effortlessly looks after all the animals on our small property. And I will be eternally grateful to my grandma for taking in my cat, a decision I had to make when I moved back home before heading abroad. Giving up Sammie was tough, but I knew she needed someone more stable and settled than myself.
The wanderlust can certainly be difficult to carry. As it weighs pressingly on my mind, it always finds a way to insert itself into conversations, and encourages me to search regularly for airfare sales. This wanderlust brings with it so many sacrifices and so much guilt. Yet, it brings so many adventures at the same time. My young and restless gypsy soul can’t resist that.
Perhaps the guilt is just enhanced when I concentrate on how comfortable my life is in Australia. I know I have a good life here, a life that many desire. I have two university degrees and stable job prospects, yet I am too unsettled to know how to use it. My life isn’t perfect here, there are memories I long to move away from. But I feel guilty because I have so much to stay for but all I want to do is leave.
Aside from the pets that break my heart every time I leave them, my friendships suffer as well. I see my life moving in such a vastly different direction to my friends who have a stable life in our hometown. They see it too. They hear it in our conversations where I find a way to either talk about past travel experiences or discuss plans for new adventures. Meanwhile, they tell me about choosing tiles for their new home or progress on their weddings plans. This is a life so foreign to me. I love hearing about their exciting futures and the happiness it will bring them. But they see that I will not be settled for some time. I see it in myself as well which both frightens and entices me.
Sometimes it isn’t even me who brings up the travel discussions; sometimes I am encouraged to talk about my plans because they ask me. But I feel guilty for always reminding people that I am leaving, one day or another. I can’t deny the selfishness in my decision to chase a life abroad. And I know that eventually I may not have these friendships to return to, because their lives will move on without me. Because I will be elsewhere.
It surprises me then, when the wanderlust teaches me about the friendships that are true and valuable. Through flittering about in other parts of the world, I’ve found the friends that are prepared to stand by me, and mean it when they say no matter what.
My anxiety about leaving my pets and my friendships are not separate entities. As my friends ask me about my travel plans, they also ask me about my pets. They know how much these animals mean to me and how much I will miss them. ‘If you ever need anyone to take care of your cat, just let me know,’ many friends have offered. My grandma is a champion for taking on the responsibility of my darling cat. But she often goes away herself on little holidays. My best friend was more than happy to stay at my grandma’s house with my cat while she was away for a week and I was in Europe. She was first in line of a number of friends who offered to do the same. At this, my heart was filled with happiness to realise it is possible to have it all.
Essentially I feel guilty for this traveling lifestyle I desire makes me a selfish person. For this reason I am unbelievably lucky and grateful to have people in my life still standing by me, supporting me in these crazy plans I have to wander endlessly.
And when I reflect upon it too much, the guilt awakens and heightens the post-travel depression. That state of mind which is only present when I find myself with moments of rare free time. My mind finds it impossible to relax so it searches through these thoughts and analyses everything it can. Here the guilt takes place and I find the only way to ease it is to plan my next runaway scheme.
And I begin to wonder: how does one achieve happiness when one is always torn between two desires. When I am here, I want to be there. And when I am there, I long to return.
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