There have been ceaseless probing questions, primarily from my fellow Americans, about my decision-making and life choices lately, which (obviously) stems from my unsettledness and restless roaming. I’ve met these Probers on the road while they were on vacation or business trips, all temporary travelers wondering WHAT ON EARTH I’ve been doing traveling for so long.
There’s one question I’ve faced regularly, as a nomad, that can induce an immediate headache and nausea. A question that stings and reminds me how different I am from the status quo, and how little I fit in mentally with society anymore.
“WHAT are you running from?” they say to me with arms flailed.
I often reply: “Nothing. I’m not ‘running’ from anything.”
“You’re going to have to land sometime you know…” they go on.
I change the subject and stop the conversation there because: 1) I haven’t been able to properly articulate my reasoning in spoken words; and 2) I don’t feel the need to explain myself to someone who automatically doesn’t understand the value of exploration. I just stop talking about it all together. I’m better at articulating myself in writing, so let me try to explain.
For the last three years, I’ve been indulging in a lifelong love of mine. I denied myself this love for most of my life, working away like a good soldier, contributing to the society that raised me, running on “the hamster wheel” at full speed. I did what everyone else told me I should do, and silenced the voice inside screaming to get out- which landed me in a depressed state. I stayed functioning depressive (is that a thing?) until I finally gave in, quit my job, got rid of everything and booked a one-way flight to Europe in 2015.
I needed to feel the high. I needed to access that wonderful space I fell in love with so long ago.
I’m not running from anything. I’m running towards something.
For three years, I’ve been binging on my oldest high…my favorite addition.
The take off,
Higher than any high I’ve ever experienced elsewhere, the rush of adrenaline that courses through me when a plane is lifting off with me in it, is enough to keep me perma-grinning for days on end. It feels like freedom in all forms: physical, spiritual, mental, all at once. It feels like hope. To me, it feels like the purest and most joyous form of living.
I’ve often got my own addiction confused with the leaving part of it all- but it’s deeper than that. My flight fascination started ages ago.
I grew up flying.
My Dad was a pilot and used to pile my sister and I in his little three seater plane to go see Grandma. While other people were driving through the mountains and over the hills, we were flying high and I was begging my Dad to turn the plane on its side. I was addicted to the highest highs even as a toddler. Perhaps the only time he’d ever take my demands and listen to me, he succumbed and would always turn the plane so I could look out the window straight down back at the Earth we’d just emerged from.
I remember thinking how magical the whole thing was- being so high up in the sky. If we’re up here, looking down there, that means we’re existing somewhere in between space and Earth. Here, there’s a place no one can hurt you.
Before I understood life’s complexities and the struggles that would later come my way, I had a grasp on the escape that came with flying, and I could never get enough. I still can’t. I’m completely, totally, 100% addicted to take off, equally so to landing in a faraway country. So I’ve indulged…shoot me.
I’ve only recently considered the idea that this could be a form of addiction for me, and whether that’s healthy or not. Up until now, for the last three years I’ve let myself book and board away. But like any other drug or vice, the high eventually wears off and I find myself stagnant and sober needing another fix, wherever I am in the world. A dark cloud hangs over my head until I book the next trip.
Sounds just like addiction, right?
Travel is my drug of choice- but there could be worse things.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Life’s about the journey, not the destination,” and maybe this “addiction” is my commitment to just that- it forces me into the right mode. It’s truly not just about the destination when I’m traveling, or doing anything else for that matter. For me, the entire travel experience is as much about the stuff leading up to the landing, as it is about exploring, say, Greece or Italy. It’s about the way the sky changes appearance and the clouds get thicker as you make your way across the globe. It’s about the way the buildings and people and cars below looks so small at take off, putting everything back into perspective.
It’s about creating space between you and the ground below, and then landing in a foreign, dream-like state.
Flying was my first real thrill of adventure, and continues to be one of the loves of my life. Exploring new lands is just one hell of a side effect to my addiction- and like I said before, there could be worse things.
I’ve decided this is, perhaps, the best type of addiction I could possibly have, and I’m 100% okay with it.
I guess the moral of the story here is that some addictions are okay, so long as they make you a better person.
So, Probers, I’ve not been running from anything at all, you see. I’m a proud addict who’s been soaring up high, feeling free, healing myself and exploring this beautiful planet we live on, simultaneously. If my “addiction” helps me access all that, then I’m happy to call myself an addict and keep on, keepin’ on.
So, what’s YOUR addiction?