A few days ago, a friend sent me the following article: Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels. Like a good Gen X/Y-er, I shared the article on my Facebook timeline, commenting that it was “Me, spot on, word for word!”. The article has gone on to take the Internet and Facebook world by storm, triggering debates and alternative versions, including “Date a Girl Who Travels”, “Don’t Date a Guy Who Travels”, “Date a Guy Who Travels”, “Girls Who Travel Can F@$% Right Off!” (really).
At first when I read the article, I thought, “Well, damn, I’m going to die an adventurous, interesting, well-traveled old maid!” (Haughty, joke’s-on-you-not-me chuckle). And then I read it a few more times, and I realized that no, this article is geared towards guys who don’t travel and therefore don’t “get” girls who travel, so as long as I keep being picky (Head held high!), keep my standards practically unreachable (Nose in the air!), and don’t waste my time on guys who don’t travel (I’m a bitch!!), then I’ll be juuuust fiiine! Globe-trotting adventures with a hot surfer husband and a slew of naked tanned tow-headed children are all in my cards! Hooray!!
And then I read the article again, and I realized that no, the truth is, I’m just a female douchebag.
Truth be told, I think I realized that the first time I read the article, but the megalomaniac “Look at me I travel and I don’t conform and I’m simply amaaazing!” part of me ignored it. As I posted that article to my timeline, I felt this five-ton boulder form in my gut. Deep down, I knew I shouldn’t be proud of myself for relating to the article, that beneath its glossy words hid a much more sinister message. With each and every comment from my friends: “So you!”, “I thought you wrote it!”, “Very True!”, I felt worse and worse and worse. Suddenly, I was not proud to be “A Girl Who Travels”. I was ashamed and embarrassed.
I started traveling at the age of 22. Fresh out of college, freshly divorced (cue the gasps). I wanted to break out of my small town and see the world. Traveling allowed me to do just that while simultaneously serving as a method of escape from my problems, my failures, and my fears. I spent the next decade bouncing from country to country, city to city, boyfriend to boyfriend. I had unforgettable experiences, met some amazing people, and broadened my paradigms. I mastered the art of escapism under the guise of “free-spiritedness”. As long as I was moving, I didn’t have to face the risk of meeting someone special, settling down, marriage, kids, mortgage, climbing the corporate ladder. I didn’t have to face the risk of failure (Oh, yes she did!). I didn’t have to face the real world. Life.
If you’ve been reading my South America blog, you will know that as of late I’ve been battling some serious demons in terms of where I am in my life. This internal crisis was ignited during my one-month jaunt home to the US for Christmas. My friends have kids; I’m traveling. I felt like a loser. To fuel the fire, I met this guy who was smart, funny, witty. I really liked him. And then he fell off the face of the planet, sans explanation. My brother brought clarity to the situation: Why would a decent guy who has two kids, is settled, has his shiitake together (Well, kinda…he was a little screwed up, but I like that.) go for a girl like you–“A Girl Who Travels”? Maybe cool guy was simply freaked out by my 8 1/2 toes and penchant for over-revealing my flaws after two glasses of wine; nevertheless, my brother spoke the crushing truth.
Reading that article only exacerbated things further. I couldn’t help but think how–for lack of a better word–idiotic “A Girl Who Travels” (me!) sounds. I have absolutely zero right to complain about being single, “Where oh where are all the decent guys?” because I DO meet decent guys! All the time! But why would any decent guy in his right mind want to earnestly date a girl like that?! A girl who’s fun and spontaneous and in-the-moment, but who you just can’t take seriously. And for crying out loud–on the doorstep of 34, I’m not exactly a “girl” anymore, now am I? Jeez.
For years, I was okay with being “A Girl (ahem) Who Travels,” and I didn’t mind being in relationships that weren’t serious, because I wasn’t ready or interested. But now, somehow, in the past few months, things have changed. Something is missing, and no amount of border crossings is going to change that. I want to fall in love. I want to travel with someone I love and go to the movies and dinner with someone I love and hear someone I love talk about his boring job. I want to spend the rest of my life with someone I love and create memories and miracles with him. More than anything. And it scares the sh*t out of me to admit that, and now I’ve put it out there–I can’t take it back–and if it doesn’t happen, then I’ll feel like I’ve failed. And I’ll have no one to blame but myself, the “Girl Who Travels!”.
I was convinced that once I got back on the road after Christmas, I would forget about all my perceived life inadequacies and melt back into the groove of the backpacking underworld. Clearly, that didn’t happen (stupid article!!). Traveling for escapism just isn’t cutting it anymore, and after all these “Come to Jesus” moments of late, I’m having a hard time enjoying myself. But you know what? I’ll keep traveling. Why? Because even though I know what I want, what would really make me happy, I don’t have it. So I travel. Because just sitting around waiting for good things to happen just doesn’t make sense to me. So I travel. Because I don’t know where I want to live, where I want to put down roots, where I want to settle. So I travel. Because I am afraid of making bad decisions, being a failure. So I travel. Because I still have so much to learn. So I travel. Because I have absolutely no idea how not to be “A Girl Who Travels”. So I travel.