“I’m a change addict,” a woman at the Sydney YHA told me as she stuffed clothing into her backpack, “I just love the possibility of new things.”
When you spend enough time in hostels, among other backpackers, the conversation turns to travel a lot. Where you’ve been, where you’re going, how long you’ve been gone, where should I visit in Melbourne, on and on. It’s just what we travel addicts do, talk about travel ad nauseum. Every once in awhile though the conversation touches on something deeper; the nerve of why we travel and the meaning and importance of all this schlepping around. Something about the way those words spilled out of this tiny blonde ladies mouth just made me think “Yes, that’s exactly it.”
She was a fellow American, rare to see in Oz, in her late thirties, on a six week break from real life. Well sort of. She had quit her job back home, broken up with her boyfriend, then taken off to Thailand and Australia for some peace and clarity. She had no idea what she was going back to, but she didn’t seem perturbed. Travel and major life changes went hand in hand for her.
It’s so true, I thought as I sat in the bunk above hers, what IS travel but constant change? New skylines, new food, new friends, even a new bed every few days. What other lifestyle can you think of where you literally have to lay your head down on a new pillow once or twice a week.
A lot of people don’t deal well with changes, and I can understand that too. Change can be scary- you never know if you’re upgrading to something better, or falling into something worse. Purposely changing your life means taking a risk- and making that leap can be hard. Really hard.
You don’t have to love change to travel, but you have to be pretty okay with it. Whether you’re traveling for two weeks or two years, you have to have an openness for learning a new way of living. In time maybe you come to accept this constant change and discovery, to enjoy it, and then one day maybe you find you can’t life without the new and exciting anymore. I think this is the root of many a travel addiction.
I’m reminded of an argument I had with a woman I used to work with. Every morning we’d chat about life: personnel changes, boyfriend issues, even just the changing of the seasons.“Change is good,” I would tell her optimistically.
“No,” she would always insist, “change is change.” At the time I thought it was a terribly cynical way of looking at things, but now I think I see what she was getting at. Not all changes are good: illness, losing your job, losing a loved one, so many ways your life can take a turn for the worse.
What I think I was trying to say to her, but couldn’t quite articulate at the time, is that while individual changes aren’t always good, the lessons we take away, and the ways we learn to deal with them, only make us stronger and better people. Even the most horrible changes still contain hidden sparks of possibility. Part of travel, and part of life, is learning to accept changes, good and bad, and to come out on top.