Travel Side Effects Part 2: Restless Heart Syndrome

Last month I wrote about the weird side effects travel can have on your mind and your perspective. I’ve been thinking a bit more on the subject and the way travel irrevocably changes the way you look at the world.

One of the biggest and hardest side effects of traveling is what I call Restless Heart Syndrome. It consists of that gnawing, unshakeable feeling that no matter how good things are, there’s somewhere else you could or should be.

For example, as you read this I’m on a flight back home after 7 months on the road. I’m ecstatic! I can not WAIT to do normal people things like eat a real salad, visit my local library and hug the crap out of all my friends and family. It’s going to be wonderful… for awhile at least.

Inevitably it will happen. I’ll see an episode of No Reservations, or a billboard with a beach on it. I’ll innocently google some far off place and before you know it I’m knee deep into planning imaginary itineraries. If it’s really serious I might start pricing some plane tickets, just in case.

Even worse, I start daydreaming about my past travels, gazing nostalgically at old pictures on Flickr and sighing loudly. I’ll order Chinese food and think bitterly how it will never compare with the real and amazing chinese food I used to eat. I’ll go to the store and balk at paying $10 for a bottle of wine I could have had in Argentina for $2.50.

Yes I’m aware that most of my analogies involve food…

A part of me will always be a slave to the places I’ve been and long to go back for. I will always wake up craving banh mi, or longing for a rainy day in Bogota. In the back of my mind I will always be wandering the streets of London, retracing my footsteps through Kyoto or gazing at a glacier in Iceland. It’s not that whatever I’m doing at the moment is boring or undesirable, it’s just that all this other stuff has taken up residence in my head and will not be dislodged.

When I was in China I did nothing but crave cheese all day. In Argentina I was inundated with mozzarella but I would have given an arm for some authentic bao zi. I guarantee you when I get home I’m going to crave some juicy Argentinean steak like none other.

I can’t help it. The curse of the traveller, is that no matter how happy you are, at least a small part of you always wishes you were somewhere else. Your eyes open to the massive amount of possibilities in the world, and it’s hard to focus on just one. Many people who take off in search of adventure quickly realize that travel is not like a cold that you get out of your system, but like an addiction that simply grows and feeds on itself.

So I have a restless heart. I can live with that, I think. It keeps things interesting, that is for sure. But, between my various jaunts around the globe, I’m going to try a little bit harder to appreciate the here and now.

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