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The Addiction

April 20, 2010

After two months in Kenya, I’ve stopped noticing things. I can get all the way to work without thinking of anything to put on my weekly wrap up of observations. I guess this is what they call being acclimated – I have adjusted to the more odd aspects of Kenyan life and now they simply brush past me as life in America would. I almost long for America so that I can be shocked and amazed by the “new” things again. Moving to a foreign country is like a drug – after time, the effects wear off and your looking for the next high – the next new place that will shock you and excite you and make you feel alive again. Like any good addict, I also desire the sobriety and ease of life without the foreign country high. Moving back to America where life is predictable and “normal” is enticing, but it comes with the knowledge that before too long, I’ll get the travel itch again and feel like I’ve got to get out of the easy life and into something more exciting halfway around the world.

 It’s a pattern of “addiction” for sure – this is the 3rd time in three years that I’ve lived  abroad, always coming back thinking that this will be the time that I’ll stay and always planning a new trip and leaving again within a few short months. I wonder if it’s not just a desire to keep moving – to never settle down. The prospect of living in Uganda for a job is exciting – the prospect of having to be there for 2 years is less so. I think it terrifies me to be stuck in one place for an extended period of time- never knowing when I might get the next “travel high”. Even as a kid I got terrible cabin fever during the summers and I go out at night walking around the neighborhood just to get out of the house and experience something new. Once I grew up a bit, it became nighttime (and daytime) drives with Ellen (the car) to new places – or simply to get out of the one that I’d been in for a while. Berry was a great place for college, but I can’t count the number of times that I would get the travel itch and have to go visiting – just to get out of that place for a while. Now it has become a game of when I’m going to get on a plane next and where that plane might end up.

 If I had unlimited funds and a job that would allow me to, I would move to a new place every couple of months, with a couple of months back in the US for family time and recuperation. India, Mongolia, the Philippines, South Africa, Zambia, Germany, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Belize, Hong Kong, Russia – you name it – I want to go there. I love learning and experiencing – and this type of life would be the ideal, the ultimate, way to learn and experience the whole world.

Like any addiction, however, this travel fever takes its toll. It is in the moments when I realize what I’m missing by moving so much that I want to settle down in the states and just be “normal” for once. I think I’ve gained a lot by my international and domestic experiences – but in the same respect, I know that I have lost out on a lot too. Graduations, bridal showers, parties, weddings, friend crises, nephew and nieces growing up, jobs, and potential romance – the stuff that comprises normal life for most people. This is the price that I pay for moving so much – my own virtual prison sentence  restricting my movements for feeding my addiction. Don’t get me wrong, it is a price so far that I have willingly chosen to pay because of the benefits that I’ve gotten from foreign experience. It’s just the recognition that there are certain things that I will miss out on because of a lack of teleportation. (To the scientists out there – can you get on that please?)

 I’ll leave you with this song excerpt that describes very well how I feel a lot of the time. It’s from “The New Year” by Death Cab for Cutie:

 I wish the world was flat like the old days

Then I could travel just by folding a map

No more airplanes, or speedtrains, or freeways

There’d be no distance that can hold us back

There’d be no distance that could hold us back

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