Roller Coasters & Hotel Rooms

I just had a millisecond of clarity, so I’m going to try to record it while I have something in hand. Apologies if this makes little to no sense yet.

One of the things that I most love about vacationing on my own is that when I’m in a strange place with no friends or family around, I feel fully alone, isolated, and yet happy. I can fully embrace the fact that I have no support system, no protection, no idea of what’s going to happen next or how I might handle it. In the moment, while I’m feeling it, it surfaces as melancholy, maybe a little bit of wistfulness, the sad side of wanderlust. I walk around in shops alone, eat meals alone, go to bed alone, stare out of hotel windows alone, stumble through stilted foreign language conversations with cab drivers and servers alone. There are moments that propel themselves, and others that I have to fight through. I am fully participating in the experience, which honestly doesn’t always happen at home. For me, traveling is a practice in mindfulness.

Even though I’ve explained the emotion that accompanies this as melancholy, it is not sad. It twists my heart. It is unpleasant, in places. But it’s more like the beginning moments of riding a roller coaster, when you’re getting all strapped in and waiting for the ride. There’s this way that you go “Oh man, this is unpleasant,” and then the next moment you’re going, “well, that could have been worse,” and then you’re going, “wait, this is amazing!” (Except that’s not how I handle roller coasters, just how it looks like other people handle them. For me, a roller coaster is like, “this is unpleasant,” “omg, I can’t believe I thought *that* was unpleasant – this is seriously unpleasant,” “I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die, why am I doing this?” and “OK, that was actually kind of funny, in a weird, existential way – and look, I’m not dead!”)

Anyway, this all goes to say that I handle traveling on my own completely differently than living on my own. I tend to look at travel as an adventure, where I’m privileged to be exploring the world solo, and every new moment is an opportunity. It all feels like I’ve done it before, and I’m brushing up on a lesson that I’ve already learned in a life before this one. It only hurts, feels melancholic, because it reminds me of old pleasures. But I’m still open to the new ones, and travel never fails to bring me new ways of seeing that feel like old lessons I used to know. Maybe that’s also because I tend to go to places of great spiritual importance to me, who knows?

So tonight, I was sitting on the corner of the bed, looking at the floor, thinking that I need to get up in six hours and go to a job I hate. I never just sit on the side of the bed at home. I do that all the time in hotels and hostels and albergues. And that physicality is probably why I had just the tiniest flash of that same travel melancholy I get all the time when I’m away, doing what I actually want to be doing. For just a second, I thought, “maybe I should see going to work tomorrow as an opportunity for adventure, instead of a punishment.” And then it hit me – I’m still traveling.

This is just an extended stay at a destination that bores me, and that’s OK. There’s no reason that I can’t tap into the feeling I love about traveling, even here in this place that I call home for most of the year. There’s no reason not to turn this into an adventure. You can do anything that you imagine (within some amount of reason), wherever you are in the moment. I know that, because I’ve done it. I’ve been bad and good, in places new and places familiar. I can bring new energy to this place if I so will it, and I do. So I’ll invite the mystique into my existence here, in this hotel room of an apartment, into this mess of a life.

Who knows, maybe it will be funny, in a weird, existential way…

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