"traveling. this makes men wiser, but less happy. when men of sober age travel, they gather knowledge which they may apply usefully for their country, but they are subject ever after to recollections mixed with regret, their affections are weakened by being extended over more objects, and they learn new habits which cannot be gratified when they return home. their eyes are forever turned back to the object they have lost, and its recollection poisons the residue of their lives." thomas jefferson 1787
the travelers curse is very real and something i've dealt with ever since returning from my cross country bicycle escapade in two thousand and seven; it hit me hard again coming home after this most recent road trip.
the problem lies with the ease, and often necessity, of only seeing the absolute best in both people and places when on the road. be it an hour, a day, a week, or even a month, it is almost effortless to enjoy every damn second of traveling. you get to see the sights you want to and interact with people who strike your interest.
i can look back at all the beauty i've set my eyes on; riding my bicycle up highway one in california, watching water barrel over the great falls in virginia, dolphins following beside our boat in florida, the endless palette of colors that covers the hillsides of new hampshire in fall, and the towering grand tetons in wyoming.
i can think back to all the weird and exciting encounters i've shared with strangers. frank and sally, the farmer and his school teacher wife who invited me in for blt's when i was riding by their home in rural pennsylvania. arturo, the guy who was already at the top of emory peak in big bend when i made it to the summit and immediately tossed me a beer. spencer, the eighteen year old on the train in arizona who had just left everything to work at a wilderness camp. alan, the man in san diego who caught wind i was looking for a place to stay and offered up his house boat for the night.
i get to cherry pick the memories i want to keep, travel and the people you meet on the road are not demanding and when i look back it all seems like some marvelous dream. and that's the difficulty, this uncomplicated feeling of wandering is just that, uncomplicated. i never see the mundane in and outs of day to day life in these places. i'm exploring, everything is new and fresh and exciting. and the people i meet leave a lasting impression because they offer me something when i need it most. i get to create the image i want of them because i only met them for a brief moment in time. i don't get to see how they handle sitting behind their desk for eight hours, just as they don't get to see me watch an entire netflix series in one night.
but eventually you long for a home, a community, a routine, or you run out of cash for the month, maybe your vehicle is out of commission, or you have to get back to work on monday.
and that's when the curse kicks in. your mind and heart are full of all these moments of grandeur; the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people. but no one place has them all.
but the one thing that travel will never fulfill for me, nor would i want it to, is that sense of community. a cradle, a place where people embrace your idiosyncrasies, where friends are there to hold you up even when you're falling hard. i think anyone who wanders can agree that the longing to experience new frontiers is something we'll never shake; nor should we. but when the curse rears its ugly head i've learned that turning to my community is the best thing for my soul and perhaps the only thing that gets me through it.