I hopped on the Skybus from the Southern Cross Station in Melbourne to the airport.
I felt knots in my stomach the entire time. Did I drink too much last night? Or is it because I am making a mistake?
I had 2 one-way airplane tickets departing on a rather sunny day in Melbourne. And all I wanted to do was throw-up.
One flight was departing to New Zealand. The other flight was back to America (Chicago, Illinois).
I held my passport in my right hand, tugging my suitcase along while I reflected on my year in Australia.
“Holy Shit,” I thought to myself while I stopped to take a bite of my sandwich and pop a Tylenol capsule in my mouth from the small bottle I asked my Dad to bring over when he visited. I take another two capsules and wrap them in a napkin and stuff it in my purse just in case. I shove the Tylenol bottle back into my suitcase.
“I did it.”
I felt a sense of pride. I proved my self-doubts wrong. I moved to Australia, landed a job, made sure there was a roof over my head, met people, made friends and traveled – which was the whole point of this journey.
I’m pretty sure I saw more of Australia than most Australians have seen. I traveled long-term. I did it.
But did I want to do it again?
Traveling Australia for a few weeks as a tourist is one thing. Traveling Australia on the Work and Holiday visa for one year is another. And unless you have a bit saved up, you have to look for work while you’re traveling to fund your travels. I didn’t have a lot saved up. I came to Australia with a little over $5,000 (which is the immigration requirement for U.S. citizens). I had to budget a lot until I actually found a decent job. It wasn’t easy, but I somehow made it work. However, while I made it work, I wasn’t exactly having the time of my life.
It was a bit stressful at times: looking for work, a place to live, hopping from one unfamiliar place to another, one unfamiliar bed to another, unpacking and repacking, sitting on my suitcase and trying to get it to close and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CLOSE ALREADY.
That’s not to say that I didn’t have a good time. I just didn’t have a good time all of the time. As expected, I had good days and I had bad days. Still, had I not taken this opportunity, I would not be here, today, in realization that long-term travel isn’t something I necessarily enjoy. Had I not taken a chance to see for my own, I would still be at home fantasizing about traveling long-term because I honestly thought that I would travel for years on end.
Before I left for my one-year trip to Australia, I got rid of a lot of things I had: books, clothes (except the clothes I packed in my suitcase), and a lot of random crap. I don’t even have a bed anymore. I got rid of almost everything – everything except for my Justin Timberlake dolls from his ‘N sync days – I’m keeping that shit.
I thought I would travel forever. I wanted to travel forever.
Only travel didn’t feel fun anymore. It almost felt like a chore. When I went to New Zealand for a few days last month, I fell in love with it and I thought, “I’d be stupid not to move here.”
As soon as I came back to Australia, I applied for the working holiday for New Zealand. Three days later, I was approved. A few days later, I booked a one-way flight to New Zealand.
While I started figuring things out for NZ, the entire time I just felt like something wasn’t right. I felt like I was fighting with myself – making myself do something even though I secretly didn’t want to. Was I stupid? It’s freaking New Zealand. I could live in New Zealand.
But did I want to feel the same stress I felt in Australia in the beginning. And although I made money while working in Australia, I quickly spent most of it and would once again, be on a tight budget (OZ ain’t cheap and NZ ain’t cheap either).
And, honestly, I was sick of hopping around all of the time. There are other parts of my life I want to work on and it’s difficult to do so when you’re worried about where you’re going to sleep next week.
I still want to travel – that’s something that’s never going to change. But perhaps I’d like to travel differently.
I’m not exactly sure what happened. I had my visa and plane ticket ready. I was ready to go. And I could have gone. I knew that I could make it work just like I made it work in Australia. I was sure of that. That was no longer the question. I believe that I can travel unlike before.
The real question was did I want to continue with long-term travel?
And the answer is No. I was burnt out. And I was too stubborn to admit it to myself until the stress of long-term travel just became too much. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was fighting with myself. I worked so hard to finally travel and I was considering going back? It didn’t make any sense. I was trying to ignore this feeling and push forward anyway. When I started asking others what I should do instead of asking myself, I knew it was a bad sign.
I remember thinking “I’ll just go to New Zealand since it’s so close and get it over with.”
Get it over with? An amazing place like New Zealand shouldn’t be something to “get it over with”. How dare I even think such things?
That’s when I knew that I needed a break from long-term travel. Although I already booked my flight to New Zealand, I knew I needed to go home to figure some things out. And that’s how I ended up with two one-way flights on the same day to two different countries. And I think I picked the right flight to get on.
Although I did feel sick at the Melbourne airport, it wasn’t because I felt like I was making the wrong decision. I probably felt sick because I had one too many fancy cocktails and didn’t sleep too well the night before (hey, I had to get rid of my Aussie dollars and that was one way to do it so leave me alone, jerk).
I’m back home in Chicago, and although it feels a bit strange to be back home, I know I need a mental and physical break from travel (though I’ve looked up one too many flights since being home – what’s wrong with me?). My working holiday visa for New Zealand is still good for about a year if I decide to pursue it later.
Traveling within Australia (and taking a side trip to Fiji and New Zealand) was amazing. Living in Melbourne for the majority of the time allowed me to live like the locals (taking the train to work, stalking Mariah Carey when she came into town, shopping at the Queen Victoria Market). I’ve learned things about myself that I would have never learned had I not embarked on this journey.
One of the things I’ve learned is that although long-term travel takes you out of your comfort zone and pushes you beyond your limits, it’s not for everyone.
Sometimes you have to just stop, take a breather, and realize that you are in control of your life. It’s better to do something that feels right instead of something that you think is right.
So what is my travel style? I’ll let you know when I figure it out. But right now, I’m glad I didn’t get on that flight to New Zealand. Being back home will give me a chance to chill-out, search for work that I’m happy doing, and actually miss traveling.
Sometimes in order to find the right type of life for you, you have to leave. And sometimes you have to go back.
Is long-term travel for you? Why or why not?