Traveling not to visit, but to live

If there’s one skill of the nomad life I’m terrible at it’s this: staying in a place for only a week.

It’s torture — a week seems to be just enough time to find myself settled and fulfilled by new routine before uprooting again. 

As I’m leaving San Ignacio today (Monday), I’m feeling that sentiment sharply.

Somehow, in my old life, I did this on the regular while vacationing. When I look back and think about traveling through Mexico or Asia or Europe, spending three short days (or even TWO?!?!?!) in a single place and acting like that was normal, my mind is blown.

Indeed, my original “itinerary” when I was playing with the idea of doing this was jetting across Asia and Africa, spending only two or three days in every town or even country. (A BIG LOL TO THAT.)

Most of the other travelers I run into are on this kind of track, so much so that some guest houses are shocked when I tell them I plan to stay even a full week.

But of course, what I’m doing is very different now. I’m not on vacation anymore. I’m not even on a work trip. I making my way across the world, full time. To do that, one has to keep moving. Sometimes I’ve relented, staying in a particular spot for two, three weeks, even a month in Panajachel.

Still, it’s never enough.

And it’s emotional.

When people ask me where I’m from, I say the U.S. (It’s a confusing question: I haven’t lived in North Carolina for 15 years; I don’t plan to live in Minnesota again. I’m kind of squatting in Pittsburgh between stints? I was in Detroit and Boston for a while??? I don’t know where I’m “from.”)

But when they ask where I live I say right here — in this chair, in this park, in this living room. And that feeling is exactly why I keep walking, keep taking busses and planes. I’m not so much traveling to visit, I’m traveling to live.


Because of my desire to to become entrenched in routine, because of my need to work and to do errands and because I seem to organically meet people everywhere I go, places become so personal, so quickly. I am awed. I find a new familiar. I find a small network of friends (pictured: Angel, a new friend who took me around San Ignacio for a video I’m working on). I become hooked.

The great joke is that I never expect it. I always have a hard time believing I’ll love the next place as much as the one I’m in. Yet the world keeps surprising me.

To think, when I arrived in San Ignacio, I thought I would skip creating a video from here,  because I am backed up with projects and because I wasn’t sure yet what a tiny, dirt roads town would have to offer. Two days later, my heart was overflowing with love for this place and the people I’d met and I knew I needed to record it all. Ready or not, I would dive in, emotionally, again.

Oh, how traveling has taught me so much about experiencing.

In wandering, I have found a new capacity in myself for feeling such depths, and for allowing myself to fall into them, sans safety net. I walk atop pyramids built 2,000 years prior, I sit on a quiet dock for sunset, I enter a market to smell the spices, and I am overwhelmed with a sense of wonder. I have cried from happiness and awe more than I ever thought possible. I have found a new capacity for accepting discomfort — humidity and bad beds and cold showers and bugs. And I have found this deeper capacity for love, for sadness, for embracing the moment, for letting it all wash over me unrestrained. I inhale it. I feel it. I live it. 

Because you see, it’s not so much the travel that I love. It’s the living. But on this journey, that part always ends.

I try on a new life. I wear it for a while. Then I give it away.

I put one foot in front of the other, and leave my home over and over again.

4 thoughts on “Traveling not to visit, but to live

  1. As a person who lives in an endless rut with a well-practiced routine, I appreciate what it must take to break out. It has been fun to follow your travels so far. I might have the guts to try something like this once I retire. However, my wife insists that I’m too “high maintenance” 😉

  2. Another really great essay. It’s so interesting to see how what you are experiencing seems to be quite different from what you expected before your trip. We are about to spend 8 days in Puerto Vallarta, and I’m sure that is the longest time I have spent ANYWHERE that I didin’t consider to be my home in 30 years.

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