I laid in the park this weekend watching people bustle through one of Chicago’s busiest neighborhoods. I was in a beautiful community surrounded by interesting people – the same kind of experience I seek when I’m in a different country. It was Memorial Day weekend and the the city officially entered summer mode. Chicago is full of great food, museums, funny people*, fun bars, great entertainment, expansive public transit, and even beaches.
All this, yet I always want to be somewhere else. I have such a wealth of experiences waiting right under my nose and I feel guilty for abandoning them in favor of those in the distance. If I can visit Chinatown and the beach all in the same day why should I ever leave? Do I really need to travel, or am I just up in the clouds?
I observed the people, thinking about why I couldn’t appreciate what was in front of me. I looked back and remembered that travel has been my objective as soon as I knew it was an option. After my parents gave me the chance to journey overseas for the first time* I couldn’t get it off my mind. I researched countless study abroad programs during my first year of college because, at the time, it was the only way I could justify travel and attempt to fund it. Then I the looked down the volunteer route. I was fascinated reading about my options in far off places like Vietnam, India, and Ghana.
Costa Rica had the cheapest plane ticket so that’s where I went. Though not as exotically distant as Cambodia or Sri Lanka, this was the best choice I could have made. My experiences in Costa Rica ignited a flame for cultural travel and learning more about how people live around the world. I stayed with a host family and took the bus to work every day, allowing me to interact with so many different Ticos. I also experienced my first sweeping dose of natural beauty. I saw the ocean for the first time. The rainforest, volcanoes, even mountains were all novel to me. Still, I was experiencing these novel things in a very normal way. I wasn’t on a grand tour or trekking excursion. I was just living. It is why I need to travel.
For a $333 plane ticket I gained so much. It was a great nudge out into the world. How could I not want to travel more after an experience like that? I knew I had to do that again some day. And I did! I was at the right place at the right time when I got a job working for a company who plans trips to *gasp* Costa Rica. Because of this job I have been given so many opportunities to experience Central America.
Now I just can’t stop. There is little impairing my ability to travel so travel I must. I sometimes wonder if I’m just using it as an escape, and while every does need a true vacation I think that what I want more than anything is not an escape but a discovery. I’m not looking for any answers. I just want to know about everything around me. In a way, I want to live many different lives.
I also realized that I may not a full-blooded city girl like I thought. Since I was young I’ve looked to the skyline as a symbol of all the opportunities I could make for myself, and I have made many. Now I want to look beyond the skyline. I’m on the hunt for other horizons.
I grow tired of the city for the same reasons I love it. The anonymity, the options. I’m susceptible to its stresses, though. It does the soul good to see things other than buildings and traffic. The soul seems to appreciate simple living, something from which everyone could benefit from time to time. Just because I’ve always wanted to be successful in the city doesn’t mean I’m 100% compatible with it. At least, that’s what I’ve concluded over this beautiful weekend.
With every passing Chicago winter I become more inclined to spend a few months closer to the equator. Who doesn’t, though? What I really want to is to take care of myself. I want to be productive in a healthier environment. Maybe a short time from now I’ll be making plans to head to Ecuador or the Mediterranean or somewhere I haven’t even heard of yet. What I’m sure of is my unwavering intent.