Once the bags are packed, a lot of decisions have already been made. The night before, you had to think through what to pack and what to leave behind. The morning of departure, you check again and again for the essentials: passport, wallet, journal, tickets, bus fare.
Your itinerary, chosen from among countless options, is at least partially settled by now. You’re going to _____, and as far as you’re concerned, all of _____ is waiting for you.
The road ahead may not be easy, but you have already overcome one big challenge as you carry those bags out the door.
Next stop, the airport. You take the bus or the train or the cab or the ride from your friend. One way or another, you will soon be deposited in front of the revolving doors that lead to airworld.
But first, you look around at the home you’re leaving behind one last time. When you return from the trip, what will have changed here? What will have changed with you?
Most trips begin with a to-go-or-not-to-go dilemma. If you’re looking for a reason to stay home, you’ll find plenty: money is tight, work is busy, people need you. But you evaluated these concerns and decided to forge onwards. Bravo, traveler!
As you venture to new lands, change is inevitable. When you return to your point of departure, objects might be in the same places, but they will contain different meanings. Surprise! That’s just how it works. To avoid this reality, don’t walk out the door.
Soon you’ll be entering into traveler’s limbo, with the strange blend of foreign and familiar. Be careful: this sensation is a powerful intoxicant, with no known cure. In traveler’s limbo, you are the same person you were at home (or are you?) but the setting is different (or is it?). You have no choice but to follow the journey and see where it leads.
Fret as you will over the did-I-leave-something-behind and the what-will-happen-when-I-get-there jitters, you can rest assured that the biggest decision has already been made: the decision to go.
The bags are packed. It’s time.
I just booked the trip that takes me to the States (and eventually the World Domination Summit!) from South Africa. This post just made me smile 🙂 The decision has been made. See you soon!
I oft times take this mindset when I hop in the car to head out to the grocery store. I live rurally so each trip to ‘town’ can be foreign.
I love this because you’ve put so simply exactly what happens! Especially the part about traveler’s limbo!!
Thanks for this. Weird timing, I’m flying around the world tomorrow after a two-month trip abroad and totally jittery about it with nerves!
The decision to go is the biggest decision. After that I use a travel checklist to take the anxiety out of leaving things. From there I block out my time to pack the night before with no distractions. With everything contained and set out for the next day, I go to bed with my mind at ease. (Right now the list is in my top desk drawer.) It really helps to start the trip out because who knows what is ahead!?
I need to take that trip…
That hump is the hardest to get over; and it is so easy to find reasons you can’t go.
I am starting a new project next week, as close to an actual job as I’ve had in a while, and I’m committed to not living in the word “later.” But I find that track of the next few months potentially at odds with my desire to break out of the suburb I live in and experience the powerful limbo you’re talking about.
I think I’m just going to plan that trip. Today. If I can be totally transparent, it honestly scares me to think that I may upset some people (who I really don’t want to upset) by just leaving for a week in the beginning of a project for no concrete reason. I’ve been living way to carefully though, always trying to please someone.
I’ve got my tickets booked for a 1.5 month stay in eastern europe. At the end of May, I write my final exams in college, quit my job and then I have two weeks to pack up, buy some essentials and in the middle of June I leave.
To be honest, spiritually I’m already on the plane. I can’t wait to feel the hull shiver beneath me, to see the gorgeous moonlit sea of clouds which you only see if you’re flying at night. And then being away from “life” (job,school, family) for 1.5 months.
Go! If it’s what you want, do it! We do have others to consider at times, but it is known that a happy and fulfilled you is more likely to bring happiness to others. So bravo on your decision! You’re on your way! Go!
There is always a reason to stay…in the house, in the country, in the rut. Staying is easy. Change is difficult…and scary. Bravo to the traveler! Dream. Wonder. Imagine. GO!
Heading off to Milwaukee on Saturday. I’m not expecting Milwaukee to be too different, but every change counts. I decided to do this trip specifically to create that change and remove myself from my world for a bit to concentrate on what I want to change in the mundane world.
I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again. 🙂
“The journey of a thousand miles…” indeed.
very timely. I depart Saturday for trip to the southern Caribbean with my kids. I can’t wait for them to experience travelers limbo.
There’s a trip brewing involving meeting some online friends (equaintences) in Slovenia in early May. It would/will tie in nicely with a trip to visit my brother in Bulgaria.
I made the commitment to myself last week that I will do it. I have no idea how I will pay for it, but I have to.
Once I’ve made that decision, I find I don’t have jitters so much as excitement. I don’t worry about forgetting anything, because I know I have the important stuff and the rest, I can make up or make do.
I don’t worry about problems because they are part of the adventure. I’m a grown, intelligent woman. I can figure it out – I always have.
As you say, the hard part is making that decision, after that it’s just doing it.
Slovenia via Venice, then Zagreb, Belgrade and Sofia here I come.
I am sensing you are in a real groove with your writing at the moment – like your posts just flow effortlessly out of you. (I hope to get my groove back soon.) Keep it up – I feel like I’m connecting to every post. Thank you!
Really liked this post. We are going to France for 3 weeks this summer. I haven’t been there since 1997 and I am more jittery than I’d like. I want to grab the excitment and let go of the worry. I needed this post to recapture the excitment of travel.
This is very appropriate reading for me! I leave for another trip to Scotland in 3 weeks…and I am anxiously awaiting that departure day! Every trip I take adds wonderful things to my life and personality. I wouldn’t take back any of them!
I love that German word “wanderlust.” But it’s so sweet to come home and so daunting a task to try to explain changes that have taken place inside you. Most people ask about what you saw, not about what happened inside of you, so those secrets are safe. Trying to talk about an epiphany or even an incremental transformation is like trying to talk about an encounter with God. The more words you use, the less sense they make. You’re not worried about the truth of what you’re saying, you just wish you hadn’t handled something so beautiful and delicate so roughly with imprecise words. That’s a risk I’m willing to take: to travel and to be unable to explain the change.
So. True. So crazy true! What IS that?
I left my two kids (ages 4 + 2) for the first time this past January to go to a conference and the simultaneous pull to go off and experience something JUST for me but also, not wanting to leave was overwhelming.
“The bags are packed. It’s time.”
This has so many layers of meaning in my life right now. I’m not relaxed and I’ve got the jitters, but I’ve also never felt so ALIVE.
Life is an adventure, and I step over new thresholds every day into the unknown. 🙂
Agreed. Once the decision to go is made, everything seems to fall into place.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your front door. You step out on to the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you’ll be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien 🙂
I’ve never had this problem. I can’t wait to go. I count the days til my next trip wherever that is. Coming home is nice when you’ve been away for a while, but before long, you’ve settled right back in, almost like you never left. I wish that wouldn’t happen so quickly 😉
I’ve got tickets to fly to Asia in May- yeah right moneys tight. Should I go? Kinda of feel guilty about it. Then I remeber that I always get that way before a trip-and then I go anyway – and I’m always glad I did because some of the greatest experiences of my life have happened on trips ‘I shouldn’t of taken’. Relatives say I can’t afford it-and they’re right; that I’m selfish -maybe there right about that too, but I fight the urge to quit and so far I’ve kept my resolve.
It’s just amazing how negative people will stop at almost nothing to force others into accepting their “reality”. But as I look at their narrow lives, I’m even more determined to keep moving forward. Thanks for your positivity Chris. It means a lot.
Oh this post is so apt.
Tonight I’m leaving our family home of 30 years to travel round New Zealand. I’m just about to get up and finish cleaning the house and pack the car with a trillionth of my possessions. It is the last time I’ll lie in this so-comfortable bed! It’s going to a family who have fled the Christchurch earthquake.
Don’t know what the leaving will feel like; there are still lots of things to tie down before I hit the road proper in another week.
It helps to know there’s a bunch of us doing the same sort of thing.
So true. I had a hard time deciding too. Thank you for your insights, I love your articles. Kinda helped me to figure out some stuff. Now I’m packing. Going to South-Korea for 7 months this summer!
Check out my little personal blog if you like to read about it.
oops! Sorry about the spelling and grammer errors in my comment
Amen. In my opinion, as a sailor, all of the above is magnified upon departure because ports and marinas are relatively snug and secure places, whereas the open ocean always presents varying degrees of challenge. It helps to have a set deadline, or a waiting obligation.
I just returned home this week from a 10 day cruise and can honestly say I’ve returned as a ‘changed’ person. I had left behind (out of sight and out of mind) my struggling small business, my 12 year-old home-schooled son and my 15 year-old autistic son in the hands of their two moderately capable older brothers. I’m finding it refreshing to look at my home life with fresh eyes after even so short a trip abroad. Always realized that my life is a bit more stressful than most (I’m divorced with 5 kids) but the time away seriously allowed me to clear my mind! I find that every trip I’ve ever taken to a place far enough away where the landscape changes dramatically, has caused me to really reflect on the way I look outward on the world. I think that traveling in some ways ‘humbles’ a person in a way that’s difficult to expain.
I can hardly wait to take my kids this summer for their 1st trip to the ocean. I’m really anxious for them to experience the limbo you so accurately described!
Congratulations one more time.
Writting about feelings always get to the point.
This is how bad my traveling bug is: I just got home 3 days ago from a 3 week trip in Argentina and Brazil, and reading this made me want to start packing again.
btw I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and read your book. Your words have been very inspiring to me and have hit a chord with me in all aspects of my life. Thank you 🙂
I had a smile on my face reading this post, as I was taking a break from packing for my own journey around the world. I leave in six days, won’t be home for eight months and couldn’t be more excited.
So true. I’m on my nomadic adventure now, and every time I move to another place, I’m in limbo again. Wouldn’t have it any other way!
The one thing that always amazes me when I return home is how lovely my home is…..I know it is time to get-away when I begin to obsess about how the curtains need to be updated, that my home isn’t photo-ready for some designer magazine, I day dream of buying new bedding, etc. I walk in the door and am then amazed at just how great my home/nest is. I look at my home with a new eye and realize it is just great the way it is!
This acrticle is so appropriate for me! Last week I decided that I would take the plunge and go on my European OE next month. Start in Turkey to pay my respects at the ANZAC Dawn Service in Gallipoli then head over to the UK and around the mainland. It has been such an impulsive decision – I’ve been talking/planning about it for over 3yrs but didn’t think I’d get to go til next year… Now its next month! First time travelling longhaul so bit nervous but super excited 😀
Wow, this article could not have come at a better time for me. Long-time reader, first time commenting. I’ve got under two weeks until I head off to Madagascar for 2.5 months, and I have got the jitters big time (do I have everything I need, and will I be able to handle it?). From one traveler to another, thank you, Chris, for reminding me that the biggest leaps are mental rather than physical. Feeling inspired again!
To all the other readers and commenters…. go for it! You make the world a better place through your boldness. I’m rooting for you.
It is a beautiful paradox: traveling to new places refreshes the spirit by nature, while the return home imbues that which you thought to be familiar with a mysterious newness.
For this reason: traveling just plain rocks.
Thanks for the perspective shifter, Chris!
Thanks for the post Chris. It’s close to the heart of all travelers. It reminds me of a saying by Buddha:
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way and not
And there is a flavor of traveling towards truth in any journey, isn’t there?
Traveler’s Limbo. Awesome term that really catches the feelings you described. It works going out and sort of backwards on the return trip.
Perfect timing, I arrived in Dakar, Senegal
In a different season
to stay in another area and
with friends this time.
Right from the start.
I booked a ticket with Afriqiyah Airlines
because I thought it might be fun
to fly a different route.
but not revolutionary.
A last minute booking
secured me a new ticket
with a company that does not
have Tripoli as it’s hub
So true..! even if you are out for a week, when you come back it alaways feels, ‘wow.. that wasnt there when i left’! you have such a great sense of belonging, that everything looks so different, but so personal!
I enjoyed reading your article. I leave tomorrow for what is hopefully a stay of several month in South America. The feelings of leaving are always the same, and it really is intoxicating. I read a line once, I think it was from a Stephen King novel, that went something like, “Be careful, wandering is the most addictive drug that there is.” I’ve been following your blog for awhile now, I always enjoy it. Look forward to reading more from you.
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