It happens, usually about two beers in, where I feel myself forgetting the things I think I should do and become content with just doing what I am doing. I guess it is a ‘be here now moment’. So much of traveling, especially mine where I am rather certain I will not return to the place I am, is filled with things you think you are supposed to do rather than the things you actually want to do. I feel it is an ongoing battle and am surprised, with my years of traveling, that I still experience this. I suppose it really is the fact that I don’t think I will return that I feel the need to do and see everything, even if it is not what I actually want to do.
I still remember the moment, on a beach in Las Peñitas, Nicaragua in 2007 when I finally decided that I do not care about museums or churches or whatever else the guide book tells me I must see. I was meant to be leaving said beach and very clearly in my body and soul did not want to. But if I did not, I would not get to do and see whatever it is I thought (at the time) I was supposed to see. I was toes deep in sand when I very clearly decided I did not care.
I was traveling alone, I was on a two month time schedule to get to Panama and back to Honduras for my flight out and the only thing telling me to go and see was a guide book. Who was I trying to impress? If it were anyone back home, or whoever I might end up telling my traveling stories to, I could very easily lie…’yes, I saw such and such museum, church, ruin, monastery. Oh it was amazing,” how would they know the difference anyway.
So that is not what I cared about. Rather I think it was something innate within me telling me, ‘you must do this and that, or else you are missing out.’ It was very hard to convince myself to stay on that beach in Nicaragua for a few more days enjoying the sun and my writing, but at the same time there was something very releasing about it. I allowed myself to decide what exactly and WHY exactly I travel.
That was all before I set my goal to travel to every country and therefore before I knew I would not be back to the places I visited, so perhaps that made it easier. I do not know. What I do know is that I very much enjoyed that journey, doing exactly what I wanted to do. Not stepping foot inside a church, entering very few museums and instead laying on beaches, meeting locals, lingering over long dinners in outdoor cafés, read entire novels in a day, writing away.
So how am I here, 10 years later and still having this sort of traveler’s regret before I’ve even left the place? Again, I have to think, that now that I have determined my goal and set my rules of not returning till I have visited every country, takes with it that sort of ‘do everything you can while you can’ attitude. I get that. I do. But that doesn’t negate the fact that there are certain things I enjoy and certain things I do not. What kind of fun would I have if all I did were the things in the ‘sights’ category of my travel guide, even though I thoroughly do not enjoy them. There comes a time where we have to be honest with ourselves and decide that traveling or vacation is indeed for us. Us unique individuals who travel for myriad different reasons and each journey will indeed be unique in this way.
I am ok with that. Truly I am. And that’s why I like this state, two beers in, sitting in a riot bar (not even mentioned in my guide, but highly suggested by a friend) and thoroughly enjoying two of my favorite things, drinking and writing, in a unique bar I am quite certain I will never come upon the likes of again. This is what I enjoy. This is what traveling is for me. Yet sadly it takes me two beers to come to the realization, or rather the acceptance that that is ok.
One beer in I was lamenting not having gone into the numerous free museums my Budapest discount card allowed me, feeling guilty for taking time to write (and drink) fully knowing that today is my last day in Budapest and tomorrow I would be off to another part of Hungary. Even though I very consciously decided to go to said bar. Clearly my intuition is a few steps ahead of me, thank goodness. After a rather tiresome day of doing the things I thought I should do and battling Saturday crowds and not entirely not enjoying myself, I retired to my hostel to write. Mind you, something I very much anticipated doing a lot of, only to find myself feeling guilty that I was not out and about ‘enjoying’ my last day in Budapest. At which point I decided, or rather my heart did, to go to a riot bar. The most famous in Budapest.
Here I have written on my novel and surpassed 50,00 words, a milestone I have been working towards for more than three years, drunk incredible beer, met an Irish couple and three dock men from Denmark, all while people watching and admiring the crazy riot bar that is Szimpla (surprisingly translated to ‘single’ rather than ‘simple’ as I had assumed. Perhaps more fitting for me, the solo traveler.) Should I regret that?
Of course not. So perhaps the solution is to drink at least two beers daily and as early as possible to avoid this traveler’s regret. Or perhaps a simpler solution would be to come to terms with the very thing I did ten years ago and simply decide that what I want to do is exactly what I should do. And if, I ever make it to my goal, perhaps Budapest, or Puerto Rico, or Saigon, or Buenos Aries will be the very next place I shall go.
Do you have any tales of traveler’s remorse? Share them in the comments please.