Around the world travel, Backpacking, long term travel, Travel

Cognitive Dissonance – Roots vs Wings

I am borrowing the title of this entry from Elisabeth Eaves, author of Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents. In this book, Eaves shares with us her isatiable desire to travel the world. She can’t stay in her hometown for more than half a year; a house, mortgage and possessions leave her feeling trapped; and her list of places to go is never-ending. I can relate. I’ve been there. I’ve come home from 6-month trips and been on the computer within one week looking for the cheapest one-way ticket back to where I was. I have felt her pain.

In one part of her book, Eaves brings up the theory of cognitive dissonance, not in the same way I’m using it here, but I don’t feel like I can take creative credit for the title. Cognitive dissonance is “a discomfort caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously.” (Thank you, wikipedia.) You see, I thought I was always going to feel like Eaves. I feared staying in one place too long or getting too comfortable. In one of my old journal entries, I actually wrote “embrace uncertainty and fear comfort.” But now, as I get older, I am beginning to realize the importance of roots. As parents begin to age, and the place you grew up is no longer your home, as babies emerge on the scene, and more time is spent state-side in other people’s homes, i realize that i need some roots.

This is not to say I am hanging up the traveling backpack. As I write this, I am actually one-week away from departing on another backpacking adventure, but in the past few years, as my wings have lead me to put down some roots (in order to top up the bank account), the roots I have put down intermittently have also given me a greater appreciation of my ability to fly. Maybe I have found a sense of balance between the two? Maybe roots and wings can co-exist peacefully?

As I searched today, and found the same one-way British Airways fare to Turkey that I’ve been looking at since July, I was glad that the price hadn’t increased, but before I clicked through to purchase the ticket, I hesitated. My hand hovered over the mouse, and I wondered what a winter in Nantucket might be like, how cold and windy it really gets. I knew I could convince myself that either decision, to stay or to go, was the right one, but what truly was the right one for me, right now? Which choice was me being true to myself and what I want?

The reality is, the choice to put down roots will always be there, but once roots are planted and secure in the ground, the more difficult it is to go. AND, the choice to go will NOT always be there. This upcoming journey is going to be a special one. I don’t know how many more opportunities I will have to leave for extended periods of time on end. Maybe the future of my travel is longer periods of time at “home” and shorter trips abroad. So I am embarking on this trip with that in mind, and I am forever thankful for making the decision to go and see and do all that I did 2 years ago.

So, I click purchase, with some hesitancy. Just 24 hours ago, I really had myself convinced the right thing to do was to buy a car, drive back to Nantucket, work the winter and stay close to home. I get the email confirmation from the website and then another one from the airline, and I wait for that feeling to set in, that Christmas Eve feeling. I’m nervous. Did I do the right thing? I go out and run errands… I’ve been told I need a head lamp for Nepal and trekking shoes. I receive an email from friends who will be in Istanbul two days after I arrive… it’s happening. The butterflies are back. The comforts of home are the last things on my mind. Where will I stay in Istanbul the first night? I must call my grandmother and organize seeing her in London during my layover? What will the food be like? Will I make it to Israel and stay in a kibbutz?

All of these thoughts flood my mind, but the nicest reassurance is knowing after this big adventure, I have somewhere I can call home to go back to, somewhere I have found, a place where I would be quite content to put down roots, even if it’s not for 12 months out of the year. Until then, stay tuned…

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