I was Today years old when I learned that feeling lonely can make you tired. Is that weird?
I always thought of loneliness as an isolating thing; a quiet and vaguely cold thing that mutes you, but doesn’t necessarily drain you. I thought it was a flat, gray feeling for flat, gray days, and certainly not a condition for a traveler as social, as hyper and as brown as me.
Turns out, you can spend whole days in an exciting foreign country, eating new food, talking to new people, doing thrillingly unfamiliar things next to your best friend and still feel … mmph. Even with the last few weeks of exciting upward sprints in our freelance work — videos! blogs! podcasts! new, scary stuff! — something has sucked the motivation right out of me in the last few days.
Boo, hiss, go back to being happy
In true Type-A form, I first turn to the guilty place: Shut your goddamn mouth, Berna. Shut it with Vietnamese food. You’re living the first world dream, debt free, and with that, you are inherently unallowed to feel anything but positively ‘grammable joy.
Don’t be the annoying disenchanted princess,
you are still living like royalty,
I’m grateful, I’m thankful, I’m full to the brim with crazy, dumb fortune.
So why do I feel no juice to work on the things I was so jacked about a week ago?
I did a lil’ annoying soul-searching – you can do that with long-term travel – and it turns out, it’s actually pretty simple, y’all.
I’m just lonely.
Quoth the poet, Rihanna: Werwerwerwerwerk
I’m toddling onto the path of entrepreneuralism, and as discussed ad nauseum with every digital nomad I’ve met out here, it’s incredibly easy to work all the goddamn time. Especially when you’re psyched to the tits about your cause.
You feel powerful knowing that every dollar you make is up to you, but also incredibly guilty for every second you spend not hustling. You’ll be sipping your happy hour beer like, Shit. Should I be working on That Thing right now?
So, that’s what I’ve been doing: Filling my whole day, every crevice, with work. You know how personal finance gurus tell you to give every dollar you earn a job? I’ve been giving every waking minute a job, too. This minute is for writing. This minute is for editing. All these minutes are for answering e-mails and DMs.
And oh, shit, right — I should probably put these minutes towards, like, sleeping and peeing and, like, seeing Vietnam.
She’d def lonely if she’s talking to herself
While I’m filling every life crack with work, a dialogue in my head keeps replaying that sounds like this:
Why would I choose this entrepreneurial, nomad life?
For autonomy. For passion-driven work. For freedom.
Freedom to do what?
To travel. To eat. To live fully and completely with the people I love.
And where are all those people you love?
Did this life let you attend Lola’s birthday dinner last weekend?
Did this life take you hiking with dad on Father’s Day?
What was that, lil’ bish? Was that a “no”?
What’s this life for, again?
…. MAN SHUT UP HAVE COMPASSION, MY ADOBE PREMIERE IS FROZEN
Over and over and over.
Now, those of you who’ve followed along are probably like, “Berna, you Keebler Elf. (Rude?) You’re traveling the world with your partner. You should be the least lonely person on the planet right now.”
But here’s something I’m actually very proud of: Peter and I are individually whole and separate people. We haven’t fused into codependence, which I was originally afraid of at the beginning of this trip. And as wholly separate humans, we miss different people. We need different things from different places. We both firmly believe that it takes a village to raise you, and I love that we can’t be everything for each other.
We are lucky to have each other to feel loneliness, side by side. And we’re lucky to have that kind of openness in our relationship to share that and comfort one another. But, yes, there’s another kicker for you: Loneliness inside of a whole relationship is definitely a thing.
One ticket to my own bed, please
Traveling the world and working on our passions? Those are two outrageous luxuries that I don’t ever want to take for granted. But it seems we’ve chosen these luxuries at the expense of others.
Because you know what else is luxurious?
Watching your only living grandparent excitedly kiss every one of her 17 grandchildren on her 89th birthday.
Dropping everything to hike with your dad on Angel Island while he tells you about his retired surfer boy days in Guam.
Screaming and banging pots in the front row of your (very embarrassed) niece’s 8th grade graduation.
Expressing excitement for your cousin’s new baby by sniffing her head and squeezing that fleshiest part of her arm in real life.
Lazy Netflix Sundays, Get Boba & Talk Shit Tuesdays, Coming To Drop Off Nail Polish But Ending Up Staying For Dinner & Playing With Your Dog Thursdays? Those are insane luxuries, too, because they’re shared with something no credit card points or budgeted money can buy: Loved ones. Loved ones you share a history with; loved ones who love you back, despite your ratchetry. People who speak your inner and outer language fluently. People you never, ever need to explain yourself to.
Loneliness sucks, but like, literally
I guess I always thought of loneliness as more of a static, one-dimensional condition — a sad-ass hat, if you will — rather than an active movement; a living shadow that sucks, and pulls, and takes. But that’s what’s been dimming the lights around here lately. Sometimes the motivation and energy to Do Life leaves me, because I can’t feel the people I am Doing Life for.
It doesn’t mean we’re packing up and booking a ticket home tomorrow. We’ve learned that homesickness, like so many wompy moods, comes in waves. And we know it’s possible for more than one feeling to be true at the same time.
I’m too tired to lie to you
I’m not afraid to say that sometimes, being out here sucks balls and I want out. I’ll tell you straight-up that sometimes it doesn’t feel worth missing out on life back home. The travel world makes it seem like traveling forever is the ideal life — because to protect that notion is, frankly, protecting a lot of creators’ jobs — but honestly? Fuck that. I’m so excited for what we’ll be coming back to. I could not and do not want to keep up the travel life for long.
At the same time, I cannot begin to describe how incredible total financial freedom and long-term travel can feel. When we left, we had no idea what kind of joy what we were in for. I want to bottle up what it’s like to wake up in a gorgeous new country, every morning, having complete control over your whole day, and knowing you’ll be doing that for at least the next 364 days, too. We saved up to spend on travel, but what we really bought was precious, outerworldly freedom.
Sniff your loved ones, y’all
All ‘dem travel luxuries you see online? Sometimes they’re better than you imagine them to be, and sometimes, they suck so much worse. Currently, I’m hideously jealous of everyone who, in the next hour, could conceivably sniff their mom’s head or gather their friends for an emergency shit-talking session. If that’s you, then you have the life that I want. It’s a weird world. (Considering the current US administration, it’s not totally inconceivable to believe we’re in the Upside Down.)
But if you’ve made it all the way down here, fair Reader? I hope you have the luxury of time to take a second and think of the delicious, rich things that come easy to you today — your family, your friends, any and every part of your health, or your ability spend time with humans that truly know you.
I hate to say shit like ~the best things in life are free~ — it isn’t true, anyway, because a Madame Kanh Banh Mi is at least $1.50 — but there is some truth to it, and it’s an important mental lesson to learn. Don’t bust ass thinking a ticket somewhere will buy you gratitude. That’s something you can have from the comfort of your Right F**king Now.
All I know is: I love this insane life, I’m grateful out of my mind, and also?
I cannot wait to go home.
Y’all ever get lonely? How do you deal? HALP ME.
**turns on Janet Jackson’s “I Get So Lonely”; waits for your response**