Travel,  Y'know, Life

Is Long-Term Travel Lonely? Let Me Ask My Own Sad, Lonely A** Real Quick

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.

 

Berna can’t come to any of her responsibilities right now; please leave a message after the DROOL. (Mt. Batur, Indonesia)

 

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,
Shut. It. 

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.

 

I SWING THIS LONELY SWING / THE ONLY SWING THAT I HAVE EVER SWUNG (Ubud, Indonesia)

 

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.

 

Who needs friends when you have a ~bullet journal~, amiriiiite rocks?! (Moeraki, New Zealand)

 

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.

 

Oh, self. You’re such a good listener. ….. Did you just hang up? (Titirangi, New Zealand)

 

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.

 

Something we’re sorely missing in Vietnam: Family. Even the tiny, temporary kind that hates you for the first 2 weeks and then refuses to release your hand for the next 5. (Ubud, Indonesia)

 

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.

 

Speaking of waves: Will posing like this get me friends? Asking for a friend. JK we have no friends out here lol (Gili Air, Indonesia)

 

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.

 

TFW there’s no one but your boyfriend to emotionally attach to so sometimes you get attached to cars lol relatable (Christchurch, New Zealand)

 

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 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.

 

Till then, I have my feetsies. HI, FEETSIES. (Hoi An, Vietnam)


Y’all ever get lonely? How do you deal? HALP ME.

**turns on Janet Jackson’s “I Get So Lonely”; waits for your response**

6 Comments

  • The Kashish

    This!! Home is where the heart belongs. I feel this sudden urge to go back to my home after staying away in a Uni for 3-4 months. I mean I miss my mother scolding me or my dad annoying me, I even miss arguing with my lil sis. Damn, I miss the food my mother cooks, whenever I go and brunch out with gal pals!

    https://thekashish.wordpress.com/2017/02/01/homesick-less/

    I wrote this a year ago and wow, since when was I such a sad, soppy, person?!? THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS BERNA! HOME WAITS FOR YOU TOO! STAYING TUNED IN FOR YOUR NEXT BLOG.

    • bernadetteanat

      YES. Thank you, Kashish! I hope I didn’t rekindle too many homesicky feels, but, yes. You begrudgingly start to miss all the tiny, big, weird things that you never thought you would. And then somehow, admitting it feels like defeat, even though it’s not — it’s human? And it’s so wonderful to HAVE things to miss. BEING HUMAN IS SO WEIRD, and I’m really glad you can relate.

      Now, off to read your blog and obsess accordingly 🏃🏽‍♀️

  • Richelle

    I totally get this. Living as an expat in China was a bit easier because I had an office and a community, but living nomadically is hard! I was just in Tanzania for three months and my fiance and I had zero friends. We literally went solid weeks where we pretty much only talked to each other. I don’t know where you are right now, but if you’re still in Hoi An, I just moved here!

    • bernadetteanat

      YES. Exactly this! It’s the “never setting down roots and finding community” thing that gets to us. Plus the intense language barrier, which you know all about! Thank you so much for hollering and relating to my brain. Dangit, we’re in Hanoi now, but we’re here for the next few weeks — please holler if your adventures bring you up here?

  • Paula Rayo

    Ahhh everything you said was so on point and so refreshing to know I wasn’t the only one who felt this way in my travels. I traveled for 6 months with my boyfriend in South America and that was enough for me for all the same reasons you have listed here. He wanted us to continue traveling in Asia but I just wanted to start building my nest and community back home already. And you know what ended up happening? I unintentionally landed a job at the airport so now we both get free unlimited flights with the airline I work for! It is the perfect balance of feeling anchored somewhere but still have the ability to take weekend trips anywhere.

    This part really struck a chord in my heart: “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 can relate to that so much. Also, how do those long term travellers on Insta manage to always look so good as if they are on a movie set? The reality of long term travel is that you’re constantly struggling to keep up with hygiene, let alone appearances, because you’re only carrying your bare essentials and ain’t no one got time for that.

    Thanks for you blogs and posts and for always keeping it so real 😉
    Sincerely,
    -a brown girl in Canada but a white girl in Colombia

    • bernadetteanat

      UGH PAULA. Thank YOU for making me feel seen and heard and affirmed from across the pond! That’s exactly it — it’s weird to admit that you’re ready to start nesting/community-building when the ~sexy~ thing to do is TrAveL fOrEvEr. But honesty to yourself is way more important than seeming ~sexy~. And look how the universe rewarded you – GIRL FREE UNLIMITED FLIGHTS. What an incredible freaking opportunity slash life hack!

      The reality of long term travelers making it look good on Insta is that that’s their JOB. Their whole job. I’ve learned it will literally eat up your whole time in a foreign country just getting ready/cute, setting up shots, getting the shots, editing, editing some more, posting, marketing, networking… And hey, some people like to travel like that. Some don’t. Me and you, we don’t got time fa dat 🤗 Thank YOU for your honesty. So so much luv to you & your boyf!

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