What traveling does to your brain
For days after I return home from a trip, I feel like I’m in a fuzzy state between dreams and reality.
Nothing feels concrete — my memories from the past few days, or weeks, or months seem to jumble; my limbs seem to move without actively trying.
And the best part? Even the shittiest situations can’t touch me. It’s like I’m riding on a cloud, and no amount of dog piss on the sidewalk, or sweaty arms colliding on the subway, or office woes will knock me off of it.
Until one day, It disappears.
All of a sudden, the high wears off. Every day becomes your Every Day again. The jumble of foreign languages in your neighborhood bodega doesn’t sound just as magical as it did in a faraway land.
You begin to yearn for your next trip: the next time you can feel indestructible and curious and carefree at the same time.
But these thoughts only surface upon reflection. Because while traveling, I am tired and hungover and likely haven’t had a good shower. I am stuck on planes and trains and crowded, old buses. I am lost and confused and can only communicate with hand movements. And, I’m broke.
As glamorous as Traveling may sound, no amount of Instagram filters can mask the shittiness of a plane delay.
But, honestly — these far-from-glamorous moments never bother me. Most of the time the quality of my situation, one I probably (definitely) wouldn’t stand for in my normal life, doesn’t even register.
Most of the time, the shittiness is actually quite comical.
I’ve been contemplating all of the magical benefits that travel has on your mind, and body, and soul, because I just returned home from a 10-day trek around the Mediterranean.
I spent my mornings awakened by the sweet, fresh air of the mountains, and the smell of figs and lemons and freshly baked bread. I didn’t spend any time at the gym, but my body was strengthened by the constant ups and downs of old stairs in town. My brain was rejuvenated by the sun and the sea and the easy laughter that comes with forgetting about the time.
But, when I think about it more critically — my days were also filled with waiting for an old, crowded bus filled to the brim with sweaty travelers. We got lost and hand communications didn’t always work. We got slapped with fees for baggage and fees for tardiness and basically fees for breathing.
But who cares, right?
Because, I realized that Traveling makes you relaxed in an adventurous sort of way. It helps you see the bigger picture. It helps you be forgiving.
Because, Traveling the best form of medicine.
Before I left, I was so tightly wound that it took me days to defrost. To stop checking the time and the itinerary and that “We’re having fun, right?”
It took ferry rides and Mediterranean sun and 4 euro bottles of Prosecco to take a breather. To realize that it’s about the Journey and Not about the Destination.
In need of Limoncello — Capri, Italy
As soon as we stepped off of the ferry in Capri’s main port, not even the boatloads of Chinese tourists could bother me.
We made It.
My boyfriend and I pulled our rolling luggage down the road and straight into a taxi. We could smell the relaxation already.
“This is the life,” I exclaimed, as a let out an exhale filled with the frustrations of a day full of travel.
We snaked through the windy mountain roads, and let the fresh breeze with a hint of lemon waft the scent of planes and trains and ferries from our hair.
Until we stopped.
“Ok-hey lady and man — we are Here,” said our driver with a think Italian accent. He proceeded to hurry us out of the car, luggage already neatly lined on the sidewalk.
On we went.
We were in the center of town. Dupi and I knew that we would have a “short” walk to our hotel, since cars are not allowed past a certain point. Even though the windy cobblestone roads were crowded (to say the least) with people and shopkeepers and outdoor tables all vying for room in the narrow streets.
We started the slow, noisy walk up the mountain to our hotel — not without stares and noses turned down as the chic Italians watched us pass.
We were Tourists, of course.
I couldn’t help thinking we were doing something wrong; I didn’t see anyone else with luggage, which seemed to be a frustrating feat for all around — us included.
But, Dupi and I trudged on, until we finally reached our hotel more than 20-minutes and a handful of wrong turns later.
When we arrived at the front desk, we dragged our luggage and wiped the sweat from our brow. The old, Italian innkeeper took one look at us and shook his head.
“You brought your luggage all the way here? You didn’t notice the porters? Oy!” He waved his hands in frustration and left the room.
Dupi and I looked at each other and shrugged — what could we do about it now?
Our innkeeper came back in a few minutes with a bottle of Limoncello and 2 shot glasses.
We thanked him with a smile, and took two shots each. We needed them.
And ten minutes later, we were on our way to the beach — sans baggage.
In normal life, I’m sure that tidbit of information too little too late would have made me really angry.
I would have stomped away and thoughts would have plagued the rest of my afternoon like: How could we have missed the porters? We could have saved so much time. And energy. And gotten here more quickly so we could lay by the pool and sleep and eat and drink earlier.
But, Travel Me didn’t really think twice.
I quickly grasped that I couldn’t change our decisions, and what the hell — it was fun anyway. Although we were sweaty and frustrated, we laughed and got to know the town a little bit better, luggage and all.
Because, that’s what Traveling does to your brain.
It helps you realize that the shitty moments happen, and the breathtaking ones are worth it. It’s sleeping on airport chairs for hours to sleep under the stars for a night. It’s breathing in the sweaty stench of strangers to smell the sweet scent on the mountains. It’s carrying your bags down old, broken stairs to ride up an ancient mountain on a donkey’s back.
It’s sacrificing and absorbing the lows, because you know what the highs will feel like.
Those moments change your perspective when you get back to Real Life. They help you become more patient and willing and adventurous and hopeful.
Even while squished on your morning commute.
Because, you know that it’s like to eat handpicked figs in Southern Italy, and watch sunsets in Santorini. You believe in the human ability to communicate through smiles and waving hands and head shakes.
You know that Things Get Better.
And, those shitty moments? Well, they make Everything else worth it.