My favorite way to procrastinate from the grad school work I have to do is look through all of my travel photos. A few weeks ago I looked at my photos from my trip to Stockholm and Copenhagen, a trip that was a mere five months ago but felt more like five years ago. The trip was only two weeks long and I wish I could have had more time to spend in both of these beautiful cities.
Similarly, I met a friend of a friend at a bonfire recently and he had just come back from a month in India where he was doing a little bit of soul-searching and some volunteer work. He said he definitely did not regret going and got what he went there for but only wishes he had a little more time. He wants to go back for six months to really feel the effects of his travels.
Is short-term travel worth the trip or is long-term travel, lasting several months to a year, the only way to benefit from our experiences abroad?
Four years ago, I started working and living abroad in London and all of my memories during my six months there have stayed with me to this day. And in fact, not a day goes by without something or someone reminding me of my time in that beautiful city – long conversations over dinner with friends, nights in and out with housemates, weekend trips to the countryside, or Sunday afternoons spent at a museum or walking through a new neighborhood. I knew that I would be going back home to California eventually, but there was no time limit. I had no commitments or responsibilities back home. I was fully invested in London.
This past May, I was looking forward to my trip to Scandinavia. I had just finished my first year of grad school and needed a break from work. I left the smart phone and laptop at home and had some “me” time. I reunited with old friends, made some new ones, and whole-heartedly enjoyed wandering through Stockholm and Copenhagen with no schedule to adhere to. However, I knew the exact date and time that I had to leave and go back home. Thoughts about work or what friends and family were doing back at home creeped into my mind from time to time and it was a struggle to relax.
Like the friend from the bonfire, I don’t regret my trip to Scandinavia one bit. I went there for many reasons – to see an old friend, to travel solo for the first time, and to take a break and I learned some new things about myself that I’m grateful for. Short-term travel is right for my life right now and so I guess the debate between short-term and long-term travel depends on the context of your life. I was a recent college graduate with no obligations when I moved to London so that is why my experience there was so liberating and one I always hold close to my heart.
Now, I’m completely invested in work and school and my family and friends so that long-term travel just doesn’t quite fit (but I hope it does in the future). I will always look forward to two-week breaks in the years to come because I believe they are necessary when we become too wrapped up in the routines of our small worlds. Two week bursts of travel to the new gives us some perspective to take back home with us so that we may do things a little bit differently and a little bit better. Should I forget just how wonderful the trip was, luckily I have journals and photographs to help me remember and become a champion procrastinator.