Traveling Right

The first step to going to India is ready, $200 later. We’ve purchased malaria pills. As far as I’m concerned, we’re nearly there already.

Of course there’s the visa and the flight to fan angle  and then the actual finishing of my time in Korea and moving along to India. I’m not sure how I feel about leaving. Korea was wonderful, but largely lacked the magic that seemed so present it could not be ignored in Patagonia and Italy, and France. It doesn’t feel as transformative. I’m not literally cutting a path through the woods hiking on weekends like in Chile. I’m not learning a new language every day. Even the more bizarre parts of Korea feel oddly familiar, like the prostitute cards all over my neighborhood. I’m not making first ascents of mountains, going native with shamans, attending tea ceremonies by darkness, or worrying whether I might get robbed in the back of a rickshaw.

I have this niggling anxiety that I am not “doing traveling “right.”

Do I have too much shit? Am I too much of a coward? Am I a cultural imperialist with no real idea what the hell is going on, ever? Am I just the American? Am I not American enough? Does any of this movement mean anything, or am I just putting off the inevitable getting of a “real job” and living in the real world of adulthood? What they hell is a “real job,” if not this one that offers me benefits and health insurance? What is this holy Travel anyway?

Why am I going to India?

I’m no Greg Mortenson, failing to climb K2 and then writing best-selling accounts of bringing my wife and children to hang out with automatic weapons in Kashmir…but then considering his issues lately, maybe that’s a good thing.  I don’t want to do the Lonely Planet tour of India, although experience tells me there is probably good reason why the stops they mention are there. I want to be a trail-blazer, a nonconformist, someone unique and admirable. I want to be Jack Kerouac. I want to be Paul Theroux. I want to be my great grandmother Lela. I might already be.

I’m not sure why I travel. Some say that travel is a symptom of some big ugly mess within oneself. Some say  it’s escapism. Some say that the call of the road is contagious. I don’t know what I say.

In Korea, I’ve stopped traveling. I have too much shit. I’m too settled. I’m going to work every day and I have health insurance and I’m thinking of booking dental appointments. I have a routine. I haven’t left the Seoul Metro Area in several months. I find my appetite for the novel usurped by that for the familiar. Is that ok, or am I doing it wrong?

I find these little doubts working their way into greater arenas of life, somewhat unsurprisingly. Am I teaching right? Am I paying my bills right? Am I the right kind of girlfriend? Am I the right kind of sister? Am I the right kind of 25-year old? In all this questioning, I’ve become the alter ego of my bookclub class, the endless fountain of questions without answers. Since it’s generally agreed that one should leave a book class more confused than one entered it, is that a sign that I am actually living right? It sure doesn’t feel like it when people keep telling me to get a real job and stop this traveling madness. Just go home. Just give in.

I’m well familiar with the sudden un-suddeness of travel, and the way that the end of a trip both sneaks up on and never surprises me. This stay in Korea is the longest I’ve ever lived abroad, even if it is not the farthest. The call of India is already there, pulling me from this comfortable and easy existence into the unknown once again. Unexpectedly, I have a diffuse plan for more than six months from now. To go on vacation. 2013 is looking like a blast despite its unknowable nature and fogginess.

Each year I attempt to assign a motto to the new year, expecting that my tiny words might hold the year somehow and make it obey my own will instead of that of its own. Going into 2010, the words were “have faith.” 2011 was “into the unknown.” I can’t remember 2012’s words, although it seems from last year’s New Year’s Eve post that they may have had something to do with Florence and the Machine. This year I have no playlist of songs that led me through the dark like in 2011. 2013 is another year of embarking into the unknown. But also the unknowable, the shoe that won’t drop until at least March or April while we’re still in India and the powers that be decide where in the world (literally) I go to graduate school. This time next year, I have no idea where I will be.

2012 was an amazing year, a healing year. Despite the fact that I can’t figure out where I will be after June, 2013 will be amazing. I have no doubt that India will be transformative and beautiful in an achy way, the way that I long for travel to be. The key difference is this: I am not going alone. Not this time.

One of the few magical moments from Korea shines on under my eyelids, a sunset in September, barefoot in the fountains and watching the skyline fill with gold and orange. The Han River never looked so beautiful. Everyone seemed awed into silence, including the band who was playing with the white noise.

Welcome, 2013. Let’s do this.

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