Easter has come and gone. Just another western holiday forgotten. Before that, Christmas came and went. Before Christmas, there was Thanksgiving that went by without notice. And at the beginning of this trip, my birthday was gone before I knew it.
Most individuals of the traveler breed began traveling for a few main reasons; some vague calling, some draw from a mysterious thing, some hope of adventure, some desire to discover culture, some to discover themselves, or some because they were just fed up with their old life. Reasons can expand infinitely into the horizon of why one travels, but these are the main examples I hear from most wayward wanderers.
An overarching theme seems to come down to one point — people who are travelers deep down just don’t want to have to wash their clothes as often.
Okay, that is not the true conclusion I came to, but that definitely is something I see (and smell) often. You know who you are smell testers. I’m one too.
No, it seems like a constant with most travelers is the feeling that they just don’t fit in.
Or I should say we, because I’m sitting here in another country as well pondering the same damn thing.
Whether it be a job, or a city, or a lifestyle, or society — all seemed like they were square blocks trying to be slammed by an angry baby into a round hole.
And yet, down the road I talk to many travelers who catch the dreaded “homesickness”. Everybody is on a high cloud nine where they jet set out for that first time, gung-ho about breaking away and never going back. Then, something begins creeping into your brain. There is usually a point that hits where you go, “fuck, I miss my family and friends”. Most likely this happens when a holiday from home rolls around, or when new travel compadres part ways. It’s okay to admit this. Even the most hardcore traveler can miss something from home.
When this happens, there is suddenly a small sense of loneliness where your mind wanders back to the familiar things — the places we grew up, old family gatherings you hated at the time but would kill for now, that bed that will forever be your bed and the best fucking bed that ever existed.
I never thought this would happen to me.
I’ve come to realize a few things after traveling for a year in New Zealand, and especially now while living in Thailand during key holidays back home. Big holidays usually spent with family and friends like Christmas and Easter kind of just…come and go almost without notice while traveling. At least for me. I forget what day it is, now that most days are spent on the move or writing. I completely forget upcoming holidays usually due to the fact that I don’t have a job reminding me of it everyday.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that during the times when I do remember — it makes me miss home and miss family even more.
And not just the house with the yellow asbestos shingles and brown shudders I grew up in. I grew up in many houses — friends and families who took me in throughout my childhood and into my adulthood because I needed it. The families which I would spend weeks on end with sometimes because I didn’t want to be at my actual home. Holidays, summers, birthdays, it didn’t matter.
Yet, even with all of this, I still didn’t feel like I fit in.
Then something strange occurs. When some of us return home from a trip, we are drastically different, and though you are excited to see family and friends, soon you get that feeling that you don’t belong there. You have changed. Everything else has not.
When I was a wee lad, my mom and pop would always take the family to one of our aunt or uncle’s houses to celebrate Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Easter. And during those holidays I really didn’t care to much to be involved in any of it. I wanted to run outside or play while they all watched football, drank, and chatted. I guess I was a tad bit introverted, but at the same time I felt a little out of place and I could never explain why.
In my head I was always immersed in my “pointless imagination” as my father called it. I was always escaping even when I was physically present.
Once I got old enough to work, my family was more of a functioning cog; each person had a job and duties and outside obligations or lives. My father, my brother, and I would rarely eat dinners together. On occasion I would be able to go and visit my mother, but she always had to work two jobs to survive which left me usually laying around at her apartment. Between my father, my brother, and I, just normal conversations with each other didn’t happen much. We each worked and we each came home and we each would go to our “spot”.
My father would occasionally share stories of mischief he had caused or something when I was younger. My mother would share little things on occasion as well, but usually things that weren’t very important. In reality, my parents were people I had known all my life, and yet I don’t know anything about them. The whole family thing was of course a strong bond, but in everyday life there wasn’t much of being a family.
After my father passed and it was just my brother and I, we would do a dinner at Hooters on Christmas, but the majority of the time I spent holidays with my other families; those families that had lived across the street from my house, or down the street from my house, or behind my house. They had all been an integral part of my life. They still are now.
I spent Christmas and other holidays with them, and they would treat me no less than a son. I would enjoy being around them, and I would smile and have a good time, but for some reason I always felt out-of-place there as well. And though I love them as my own family, I couldn’t ever shake that feeling for some reason.
The same happens with my aunt and uncle. I look forward to each time that I can see them. When I do see them, I really enjoy it, but sometimes I still get that underlying feeling. I know I belong there. They have also done so much for my brother and I after the death of our father that I could never thank them enough. And I love them immensely.
Was it envy?
I still have that feeling of not fitting in sometimes. It’s as if I am false. I want to jump in and be engaged and be a part of the conversations and the family stuff. I just don’t have a clue how to show or express it. I know what it means to be family and have those strong bonds, yet I don’t know how to be a part of a family and truly show it.
I used to think it was envy. I used to think about why I just couldn’t shake that outsider feeling. I used to think that I envied how close or happy or connected their family and other people’s families were. I knew that once we left their house on holidays, or once I left a friend’s house, I would go home with my brother and my father and it would be back into the grind. My brother and father weren’t to blame, it was just the normal thing for all of us to be separate in the same house.
Envy wasn’t it. Maybe a small piece, but not the deep down reason. It’s crossed my head often lately and after talking with friends about it, I may have discovered another clue.
I don’t know how to be a functional piece of a family.
Though me and my brother’s relationship has become dramatically better, when we were in our teens the family was very one way. We wouldn’t eat breakfast or dinner together. When we’d ask the obligatory question of “how was your day” each of us would respond, “good” or “sucked” and go into our personal spaces.
When around other friends families or other parts of my own family, I just don’t know what to do. I want it dearly to come natural but I sit or stand there separated and have no clue how just to be a part of it. Because we never did that. It makes me uncomfortable. I feel awkward and unsure. Not unsure that they are all family, just not sure what the hell to do. How to be a family member.
It just wasn’t how I grew up, that aspect wasn’t there because my father had to support us and my brother worked since he was fourteen. It was just life as we knew it. And the fact that I don’t know how to be an active family member has taken a toll on a lot of close family relationships or families that were like my own. I just don’t know how to be. And it’s so frustrating.
But traveling and being on the road now makes me yearn for it. For all of those times I missed out on the connection of family and love because I was too nervous or silly or whatever this feeling is. Too nervous and unsure to open up.
Can travelers fit in? Can I?
Some travelers don’t have this issue at all. If not, then I am so very happy for you. Now leave. Just kidding, but it is a great thing when your life and your family and friends just click right. That doesn’t happen to all of us.
I do know one thing though, I miss all of my family and friends on these days now more than ever, and I would truly love to give being a functional family member a shot, however rocky it may be for my emotional state to jump right in.
Not for anything except for the fact that it is important to me. I missed out on that connection for too long, and pushed it away after that. They are all family whether blood or not.
I know us travelers have reasons why we travel and many of us feel as if we just don’t fit in back home. You want to escape so badly that you up and leave everything behind.
Except there is always one thing that we will always be a part of, something you should never run away from — family and friends. Even if we may not fit in perfectly.
However misunderstood the travel lifestyle may be to them or however much they are against it, they will always be family. Your friends that you can’t keep up with on a daily basis because you are globe-frolicking, they’ll be there too. There might be Grannie Marge that likes to knit unicorns and says cuss words more than a sailor, or Uncle Danny that enjoys a few too many beers and likes to scream about politics, or maybe your older brother or sister that thinks it is utterly irresponsible for you not to have a stable job and bitches about it constantly. But then they spend thousands of dollars on a television.
Then there is you.
You. Yeah you. Amongst that crowd of strangelings, the people you think you are so different and will never understand you, you’re the one who sold everything to live in 12 bed hostels and wear the same shirt three days in a row. Who’s strange now?
You don’t have to worry about trying to fit in, you may never come to an agreement or an understanding. Family and friends may never get why you want to do what you’re doing. The same reason why you don’t get why they are doing what they do.
The bottom line: All you have to do is to be family. Accept it.
I don’t think I’ll ever fit into a normal career job since my mind will always be pulled aloft to far away places, but I do know that I want to make more of an effort to be a part of people’s lives that mean something to me.
And I’m trying to learn how to do this. Well, actually how to allow myself to.
Even though families can be arduous or dysfunctional or annoying or chaotic or bat-shit crazy, don’t forget while on the road after leaving everything behind that there is still something back home that is a part of you forever.
I’ve made myself a loner for too long, and though I’ve always felt like I didn’t fit in, fuck it. Because this is what matters…
Have you ever missed home, and then returned to find yourself feeling out of place?