July 20, 2018

Back in the day, I often pondered about how long-term travelers felt on the road - sometimes fantasized about it - and how it was possible that many of them ended up in a state of numbness where they "need a vacation from vacation". When one told me he went to the UK and just stayed in a castle for days - no tours whatsoever - I gasped in horror.

"Why?" the imprudent traveler in me wondered. There is much to see in the world, isn't there?

"I already saw and experienced what I wanted. There's nothing much the world outside offered that I didn't have." The depth of such wisdom was quite lost on me then, but now, years later, I'm beginning to understand.

A friend showed me one of her earlier pieces when she wasn't traveling for work yet. It was brimming with sheer optimism and zeal. "Disillusioned," she said, "but happy". With newly baptized travelers, there's an ever-present sense of awe, no matter how mediocre a sight is. Everything looks and feels shiny and pretty.

A couple of years ago, I cried on the plane from Singapore, watching the horizon turn from tangerine to violet. It was my first trip out of the Philippines (the first solo one too). Joy overwhelmed me so much that the tears only stopped halfway through the four-hour trip back home.

Then one day, I just woke up knowing that that feeling wanes fast when you travel for work. The more you see and experience, the more you lose that wide-eyed wonder. I used to think it was smug - even ungrateful and privileged - to say that, but turns out travel fatigue isn't a myth. It's as real as the breakfast you didn't want on your plate this morning.

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We haven't gone long-term backpacking yet. I didn't set out to sojourn to achieve record-breaking statistics. When not doing it for work, I travel according to my own principles, my own terms, without regard for numbers. But still it got to this point when itineraries and trip planning no longer excite; when domestication appeals more than the outdoors. That point when your kid asks you to join her for a dip and you'd refuse every time because every nerve and bone seem to say no to the slightest idea of wanderlust. It wasn't like this two, three, four years ago. I am grateful for the opportunity to travel for work and always will be, but why do I not see and feel things the way I used to anymore? Have I turned jaded? Have I worn out my own sense of adventure?

Standards and world view drastically shift the more you walk the world. There are parts of you that will be compromised - your naivety and zest included. In these times, I envy Lia. For her, everything is awe-inspiring and brand new. How I wish we adults had an endless supply of awe like children do. Maybe the world would be different then --- or at least ours.

*Photo by Martin San Diego

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