The reasons of why we travel change as we grow up, grow older, have families and move on in our lives. This week’s answer to the why do you travel question features the perspective of Lisa, who travels as a single mom.
Lisa is a divorced, single mom to two boys and one girl. She writes because keeping the thoughts somewhere other than her head is necessary and because people look at her funny when she talks to herself…and then answers. She makes a living as a freelance writer, ghost author and speaker. In her spare time she blogs at backtoallen.com, is starting a new blog at singlemomtravels.com, sweats out stress at hot yoga and prefers red over white.
Why do I travel? I thought this would be easy to write, and in some respects it is. But, like anything else that really matters, it’s anything but simple.
I’ve always had a whisper of gypsy in me. Growing up in a small town, and the oldest of a houseful of kids, I think that was just wishful thinking and assuming that the grass really was greener outside state lines. As a teenager I couldn’t wait to fly the coop, and fly I did; I left the heartland for the big city, and stayed for many years.
Everyday there was a new adventure, even if I didn’t venture far. Each time I turned a corner, there was the potential for something interesting; I heard different languages, saw distinctly different faces, tasted wildly different foods. I loved every minute of it, and it seemed like each experience left me wanting more.
But, as it so happens, responsibilities got in the way of wants. Instead of playing tourist in places I’d pinned on a map, I worked. Had a baby. Got married. Had more babies. Moved out of the city. Got divorced.
Funny enough, it was my divorce that reignited my wanderlust. I always knew, when I was married, that we’d operate on the ‘hope’ system. ‘Gee, I hope we can take a vacation this year….’ And ‘I hope that we’ll go there someday.’ Hopes never translated to action, and I was never ok with that.
Then, not too long ago, I was sitting in a tea shop in Chicago waiting for the matinee of Kinky Boots to start. I was there with a boyfriend, sans kids, and had heard one too many times variations of ‘you left your kids at home to travel?’ and ‘how do you do that, being alone and all?’
I thought long and hard about the implications behind the questions. There’s the guilt, of course, of going solo and actually enjoying the time away on the few occasions I travel without my kids. But there’s more to it than just that.
There’s a funny thing that happens when you go from a family with two parents to a family with one; spoken or not, there are certain things people expect us not to do. Cooking a big holiday dinner is one, because ‘it’s just you guys, so why bother?’ (actual story). Taking family vacations is another.
But my kids didn’t choose to have divorced parents, and their memories are worth fighting for. So—right now– I travel for the same reasons that I fill the table with homemade food on holidays: because I want them to have the same types of experiences that all of their friends do. I want them to fill scrapbooks with pictures of different places and new foods, and I want them to know that no matter what challenges life throws their way, they can still live a life they choose.
I never want them to assume that because it’s just me, it’s not safe to explore or that because it’s just my income, we can never afford to leave our town. I want them to understand that restrictions are only binding if we allow them to be, but that with a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of backbone, we can write our own rules.
As they grow older, and move on to their own version of greener grass, I’ll travel again for myself. I’ll travel because I can’t imagine an afternoon more interesting than one spent walking streets I’ve never seen before, anticipating what treasure I’ll encounter around the next corner. I’ll travel because it’s through getting lost in different cultures that I find an appreciation for my roots, but most importantly I will travel simply because I can.
What about you? Why do you travel?