What Does It Mean, To Travel?

My intention when I started this blog was to write lots of travel stories. At one point, I even toyed with the idea of making it exclusively a travel blog, but I realized I don’t travel enough to sustain that, so I extended the range a bit. But still, travel was meant to be a central focus.

Then COVID hit.

The pandemic meant my 50th birthday trip was postponed. The plan had been a month-long tour through Europe, including a visit to my favourite music festival, Wacken Open Air, in Germany. It was no surprise when the festival was cancelled, and even if it hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have been comfortable going.

But it was still a bummer.

Wacken gave ticket holders the option to carry their tickets forward to this year, which of course I did. A little part of me even held out hope that the trip might happen. But even though the festival hasn’t been cancelled as of yet, it’s clear now that I won’t be vaccinated in time to attend – not to mention that, in one of life’s little ironies, (of the smack-in-the-face variety), one of Ron’s shots is on the festival’s first scheduled day.

All this means that it’s been about a year-and-a-half since I’ve travelled – outside of a single road trip, which I don’t really count because it was only one night and didn’t involve a plane ride – and it’s likely to be more than a year before I do.

It’s not like a year-and-a-half is the longest I’ve ever gone between trips. But it’s different this time. It’s not by choice, and the fact that it’s prohibited has changed my entire experience. Normally, the day I get home from one trip is the day I start planning the next. There are always ideas floating around and places getting added to my To Visit List. Over time, nebulous ideas coalesce into actual plans and itineraries. In my head, I never stop travelling.

Except now I have.

Where I used to dream, I now kind of dread. I long to go back to Wacken … but not if we can’t mosh. I want to film Ron doing laps at the Nürburgring … but not if I have to worry about other spectators at YouTube Corner getting too close. I’d love to spend an evening in a beer garden … but not if half the tables are empty and the patrons are boxed in by plexiglass. I’d hope to visit multiple countries … but not if I have to self-isolate after crossing each border.

Most bothersome of all, though, is that my ever growing To Visit List has … well, it’s simply stopped growing. I don’t try to find things to add to it, and no longer make note of things I stumble across because it feels pointless.

I’ve been saying for a year now that what matters most is that my friends and family and I are all safe and comfortable. None of us have been ill and we’re financially secure. We live in a country that can afford vaccines.

Those considerations are important, of course, but when I realized that I absolutely 100% would not be travelling this year, they stopped helping. As I explored why, I realized how much of my personal identity is tied into travel. I grew up in a small village populated with a lot of small-minded people who thought the wider world was a scary place. I never felt I belonged there, and when I left, I began the long process of learning who I really am. Travel helped me do that. The more I travelled, the more I learned. And the more I learned, the more I wanted to travel.

Now though, the world has gotten smaller, and sadly, my dreams have shrunk right along with it.

Perhaps that’s why I feel rather lost these days.

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