Traveling tends to be romanticized, especially in our present time when social media only beckons the ‘good stuff.’ There’s a misconception that it’s always carefreeness, always wide-toothed grinning, always the act of finding yourself and the answers to life in a light and peaceful way. Although those are huge components, there’s an unpopular truth that no one really talks about when it comes to packing your bags and venturing to a foreign place.

Traveling will break your heart. I’ve realized that paradise is often balanced with melancholy, as I’ve spent much of this trip in a sort of shadowy introspection. No matter how many tours you book or nights you spend at clubs, traveling has a way of peeling back all the distractions and making you really look at yourself. I was dealing with some heartache at home that carried with me overseas, and have been forced to process it in the meditative lull of long train rides and waves against the shore during a sunset.

Traveling makes you uncomfortable. It makes you vulnerable, confused, more aware of you and your life than perhaps you want to be. It cracks you open. It has a way of making you examine what you’ve had in your life and what you haven’t, your relationships, what you want next.

Inevitably, there is longing and loneliness. I do miss my family, my dog, friends. A certain part of me does crave the gentleness of familiarity and routine.

But here’s the kicker. Here’s the real thing no one wants to talk about. When you do go home, the comfort only lasts so long. You are different now. You have to leave again because now you are feeling homesick for all the places you’ve been, the places you haven’t been, the people you haven’t met yet. You have to go. There’s this deep instinctual call to the unknown that you can’t really make sense of to anyone else. It hurts to say goodbye, but it also hurts to stay. There are mountains to climb, bread to break, passports to stamp.

You find yourself saddened to leave a place before you even leave it, whether it’s another country or your hometown. You see yourself in Boulder, Portland, Brisbane, Stockholm, Buenos Aires. Temporary versions of yourself in all of them. You ask yourself, will this turmoil haunt me the rest of my life? The feeling that you belong everywhere but overwhelmingly that you belong nowhere.

When you travel there are parts of you all over the world, some left in conversations with strangers that know you better than you do yourself. There are the parts left in quiet cafes and horizons and moments that steal your heart. Then there are other parts still out there, waiting. I can’t tell you where they are because I do not know.

It’s not so much of a travel bug as it is a parasite, burrowing itself down in your bones. You have to go. The world is calling and you can’t not go, no matter what sacrifices that are demanded. Traveling isn’t all beaches, confidence, glamor, fun. But still we beat on. Because as much as it cracks you into a thousand little pieces, it makes you whole again. More whole than you’ve ever been. And it’s this beautifully addicting, difficult cycle, over and over and over again.

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