When I say to myself, “I could live here,” I know I am in trouble. A soft tingle starts in my heart and slowly spreads throughout my body. It is the electric buzz of anticipation at what is to come. It may not happen for a few months or even a few years, but it will happen. And when it does, it comes on as a tour de force and nothing anyone says or does will change my mind, and that is where the struggle begins.
Traveling is a constant push and pull. I am pushing with all my might at the possibility of what could be, while my family and concerned friends are pulling me back with suggestions, words or caution, and if it comes to it, interventions, although this last one only happened once.
While I am giddy with anticipation, they are somberly telling me that “the world is not what it was,” “you shouldn’t be so naïve,” and “you promised you’d stay home this time.” To be fair, I did state that last comment, but only after my return from Saudi Arabia in 2015, which means before that point in time, it does not count. And as an additional caveat, The Middle East burnt me out but that is a story for another post.
While people around me groan and family members research political unrest in my location of choice, I am eagerly researching the culture, customs, things to do, and safe neighborhoods. If I am going to live there, I need to find a safe place to stay. This is where the nitty gritty research begins. As a solo female traveler, where I stay does matter. I may have been born with a plane ticket in my mouth, and a passport in my back pocket (do babies even have pockets in their onesies?) but being safe is paramount.
As I research, the electric buzz of anticipation sends currents of excitement to my heart. I am anxious at matching timetables to my itinerary and checking in with my future employer to confirm submission of documents, and airport pickup. This last piece is key as being stranded at the airport with no contact and no usable currency is nothing short of heart-stopping stress.
At this point in my article you may be curious as to what places I am referring to that require this kind of research and preparation. Although my bucket list of cities, towns, and burgeoning places of interest can be found on top travel sites, most people are unlikely to choose them for any length of time extending beyond a vacation stay.
For example, type in ‘Namchang, South Korea’ and you will be directed to a neighborhood within Seoul with the ending -dong or -ri, but I am talking about the town in the province of Ulsan, or ‘Errachidia, Morocco’, which is decidedly easier to locate as it is a popular tourist stopover on the way to somewhere else, anywhere else.
I lived in that Korean town surrounded by rice paddies for a year, and later had an equally passionate and volatile relationship with a Moroccan man from that Podunk dot on a map at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. While the contract with the Korean middle school lasted a year, the relationship roller-coasted on and off for six years.
Despite some of my darker moments abroad however, each experience has fed my soul, and while cliched, without them I am convinced I would have imploded long before now. It is the connections with people that fuels my desire to travel and the more people I meet, the more I am convinced that we are all connected. Our customs, religions, and language may be different, but our need to build lasting relationships is what makes the excitement and anxiety worthwhile.
When I say, “I could live there,” I pack up and go. This is why I do what I do and write about it.
I travel, therefore I am.
Any grammar and mechanical issues are the responsibility of the author, and even though she’s an English teacher and does proofread, there may be additional edits to be made.