Re-sprouting Clipped Wings: Tales of a Static Drifter

Here’s a confession: I haven’t traveled internationally, or had a large-scale domestic jaunt since September of last year (when I traveled to Equatorial Guinea, Africa with The Afripolitans, the diaspora-minded delegation of which I’m a member). Sure, there have been the occasional treks to New York City, DC and the Poconos, but those places are more or less second homes for me— I don’t really consider them “travel experiences,” if you know what I mean. So yeah… for the past 10 months, I’ve been stuck in a glass house watching the planes fly by: I've been an immobile, non-drifting Drifter. 

You’re probably wondering: “What happened?” “Why’d you stop traveling?” Well, to put it plainly, my money situation changed. My savings account had become rail-thin and dehydrated. And because I’m not the type of person to charge a trip to a credit card and worry about it later (I’ve always used the money in my checking account to pay for trips), I knew I had to sit myself down somewhere and accrue some funds. I needed a re-up.

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This has been my life since September 2012: getting my money right— well, right enough to plot my next couple escapes (any maybe take care of some necessities).

Being grounded after having traveled perpetually since 2007 took some getting used to. I had to watch as my friends, travel companions, fellow travel bloggers and random people on Twitter went here, there and everywhere, and had to listen (with feigned interest) as they talked extensively and excitedly about their excursions.

…Yay…

Though I was the travel guy, travel was the last thing I wanted to discuss. I was a grounded eagle. An addict with no means for a high. A travel blogger with no new experiences to blog about. A citizen of the world trapped in the “always sunny” black hole that is Philadelphia. Quelle horreur!! It felt like my wanderlust was working against me.

I could have easily lost my way— could’ve been consumed by the proverbial wing-clipping. Being involuntarily forced to break a healthy addiction cold turkey could’ve left me a broken drifter. But the flame was still burning, albeit dimly; I just needed to make sure it never blew out. This task was an exercise in diligence, patience and creativity. How could I get over this hump? What strategies and tactics could I employ to ensure said wanderlust inspired my dreams instead of stifle them?

For starters, I had to look inwardly and be okay with my position. Remind myself to check any envy at the door: rather than resent my counterparts’ bountiful and seemingly endless travels, I had to be excited about them— delighted they were getting to see the world. Optimistic and steadfast in my belief that in a matter of time, insha’Allah, I’d be traveling alongside them. When I was able to accept this truth, things began to get better. I learned to become a better listener: I began listening to and learning from others’ [travel] experiences, consequently amending and adding to my own bucket list. This also prompted me to focus more on interviewing other drifters, giving them a platform to share their [travel] truths.

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Learning to appreciate my given environment was another issue I had to work through. Explore home a little more frequently and thoroughly. In doing this, I’d get to know more about a city that— owing to having been a lifelong resident— I’d unfairly dismissed and taken for granted.

I also had to continue to satiate my hunger for all things travel and culture. I visited museums. Had my own, personal foreign film festival. Listened to world music with the volume on full-blast. Scoured my resources to find new and interesting foreign attractions (to add to my list). Greedily devoured an array of international cuisines. Essentially, anything that would renew and sustain my interest in global exploration, I did it.

I recently read an article in GQ called, “Do You Suffer from #FOMO.” The article discussed the popular hashtag (an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out), which has gone viral thanks to outlets like Twitter and Instagram. As humans, we have an ingrained aversion to being excluded. The upsurge of social media has only served to heighten this particular brand of anxiety. “In an era in which we are accosted by the meals, vacations, parties, and sheer awesomeness of most everyone we know […] we've never been more aware of what we're not doing (Will Welch, GQ).” During my hiatus from travel, as I mentioned before, I’d become increasingly insecure about not being able to keep up appearances. Because I had a presence (not a major presence, but a steady, reputable one nonetheless) on social media, I somehow felt as though I wasn’t doing enough. Wasn’t living up to expectations. Wasn’t living life like other travelers. This was a toxic way of thinking, though. So I went on a purge. Deleted facebook. Refrained from tweeting— took a break from social networks on the whole. I had to get back to my own reality: a reality where I did things not to get liked, retweeted or reblogged, but simply because I felt like doing them. Living my life on my own terms.

Those four do-actions, combined with the memories of my previous travel experiences, added fuel to my nearly diminished fire. I knew where I’d been and where I wanted to go. The in-between just got a little fuzzy, as gray areas sometimes tend to do. But what got me through the slump wasn’t the knowledge of where I came from, or having faith in where my future lay. The determining factor was how I lived in the now. How actively engaged and mindfully present I was during those in-between moments— when I wasn’t stuffing my life into a carry-on bag or running through an airport to make a connecting flight. It was during those moments I realized my passion for travel wasn’t leaving me— it was just laying low in waiting, storing energy and excitement for when my next series of adventures began.

Have you ever gone through something similar? Sound off in the comments section below. Tell us how you got over it.