Pulling a Geographic
I’m a runner. Not in the physical sense that I run races or even run around the block, but in the sense that I run from confrontation. Why deal with your problems when you have the option to avoid them altogether?
You see, I’m the type of person who, instead of giving themselves that normal grieving, mourning or recovery period, I will throw myself into whatever comes along first. Study? You got it. Work? You betcha. Consequently, travel also falls into this.
Staggering home in the early hours of the morning in Copenhagen, I’m already packing my bags to fly to London for the weekend. Upon returning to Australia from a six-month stint abroad, I’ve booked my flights to Indonesia for another month away. I can’t sit still. It’s not that there’s a problem with where I am, but moreso that if I’m in a place for too long, I begin to settle. And when I begin to settle, reality catches me up.
A friend in drug rehabilitation related it to “pulling a geographic”. This usually refers to moving. It’s the idea that it’s not just the alcohol or gambling or drug abuse that is the problem, but the place. You’ve just burnt yourself out. Churned through jobs and people and “need to get out of town, start fresh and make new friends.” We’re convinced that a change of scenery is all that’s needed to kick-start our new, healthier life.
And so I run. I throw myself into a new environments, cultures and experiences and I learn to forget for a while. But when it’s 2pm, the middle of the day, and I’m in my dormitory, in a new city, a new country, with the same dark thoughts I thought I could outrun swallowing me whole again, I know it’s caught up. Because I’m not running from physical or external pressures. I am running from myself. And you can only run from yourself for so long.
Invariably, we follow our hearts to our new locations, our ‘demons’ stuffed into our luggage. Falling into the same patterns, we find ourselves living the same lives – just in slightly different weather and in a slightly different landscape. The same feelings of worthlessness, the same warped images depicted in mirrors, the same breakup. The same unhealthy attitudes towards ourselves. I’m imprisoned by my own mind, and there’s only so much time before the novelty of a new place wears thin.
That’s not to say I will stop travelling. Travel is an inherently valuable and enriching experience. I travel to see and experience new things. To immerse myself in a different culture and engage in different thinking. My home culture is only the tiniest fraction of humanity and we only have a small window of opportunity to experience it. I love the feeling of empowerment and discovery. I love the fleeting romances and friendships. I love the nomadic lifestyle and embracing the unknown. And it leaves a lasting impression on my life every time. But this bliss is short-lived when you run from yourself. Only now am I more attentive to my tendency to flee rather than fight, and my tendency to use travel as a form of escapism.
Travel gives you the opportunity to learn and grow and change as a person. But like alcohol, drugs, sex and whatever else you use to numb the pain, travel cannot fix what you refuse to acknowledge is the problem. Travel is a tool, not a cure.
Cover by Thomas BRAULT