When Itchy Feet Turn Cold
Uncomfortably curled up between two armrests, I hear the pilot announce that in just under seven hours, I’ll be landing back home. The weight of a month’s worth of travel weighs on my shoulders and eyelids, forcing me into a much-needed but interrupted sleep. Each time my eyes flutter open, I’m a few minutes closer to home. The thought of being in my own room with my own spacious bed allows me to endure a few more hours of the armrest bulging into my lower back.
For the first time in a long time, I land at the airport with little knowledge of when I’ll return. I flick open my passport and smile at the pages of stamps and visas that are starting to fill the book.
As I board the first train leaving the airport, I relish in the raindrops streaming diagonally along the window. The cool air comes as a welcomed change after four weeks living in sweltering humidity. My feet are getting cold. Luckily I brought some socks. They’ll keep my toes warm and hide that brand new ink from my parents. The image that reminds me to be present wherever I am in the world. Even in the comfort of my home.
There are so many places I want to see, from ancient ruins to manic cities and views that strike the words from your mouth. I’ve done my fair share of travelling. Last year I went overseas three times in eight months. When I returned from that last trip, I didn’t have a plan of the next place I would visit. I didn’t have much money to be making elaborate travel plans, but I also didn’t have anywhere in particular in mind I wanted to go to next.
Almost 12 months later, and I’m still not sure when the next time is I’ll be leaving the country. Two years ago, this would have stressed me out. I would constantly be searching for deals on flights, flicking through travel guides and brainstorming ways to make a quick buck and get out of the country tout suite! But it seems my travel bug – that illness that makes your feet start to itch, changes your Facebook ads to exclusively flight deals and causes your bank account to go into lockdown mode – has been somewhat alleviated.
So what happens when you’ve done your roaming, you’ve returned home and suddenly your itchy feet have turned cold? Has the bug been cured? Or are you in even more dire straits?
There is a lot of emphasis put on travel being a definer of somebody’s worth. If someone hasn’t travelled abroad by the time they reach their mid-twenties, they can often be seen as less cultured, less intelligent and less adventurous than their peers.
Of course going overseas can be life-changing. It is exciting for most, eye-opening for some, anxiety-inducing for others. But for many, whether because of personal, financial, or sometimes political reasons, travelling is not really a possibility. And when this decision is made based on personal choice, there can be unforeseen social ramifications. There is pressure put on young people, often by their friends, to be adventurous, to travel as much and as far as possible. To break out of routine and to “find themselves” in another country.
I’m regularly asked by family and friends where and when my next trip will be. And I feel kind of silly saying I’m happy to just stay in Australia for a while. Happy to enjoy the typical Australian summer by the beach, without needing to book a flight to “escape it all”. I want to see more of the wonders of this country before I see anywhere else. Australia has an infinite number of places to explore, and in 23 years, I’ve barely skimmed the surface. I kind of regret that I’ve walked along the Great Wall of China but haven’t floated between the swaying coral of the Great Barrier Reef. Who knows if I’ll ever get the chance to now.
For those who travel regularly, there is an ominous pressure that they must always be on the move. But if you’ve lost your itchy feet, there is little point in travelling just because other people think that’s what you should be doing. Travel can be challenging and tiring at the best of times, but ultimately, it is supposed to be enjoyed. There’s no need to make it a test of pain and endurance if it’s not what you want to be doing.
If the desire to be at home is continuously overwhelming the desire to be abroad, there is no shame in turning around and catching the first flight home. Or just never booking the flight overseas in the first place.
Besides, that’s part of the magic, isn’t it? Coming back and realising how wonderful home really is.
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz