Travel and the Issue of Nostalgia

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Travel nostalgia

So things have been quiet here on the lil’ old blog.

The past few weeks have been incredibly overwhelming, and I haven’t been able to find any semblance of a spark of motivation within me to write. Or perhaps I should clarify, write something that’s not crap.

I would be lying if I said that my only excuse for not publishing anything was that I was too busy. For me, the issue goes much deeper. Since quitting my job and announcing that I am moving to New Zealand, my life has been one giant emotional upheaval. Don’t get me wrong, I am so incredibly excited about all these new changes in my life. Finally I feel like I am happy and following my dreams, doing the right thing after years of uncertainty. But considering the fact that I’m borderline OCD and have the tendency to overanalyze EVERYTHING, I can’t help but reflect upon what I am saying goodbye to.

Travel nostalgia

Travel nostalgia

You see, ever since I got back from Jordan, I have been dealing with the mysterious, complicated issue of nostalgia. Why I can’t be a normal person with normal feelings, I’ll never know. No matter how hard I try, I will always be incredibly emotional; feelings that are normal for everyone else are amplified tenfold within me. I can’t help it. Can’t I just be happy that I am moving to a place I’ve dreamed about for ten years and that’s that?

I think it all boils down to the fact that I feel torn in two about the life I have chosen for myself.

I love traveling more than anything in the world. Getting to discover new lands, following my dreams to far-flung destinations, experiencing cultural differences and standing in some of the most beautiful places I could ever dream about is beyond gratifying. For me, to travel is to live.

Travel nostalgia

But at the same time, I am looking for a home. Tired of packing my life into a backpack and carry-on bag, the other half of me hates this nomadic lifestyle I have carved out for myself and would love nothing more than to buy a house somewhere, a rock to begin building my life on. I hate that I don’t have a home anymore. I hate that I can’t buy furniture or towels or even books because I have nowhere to put them. I hate that I only get to see my best friends and family maybe once a year, if I’m lucky. I hate that I hate living out of a backpack. But if I were to change my lifestyle now, who is to say I would be happy settled in one place? See, talk about conflicted! Have you ever felt this way?

The way I see it (and what I tell myself when I get homesick at night for the home I don’t have) is that I am only 25 and I have my whole life ahead of me to settle. Right? Just a few more years of bopping around the world, I hope.

But back to nostalgia and the topic at hand.

Travel nostalgia

Do you ever travel somewhere, and it pulls on your heart so much that you think to yourself, oh yes, I could live here – I never want to leave!

Well, I must be a travel whore because I feel that ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME! Like all the time, I’m not exaggerating. Logroño, Spain – check. Julian Alps, Slovenia – check. Western Massachusetts – check. Soho, NYC – check. Oxford, England – check. Anywhere in Switzerland – check. New Zealand, where I haven’t even been yet – double check! The list goes on and on. What the hell is wrong with me?

When I feel strongly about a place, I get so attached to the point where I get massively sad when it’s time for me to leave. Since I made the decision to up and move for a year to New Zealand, I’ve been overcome with feelings of nostalgia for all the places I’m leaving behind. It started in New York City.

Travel nostalgia

Travel nostalgia

I hadn’t been to the city for almost 2 years, after splitting up with my ex to travel, so going back brought back a whole lot of memories, good and bad. New York was a city I hoped to live in one day, that I was even planning to move back to when shit hit the fan a few summers past. Needless to say it was weird and difficult going back.

But the hardest part was leaving New York City to head up to Western Massachusetts where I went to college, and probably the only area of the country I could really envision myself settling down in one day. As soon as I got off the highway to visit old friends, I was hit over the head with a feeling of homesickness. I spent as much time as I could visiting old friends and old haunts, but when the time came to head down the road to my alma mater in South Hadley, I couldn’t do it.

Travel nostalgia

It was raining cats and dogs, and I was sitting in my jeep after grabbing a coffee at one of my favorite cafes in Amherst. Surrounded by anxious college kids prepping for finals, I sat and worked for a bit before I was scheduled to head over to Mount Holyoke. Dripping wet in the front seat, I literally couldn’t bring myself to make the drive over. I was overcome with nostalgia and longing for my old life. Like an total nutcase, I started to cry like the emotional mess I was. Luckily, since it was finals week, this behavior didn’t look too out of place.

College was equal parts amazingness and equal parts hell for me, but I know without Mount Holyoke, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I have incredible memories of my four years in the Valley, and with this sudden, dramatic change in my life, I wasn’t ready to go back to the one place that truly felt like home to me. Not when I couldn’t stay.

Travel nostalgia

In fact, I realized quite a few things that afternoon. One of them being that I avoid returning to places I truly love. Over the years, I have been exceptionally good about NOT going back to places I’ve spent significant time. I only have been back to Cordoba and Salamanca, Spain once or twice, and left as fast I could. And I lived in both places for a year. Any normal person would be thrilled to go back, right? Instead I run the other way.

While I was sitting in the rain in my car in an overpriced parking lot, I had an epiphany (yes, I did just write that).

I think the reason I have so much trouble going back to places where I have such wonderful memories is that they are just never the same for me. Why?

Travel nostalgia

Travel nostalgia

Because more often than not, the people I shared those experiences with aren’t there anymore. Or they have moved on, while I am still stuck in the past: “hey guys remember that one time we…..”

Yeah, I’m that person. Shoot me now.

For me, the destination is only half of the reason I fall in love so easily. The other half are the people I get to experience it with. When I went back to Salamanca for the first time a year after I left, no one who I shared that time with was still there. It made my return very bittersweet. Like as if I was walking a ghost town, filled with strangers. It didn’t feel like “my city” anymore.

Travel nostalgia

Travel nostalgia

Deep down I knew how sad I would be if I went to Mount Holyoke knowing that all my college friends weren’t there with me. Maybe that’s why I am always looking forward at new places to see instead of wanting to go back to places I’ve been and loved. It’s like I’m running away from it. Sweet Jesus, that can’t be healthy.

But is that to say if I were to move back to Massachusetts, Córdoba, Salamanca or Logroño, would I be happy? Can perfect experiences be repeated? Or would I just be holding onto a memory and be that annoying person who’s always reminiscing about the good ol’ days?

Travel nostalgia

Can you relate to this? Please tell me I am not the only one who feels this way! Do you avoid going back to places you’ve lived and loved? Have you ever gotten a case of the travel nostalgia? Do you have any tips for me to get over this? Or am I just a pretentious dbag with no right to talk about this topic at all since I am not even 30 yet? Pipe up!

Wowza, I really didn’t intend for my return to blogging to be quite so dramatic and philosophized. I’ll make up for it and let my next post be about when I fell off a camel in Jordan.

Travel nostalgia

Travel nostalgia

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129 Comments on “Travel and the Issue of Nostalgia

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  1. Hey Liz,

    LOVED this post, and I agree 100%. I feel like places I visit become intertwined with the people I meet there (or travel with there), the time of year, the things that happen; and those things become one big jumble in my head that represents the place. I also share your pain as far as travel vs. settling down. When I’m doing one, the other is always in the back of my head.

    P.S. Love your Greece photos! You may have convinced me to add it to my list 🙂

  2. I really enjoyed your post. I have suffered through many of the things you described in your blog. As well, I long to have a home and travel equally. I wanted to send you a personal message but I wasn’t sure how to do so. After years of emotional rollercoasters and feeling the way you’ve talked about, I finally was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and OCD around my 31st year… It ALL made sense after that. Try to listen to your heart and head. Life is too short to feel unhappy. I wish you so much luck.

  3. I feel this way often, and I’ve stayed put in Seville, Spain for six years. You hit the nail on the head – it’s all about the people. There are few, pero pocos, destinations where I’ve been back and felt the same or experienced the same or even has a better time.

    So excited for what’s in front of you – you have a loooong time before you need to settle!

  4. Hi Liz! Wow you exactly express what I feel too and as you see from all the comments above, you’re absolutely not the only one feeling like this (I thought the same about me though). I’m not a full time traveller but I can tell you, I made this decision to settle down because I thought I’m ready for this, I thought it would be enough for me to get to know places on my days-off. And now that I’m having a so called grown up job and a flat with my own furniture in it, I’m not sure if I can live like that the next 40 years, the travel bug doesn’t disappear over night apparently. Maybe you try to settle down a bit in New Zealand, as it is a totally new country for you, you are able to explore the country and it feels like travelling but having a base might be helpful sometimes and I should have done the same thing I guess. For me, I think I decided to settle down after 3 months of going to one place after another every few days. I should have stopped along the way and stayed somewhere for a longer time and would not have had this feeling probably. I don’t know, you should never ask questions like what if I stayed there longer…so for now I try to catch up with my grown up settled down life and we’ll see how it works. But for you, do not make decisions over night. Travel to New zealand now and stay somewhere for longer, have a life as you’d have it in New York or whereever you wanna settle down and see if it is a life you would like.
    And concerning your issue of going back to places. I absolutely feel the same. Until now I never returned to place I stayed for longer. But I will go back to Cordoba in Argentina this November for about a week. I spent 3 months there and fell in love with the people there and everything related to it. But I’m seriously scared of being disappointed. I just hope that it won’t be like this because I really love this city. Fortunately, my host family still lives there and some friends I made during that time, but of course it will be different anyway as everyone lived there life differently during the last 3 1/2 years.
    I wish you all the best for your time in New Zealand and do whatever makes you happy!

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