One of my favorite parts of traveling is coming home. That may sound like I don’t like traveling, that I can’t wait for it to be over, but the opposite is true. In my editorial for this issue last year, I wrote about my childhood, during which travel was extremely limited, and how I’ve had the privilege to prioritize travel in my adulthood. Some of my greatest memories are of tubing through caves in Belize, coping with my first vicious hangover with Tim Hortons in Toronto, having fish nibble at my toes in a Mexican cenote, getting afternoon tea at the Ritz in London, and reading in the historic upstairs nook of the Shakespeare and Company book shop in Paris.
I had life-changing experiences on all of those trips, and on every single one, I was relieved when I was home again. Not because I had a terrible time, but because traveling is … a lot. Especially as someone with a lower income.
Because I have limited discretionary funds, every trip I go on I plan as though I will never return — because I likely won’t. It’s expensive for me to fly to Europe, so if I ever do it again, chances are I won’t be returning to London or Paris. I don’t have the money for a weekslong excursion, so trying to fit the experience of an entire city into a couple of days can be extremely overwhelming. As someone who errs on the side of introversion, doing multiple activities back-to-back, several days in a row — while also socializing with my travel companions the entire time — can be exhausting for me. There are also the natural stressors of travel, especially with transportation. Flying is a nightmare, and traversing a new city can be difficult. While in Paris, for example, we went on the wrong train line and were crammed into a bus like sardines at 2am before our flight home at 6am because we didn’t realize the Metro didn’t stay open late, and witnessed traffic that makes Atlanta rush hour seem like child’s play — all in the span of a couple of days.
Coming home to a place that is comfortable after being pushed for days on end to explore someplace unfamiliar, someplace that probably posed several challenges you had to overcome, is such an incredible feeling that it almost makes the trip worthwhile in and of itself.
But I’m not just happy to be home because I’m exhausted and can finally be alone to rest. Traveling makes me grateful for the life I have. I’m excited to come home to take care of my chores, to write and answer emails, to read my books and watch my shows, to sleep and to shower in my own bed and bathroom. As much as I love exploring a new city, I love coming back to what’s mine just as much.
Travel is not about escaping your life. It’s about expanding your capacity to enjoy the life you have. Yes, it is more stressful and time-consuming than vacationing at a resort on the beach (and sometimes, relaxing with all-inclusive food and drinks is what you need). But I genuinely do think travel is necessary to a good life. You can maximize your trip by minimizing stress — book through a travel company like EveryQueer or plan out your trip by plotting your activities on your own map (go to maps.google.com and select “saved” from the side menu, go to the “maps” tab, and click “create your own map”).
As someone who loves nothing more than returning home, I can tell you that travel is absolutely worth the stress. Every new experience, new city, and new memory will only deepen your appreciation for what you call home and make living what may seem a mundane life feel like the gift it is.