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Identity Crisis: The Traveler Who Isn’t Traveling

Sure, I guess you could say we’re always traveling in life. I guess you could say each day is new and offers new places and people and experiences be it in a foreign land or in your own backyard. I guess you could say everyday is an adventure whether you’re inside sitting at your desk or standing outside staring at the hope-and-opportunity-filled horizon.

As I said…I guess you could say that
But to be honest with you, the life and times of a traveler who isn’t traveling is much easier said than done. I’m smack dab in the middle of that life and those times that lack the luster of travel, and I guess you could say that while I have been keeping the adventure alive, I do feel like a piece is missing.
I guess you could say that for a traveler who isn’t traveling, you have to put a lot more into your life and times to create that luster and adventure that used to come so naturally when you were stepping on uncharted soil every day back when you were off exploring.

After a one year stint living in Beijing, China and traveling throughout South East Asia I returned 6 months ago to America. Even as I type this I can’t believe I’ve been back for half a year. And as I look into the future I know I have another 6 months until I travel abroad again indefinitely. And suddenly, the way in which I identified myself for a year is gone.

Suddenly I feel like I WAS A TRAVELER.

WHAT’S A TRAVELER TO DO?

If one identifies themselves as a traveler, what’s a traveler to do if they are not traveling?

Martin Luthar King Jr. shared his ever-lasting wisdom with us when he said, “If it falls to our luck to be street-sweepers, sweep the streets, like Raphael painted pictures, like Michaelangelo carved marble, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, and like Beethoven composed music. Sweep the streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth would have to pause and say … …Here lived a great street sweeper.

We each live out many roles in our lives be it as a worker, a friend, a parent, a child, a lifestyle. These are the ways in which we define ourselves, and to not do what it is you identify yourself as will forever carve a pit in your stomach that will never fade until you are finally doing it.

I AM a writer.” “I AM a runner.” “I AM a loyal friend.” “I AM someone that makes people laugh.“I AM a loving partner.” “I AM wild and crazy…enough.” “I AM someone who gives 110%.” “I AM an entrepreneur.” “I AM a traveler.” ….” THIS IS ME. THIS IS WHO I AM.

So, if this is how you define yourself and how you live your life and how you ultimately feel like you’re really living your life to the fullest, well, to  not be doing it would be the most flawed way of living your life possible.

THE TRAVEL YOU WANT AND NEED

As the Rolling Stones once sang, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

Myself… I want to be traveling. I want to be exploring new places with people I meet at hostels the night before over a few beers and talks about the meaning of life. I want to be arguing with cab drivers about not ripping me off through language barriers. I want to be seeing something crazy everyday that makes me smile, or pisses me off, or gets me thinking. I want to stand on soil I’ve never once stood before and see something so amazing in and of itself that life just somehow makes sense at that very moment.

I LIVE FOR THAT.

Us travelers who currently aren’t traveling could sit around in limbo and say to ourselves, “Well, I’m not traveling the way I want to be traveling so therefore I must accept that my life simply won’t be as exciting right now.”

But then we wouldn’t be listening to the ever-lasting wisdom of sexy, big-mouthed McGagger.

The thing is, sure, we won’t be experiencing the exact same luster and adventure we get from our travels in other parts of the world, but if we try sometimes, we get get the parts of it we need that keep us inspired.

THE TRAVEL CALL TO ACTION

Look here’s how it is… if you are not doing what you define yourself as you are not living. If we are travelers, we must do everything we can to stay a traveler even if we’re not watching the sunset on a foreign beach or learning the subway system in a foreign city.

So, here’s my call to action to myself and to you should you be a traveler whose not currently traveling: Turn your Backyard into The World.

Come up with 3 small to big adventures you can take yourself on to get your identity back. Plan them. Make them happen. Make it apart of you.

I’ll start..

1.) New Hobbies: I’m currently living in a new city until I move abroad again. St. Augustine FL – home of beautiful beaches, an old, Spanish-style downtown, and great margaritas. I’m picking up a surfboard next week and teaching myself to surf / meeting cute surfer boys in the water to teach me as well.

2.) New People: I’ve started the St. Augustine Fun Stuff MeetUp group. Myself and my almost 100 members do fun activities around town from hiking to bar crawls. I will do more of this to get that “hostel hangout” feeling again.

3.) New Places: I’ve never lived in Florida before and have an entire new state to explore. After I get my motorcycle license in 2 weeks I’m going to plan a road trip down to the Florida Keys where I’ll go scuba diving for 2 days. Or, maybe I’ll road bike it down and get someone to sponsor me.

So, now I ask you, my fellow traveler who isn’t currently traveling… what will you do so you can keep your identity?

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About Lauren Rains

Hi my name is Lauren Rains. I write about the human experience. Through thick and thin, I’m dedicated to growth, adventure, integrity, and love. The Mad To Live is based on my pursuits, experiments, research, and lessons of challenge and triumph in all areas of life, including being entrepreneur, a writer, a philosopher, a traveler, a teacher, a student, a creative, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a significant other, a stranger and the list goes on. At the end of the day, I believe human beings are here for two reasons: 1.) to love one another with total acceptance, and 2.) to see what we’re made of as we create the possibilities for an abundant life for ourselves and for others. No more bullshit, let's just enjoy our lives.

Share with me what you're getting into that matters to you. It could be stepping into entrepreneurial pursuits, embarking on a journey of the self, making a crazy life change, or even if you're totally stuck. I want to connect with, support, collaborate with, and learn from as many people as possible through this blog (that means you!) Click the *Share* link in the main menu and let's connect by filling out the form.

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  • Apparently we have similar strategies to cope between big trips 🙂 I do a lot of little trips on weekends and focus on my hobbies. After doing about 3 weekendtrips a month for 2-3 months now I am actually glad to be at home for a while now.

    I think I might have another tip to add to your list: get friends to visit you and see your town and its surrounding area through their eyes by doing all the touristy things with them. I have fmaily and friends coming here in May and can’t wait to show them around 🙂

    • Hey Sabrina!!
      Thanks for the travel tip! I actually had 2 of my best girlfriends from college come down to visit me this past week and we had a blast! I got to show them all around town, take them to the beach, listen to them oo-and-aa about everything. It was great! And it lets you see where you’re at in a special light, ya know?!

      But I really do want to take some more weekend trips and I think I’ll get that on the highest of my priority to do lists starting… NOW! 🙂

  • First off, whenever I read one of your posts it makes me want to get out of this country and explore….like now.

    My traveling has been mainly domestic, which I currently enjoy because I had been previously unaware of all these micro-cultures within the subculture of the US. It’s new, exciting, scary, enlightening, fun, and definitely a big part of my life.

    For me, my traveling has been made possible because of this company, Be Legendary, I do contract work for. They host philanthropic corporate events and I get to be a part of that, whether it be speaking or facilitating.

    The last couple months though, not a lot of events have been booked. So here I am. In the town I grew up in, in this familiar home, sitting in my familiar room, reading, writing, working…bored.

    I wish this next sentence would be some miraculous solution…not exactly. BUT new hobbies are definitely a potent fix. Having NYC for a backyard I’ve been able to sit in on some acting classes, go to shows in tiny, cramped theaters, find coffee shops no one knew existed, join softball leagues, go to rock climbing facilities. All have helped satiate my appetite for adventure.

    Good luck with the surfing by the way..that one has been on my to do list for quite some time.

    Cheers!

    • Hey Chris!

      Hey for some reason I hadn’t realized that you live just outside of NYC! I’m from Jersey! I was living in Jersey City just before I left for St. Augustine in fact 🙂 Miss having NYC at my fingertips!

      I definitely think new hobbies is a great fix for when us travelers at heart can’t be traveling on foot. I can’t wait to take up surfing in a couple of weeks!

      Oh, and get some travel on your To Do list my friend! Maybe do a week long hiking / camping trip in the Catskills for a city tour of Boston and its surrounding areas 🙂

  • What about those people who have never traveled but yearn to do so?

    I noticed that little things put a damper on my life, personally. I use to not think having a car was a big deal because I use to take the train over to see my girlfriend over the weekend and that would be final. I got so use to it that I didn’t notice how it impacted my life. Now that we’ve broken up, it’s hard to see who I actually am, and what actually makes me happy. I know a lot of this doesn’t revolve around not having a car, but I’m constantly questioning who I am. Am I the traveler? No. Of course not. I’m the guy who goes on a different date every week, the guy who parties at music venues only to go home completely alone. I’m the guy who needs a car because without it, I don’t have the freedom to be who I want to be.

    We should go into the backyard and make a blanket fort.

    • Wasssappp J-than

      I am so in for the blanket fort.

      I gotta say though man I do relate. I’ve finally moved away form the whole constantly questioning who I am part, but it’s still there. I figured out a lot of that last year when I was in China. I’m a big fan of putitng yourself in situations where nothing is familiar except for your own mind. I think that’s one of the best ways to figure it out.

      And as for the car… I LOVE to drive but refuse to get one haha. So, I went the alternative route and got a 150cc motorcycle / scooter hehe. I NEED that freedom too.

      I guess our identity is always changing though. I used to not be a traveler. I used to not be a blogger. I used to not be single.

      Bring some whips and chains into the fort while you’re at it b/c I may be bad but I’m perfectly good at it haha.

  • Laur,

    Regardless of whether you are actually traveling abroad or not, I think you’ve captured the exciting spirit of exploration here. Even if we can’t go to far away lands, we can explore the places where we are… and with gusto! Which actually reminds me… are you really in St. Augustine, FL?? I am from Jacksonville! I am coming back for a little bit during the summer, maybe we could meet up explore some deserted swamp in north Florida. haha

    • Hey Ryan!
      haha I love the “with gusto”! I plan to do a lot more exploring this summer. I’ve been attached to my computer screen living in a virtual world a little too much, and the exploring part that I need to really thrive and inspire me just hasn’t been part of my routine lately.
      This I am changing immediately!

      And yes I am living in St. Augustine right now!!! That is so awesome you’ll be back in JAX this summer. We definitely have to get together and do some exploring!!!!!! I ca’t wait! 🙂

  • I personally like to spend my non-traveling time planning future travels 🙂 and if not that, taking classes that give me a glimpse into a different culture: argentina tango, thai cooking classes, spanish classes. I’m also lucky to be living in the Bay Area that’s full of interesting little neighborhoods to explore on weekends – like you said, turning my backyard into the world.

    • Hey Jill!

      That is such a good idea!!! I love Thai food! And while it can be hard to find some of the ingredients I think it would be a blast to get a Thai cookbook and start teaching myself. I made some delicious chicken green curry the other day mm mmm mm.. takes me back 🙂
      Argentine Tango – I took a class in that while I was in Argentina but I would love to step up my game a little bit!
      Thanks for the ideas! THis will bring some much needed culture into my life 🙂

  • This ended how I hoped it would :). I feel like I’m in a similar spot. I’ve been traveling for a few months and am now settling in San Francisco for a while. I’ve had a few people come up to me and ask: “Well what are you going to do now? What will you write about”. WTF? I’m going to live in the one of the most beautiful and adventurous regions of the world. My backyard will be my playground of travel. When I talk to people that want to get into travel or even travel writing/blogging, I always tell them: “Don’t go out traveling”. Explore your own locale first. There are places to be found, people to meet, and adventures to be had right where we are. We live in such a over-stimulated society that we think travel has to be so exotic and somewhere crazy because it’ll make the stories and experiences so much better. You can have those same experiences nearly anywhere in the world.

    • Hey Spence!!!

      Ah excellently said as usual my friend. And that’s actually some great advice you could offer anyone and one that I am going to take to heart. Even myself, I’ve felt guilty of feeling like the only real way I can travel is to hop on a 10 hour plane ride somewhere else. But alas, it looks like in searching for the things that will open my mind even more, I’ve become slightly close-minded as to how to do that!
      I think my biggest priority starting ASAP is going to be taking this very advice you wrote about here, and bringing the adventure, culture, and stories into my own backyard! I can’t wait! 🙂

  • I know exactly how you feel. I, too, am a traveler who isn’t currently traveling. I have a full-time job, and therefore can only travel for a week or two at a time… and usually only a couple of times per year.

    But I totally support turning your “Backyard into The World.” I try to travel locally as much as I can’t when I’m “stuck” at home, and it’s great! Definitely keeps that adventurous streak going.

    • Hey Amanda!!!
      Yea when it comes to the full-time job that’s when you have to really take advantage of the weekend, mini-trips, ya know? Me – I work form home, but I’ve been becoming a workaholic and that needs to change! I literally work 7 days a week, 12 hours at a time and its time to cut back so I have time for the travel and exploring I need to feel like I am living my life!

      That “stuck” at home feeling is the worst limbo out there for me. May both us us keep our adventurous streak going!!!
      – Laur 🙂

  • Well said! In between long trips, which aren’t frequent because of that full-time job, I take half-day or full-day road trips on some weekends to explore different states, cities, towns, parks and bodies of water that are all within driving distance of Detroit and Atlanta, where I’m based. Checking out that random coffee house, finding the best pizza in town, going on a hike or run somewhere new, meeting new people, no matter how close by keeps the momentum going until that next big trip!

    • Hey Aaron!
      Those are all GREAT ideas! I don’t have a car but I did just get a motorbike that I plan to do some exploring on. I’m a little nervous about highway driving, but I want to live in the edge more so there ya go! Best pizza… oh boy… I’m a pizza NUT being I’m from the northeast. I have high standards, but when they are met, I am the happiest woman alive. 🙂
      Here’s to keeping the travel momentum going Aaron!!
      Laur 🙂

  • I’ll add to the full-time job crowd. I try to get out and see stuff in the local areas, but my routine doesn’t leave much time for that. Thankfully Ill be traveling again in June, so not long now.
    As for identity, I guess I try to pick who I want to be and work toward being that person. I am not currently there in some ways, and beyond expectations in other ways. Is “you are who you accept yourself to be” sufficiently cliche-sounding to end with?

    • Hey Andrew!
      Well I have to say I can’t wait to find out more about your travels come June! It’ll be here before we know it!
      Oh and don’t worry about the cliche-sounding ending. I’m not afraid to admit that I can be a fairly corny person haha. And you are dead on with it!

  • Excellent post! We had these same thoughts when we found ourselves stuck in Melbourne for four years, only getting away for short trips because we had to sort my visa and citizenship issues and wanted to save enough money to take a year off. Our website was born out of these thoughts because I thought, wait a minute, there must be other travellers like that too – we were hoping to bring inspiration to those who were “stuck at home.” Of course, every travel site does this to an extent. My point is that you’re not alone in this and I think it’s fantastic that you’ve thought of some alternate ways to inspire yourself in your hometown. With the economy the way it is, a lot of people are probably looking to do that. Looking forward to hearing about some of your local discoveries =)

    • Hey Andrea!!!
      I absolutely love what you guys have done. I mean, you don’t call yourself the Inspiring Travelers for nothing! 🙂
      And actually it wasn’t until I wrote this post and started talking with other “Travelers who aren’t traveling” that I really am not alone. And also, some of the ideas that people have told me have been so helpful to me. I miss travel so much and I’ll be doing it agian soon, but as you know, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do first before you can head out again 🙂

  • Thanks Lauren,

    Having been on the road on and off for the last decade I certainly know what you mean. There was a two-year period in which my wife and I were forced to travel with few short stops of rest. That brought about the opposite of what you share: overload of foreign impressions; too much of a good thing.

    So to answer your question, I’d say: pause, digest, change. Then, once you’re off again, you get more out of your new destination. Gilbert Chesterton said, “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”

    We leave to China next week. I hope to have changed enough meanwhile to see China with new eyes. Good luck, and I will continue following your tweets.

    • Hey Asaf!

      Oh I totally understand the overload too much of a good thing. After my year in China I really was ready to come back. I had kind of had it up to here with all the shit that comes along with living in a foreign country like that by the end of it haha. I miss it now though… kind of like breaking up with someone and a few months later all you can think of was the good times.

      And I love the quote you shared. I have definitely experienced that sensation and it is like no other. I have absolutely learned now to take for grnated where it is I am as well.

      And you’re going to China??!?! If you have ANY questions please let me know!!! I have a world of friends and lots of experience over there that can help you 🙂

      Thanks for your words of wisdom and for sharing Asaf!
      – Lauren 🙂

  • Damn! You made me want to go traveling!!

    I actually don’t identify as a traveler, mostly because I haven’t done very much of it yet. But I can relate with the broader theme of identifying as something you’re not currently fully living. I mean, even calling myself an entrepreneur sometimes feels strange… I’m still living at home, and only just beginning to make money.. can I still call myself an entrepreneur? I think the key here is vision. Having the picture of your ideal situation and living LIKE that’s your current reality… which was pretty much the point of your post. 🙂

    Awesome stuff Laur!!

    • Hey Emilie!!!
      Right on! Absolutely 🙂 And I can relate to you on the entrepreneurial path as well. I’m in a similar boat. When I compare myself to the big-leagues I think, “How could I call myself an entrepreneur.” But are we really that different? And they started off at square one as well. We’re on our way to do some big things and make some big moves 🙂
      I absolutely look at you as an entrepreneur and your vision is definitely going to go far and be big 🙂
      Cheers to living LIKE and Making it our reality 🙂
      – Laur

  • Sweet Laur,

    What an awesome post, from the image you selected to the profound content.
    I will add one item to your list. #4- Your Soul – Taking time to explore this vast yet extremely unexplored land is perhaps the greatest journey we will ever take part in. It is harder than taking a 20 hour flight yet it only requires a few minutes (full of presence). All you need is to close your eyes and let go of everything you’ve come to know to simply be.

    A big hug my friend and thanks again for this beautiful post.

    -Bernardo

    • Hey Bernardo!

      I loved the picture for this post too! So beautiful.
      Thank you so much for #4. I think this has been one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given. Being in touch with myself is so important and I do have a tendancy to get stuck inside my head rather than feeling present on the outside looking into it.. if that makes sense 🙂
      Thanks Bernardo for the kind and hopeful words,
      Your friend Lauren 🙂

  • Jossie

    I really like your traveling/exploring spirit, enjoy surfing, and we’ll have to meet up for drinks so you can tell me about the cute guys you meet when you’re out surfing 🙂

    • Hey Jossie!!!

      haha oh I am definitely hoping I’ll have some stories hehe. Let’s do drinks this week for sure!!!!! 😀

  • Kristie

    Hey there,

    This is exactly what me and my fiancee have been going through. We LOVE travel and plan on doing a U.S. roadtrip next spring for our honeymoon. It’s a matter of saving up the money for these sorts of adventures and in between them we can’t help but start planning for the next one. Traveling really forces you to live in the moment, which is really the key to living a full and meaningful life.

    Anyhow, I got really excited when you mentioned you were in St. Augustine. I’ve been a Floridian my whole life and in the past year have visited St. Augustine three times. I just love that city. It’s so unique, especially for Florida. Full of history and beautiful images. Have fun with it! I grew up on the east coast as well, but closer to West Palm Beach, in Jensen Beach. Right now I’m in the middle of the state, which has been okay, but I’m ready to move onto better things in the next year or so.

    Again, have fun with that city. You will love the Keys too!
    Kristie

    • Hey Kristie!
      Yea I don’t know what I’d do without weekend trips! You definitely have to let me know when you and your man take off on your US road trip! That will be amazing! Do you have a blog? I’d love to check it out if so!

      And I LOVE St. Augustine! THe downtown area is my favorite! Next time you’re around these parts you have to get in touch with me and the three of us can grab dinner and a drink! I love the history and the look of DT St. Augustine – you can’t really get that in many places in America. Sometimes I like to imagine I’m walking around some Spanish town in the Riviera hehe.

      Cheers to travel!
      – Laur 🙂

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  • This makes me feel better about not traveling much this year. As I started a new job with no vacation for the first year, I’ve been delving into my other goals of watching film, reading, cooking, and drinking my different beers. I feel like this year is less glamorous or adventurous, but still busy!

  • I can’t believe I just found out about your blog now – we have so much in common already! I’m also a traveler by heart, but have currently prioritized a career (only because my job implies traveling about once a month…). I’m spanish and moved to Switzerland on my own a year and a half ago. Depending on the times of the year, I sometimes feel more settled than other times… but I really try to keep up with my thirst of adventure. I either travel over to weekend to another european country, visit something local in the region, have started learning french to be able to communicate better with the swiss french, try to meet other expats every now and then, and plan on taking sailing classes at the lake to meet new people and practice my french!
    I think the trick is in not staying at home, as that will give you the feeling of being stuck and not “living”. As long as you find interesting activities to do and avoid a real “routine” everything will be fine!

  • Can relate to what you are saying as well of the comments. Luckily I am traveling now but am 1 month in Bangkok and that even doesn’t feel like travel. Why am I commenting? That photo at the top is just out of this world “I have to comment” good.

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  • I surf as much as possible…. Every time I get out there it is a new adventure. New waves bring that “uncertainty” feeling from traveling…

    Great article, you conveyed a feeling I often feel. That makes an awesome post!

    Stop by Cocoa Beach for a Surf Lesson!

  • I feel you on this one. I am currently the traveler who isn’t traveling, and its rough. On the plus side, I’ve developed a lot of really awesome new sides or my life/personality. Gotta keep making it happen!

    • Hey David! Man I am exactly the same way! Since not traveling I have really found some cool ways to expand myself and develop some interests. As much as I miss globe trotting, it’s been a needed break. Actually, just today I launched a new project I’m doing on the blog… a A 50 Mile Walk: For Tomorrow’s World Changers. What originally started as what would be a 2 day walk on the beach just for the sake of travel, turned into something much much bigger. Just this morning since I posted it I’ve already been seeing results! So cool!!!! 🙂

      I’ll def. be giving you a call lwhen I get to SD and we’ll go ride some bikes and do some cool things!!
      – Laur 🙂

  • Meg

    I think you hit it right on the head, you have to come up with hobbies and things that can contain your wandering thoughts while you are not traveling. I like to go on little trips here and there. Even if it is just for a weekend to get away. I also am really into yoga and became a yoga instructor recently so that is occupying my time and I am very passionate about it. Learning hobbies that one day you will be able to use while you are traveling…like teaching yoga all around the world to kids and other travelers. 🙂

    Good luck with your hobbies and passions! You will be traveling soon! 🙂

  • I know exactly what you’re talking about. Sitting idle kills me so I have to hobbies to preoccupy my mind or I’ll go nuts! Glad to see you’re enjoying St. Augustine. I live in Jax so I spend quite a bit of time down there. I love all of the history St. Auggie has to offer. I start up at Flagler College next month and can’t wait to spend more time in the town.

  • Hi Lauren! I started a blog recently about being an “Adventurous Soul” and I feel the same way. I’m a traveller/adventurer, but the way I cope in between big travels is finding the little adventures along the way in this thing called life. Below is a quote that helped me get through the “non-traveling” periods. Instead of “miracle”, I use “adventure” 🙂

    “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” –Albert Einstein