I lived in the house I grew up in Finland for 18 years with just a couple of years in between spent in the US. I had a very happy and safe childhood of going to school, ice skating, hanging out with friends, giving some hard times to my ever-loving and understanding parents as a teenager, and learning about independency through my first jobs.
After that I had a year of not knowing what to do: I had a summer job in France, I worked in a school for 6 months and volunteered in Angola for a little less than a month. I traveled all over Europe and didn’t know of anything better I could have done with the money I was earning. I went to free therapy to talk about how the uncertainty of the future stressed me out. I often got upset with my boyfriend and felt like there weren’t many people to relate to.
In 2012 I moved to Estonia and little did I know that the following three years there would be the best of my life. My mind was at peace and despite the inevitable difficulties of life I went to bed already excited for the next day almost every night. I lived in a gorgeous apartment and managed to build an amazing network of fellow students, co-workers and all sorts of younger and older people of Tallinn. I felt much like I did in my childhood: happy and safe.
Now I am about to leave Micronesia to go to the Philippines for an indefinite period of time. I feel much like I did during my gap year. Uncertain and slightly alone. Stressed and to some degree unsupported.
I want to travel but it seems that consistency and routine makes me content – i.e. living in one place, like I did in my childhood and in Estonia. It’s not until now that I have learned the true price of life on the road. It’s giving up the feeling of safety that comes from what we know and more importantly, our support that has had years’ time to build. It’s starting over repeatedly, getting new friends time and time again. It’s finding the balance of being strong enough to support yourself and being wise enough to trust strangers when you need to rely on the help of others. It’s saying goodbyes to the ones who became the most important people in your life and facing the big and small, cruel and wonderful, but always humbling world completely on your own. And I’ve overestimated my ability to do so.
Someone I look up to and have had the honour to spend a lot of time with once said that he disagrees when people say that one finds oneself through traveling. He said he believes that you lose yourself, but find the world. My interpretation of that is that one becomes less self-absorbed, more trusting of the unknown, and aware of the wonders of the world, through being constantly thrown into new situations that may be uncomfortable, confusing, even dangerous.
In all honesty, I am not feeling well at the moment. This year in Micronesia has been in many ways overwhelming and I have by no means been the carefree world explorer who is satisfied in life in such an admirable way. Even if that is how I haven’t been this year, I believe, or at least truly hope, that it doesn’t mean that I won’t ever be that way. After all, isn’t the way to learn always through trial and error? This year I’ve met enough incredible humans, perpetual travelers, to see that it is possible, but that it comes with a big price.
So, World, I haven’t lost myself to you just yet, but that is my full intention. First I need to go home to calm down and collect my thoughts, more than ever. I truly can’t wait to see and live the known again, but I know that sooner or later I’ll yet again itch for the unknown.