While traveling can be one of the most enriching and memorable times in ones’ life, it can simultaneously be the hardest. And not because sleeping in hostels is sometimes uncomfortable and dirty, or because the cultural differences are too hard, or even because of the close calls getting Taken in Southeast Asia, but because being so far away from family and friends is just fucking hard sometimes.
I’m sitting on a bus right now during hour 2 of 7, and as I type, I’m missing a wedding of a friend back home. Which will be the second wedding I’ve missed this year. And so I’m thinking about how I met each of these two people who are getting married tonight 5000 miles away: One when I was in elementary school. She was 3 years older and my friends and I were inquiring about teenage-girl-things, like the comfort or lack thereof of “thongs”. The other, I met a few years later and he quickly became one of my best friends whose car I liked to steal and drive around before I even had a learners permit (sorry mom). My last memory of the pair of them was when I last visited home and went out drinking for mine and my best friend’s birthday. I (of course) had too much to drink and they ended up driving me home. So I guess it wasn’t really a memory because the only thing I actually remember is him texting me the following morning asking how I was feeling and that I had left a pool of drool in his car.
I’ve been thinking of these memories amongst others and then I look out the window of the bus to see the countrysides of Korea rolling past and it’s like an icy splash back into reality. I get so lost in memories, re-living different parts of my life, and then it’s like I zoom out and I’m back in Korea. And things just seem so frighteningly big. I’ve gotten so used to life in Korea that I often forget that I’m in fricken Korea. And so it’s times like these that the distance feels so profoundly and physically vast.
One thing about traveling in your twenties is that you never want to stop. You catch the “travel bug/itch/fever” that keeps you insatiable until you’re too old to be taking 10 hour bus rides across countries or hiking up mountains at 3am. You want to go everywhere and see everything. But you’re still young enough to feel the pains of homesickness. You crave the familiarity of home and people you grew up with. You feel the pull of going home with a dozen of your family and friends messaging you on a regular basis asking when and if you’re ever coming back. But you’re not yet ready to go home because there’s so much to see. Lists, goals and plans have been half-made and only slightly researched but the determination and ambition is readily present. You feel like you’re being pulled in so many directions that you’re kind of just floating in limbo with no real home. Only temporary homes, past homes, possible-future-homes. But you don’t really belong anywhere. In a sense, it’s like you belong everywhere, but it’s still dreadfully lonely sometimes.
Mostly because I know I’m slowly becoming “that one girl” and not someone’s best friend like I was 4 years ago. I’m becoming “that aunt” that is rarely around. “That roommate from college”. “That girl I used to work with”. Sure, it’s amazing making friends around the world from so many different countries. But you can never replace those friends you made growing up who have seen you at your absolute worst. You can never recreate these years to see your nephews growing up. You’ll miss out on Christmases, Thanksgivings, birthdays and engagements. You’ll miss big moments and little moments. You won’t be there for a lot of laughs and a lot of tears. You might be climbing gorgeous mountains across the globe, but you’ll never be in those wedding photos.