Me, You, Everyone and No One: Thoughts On Wanderlust and Loneliness

by P. Braithwaite


On the plane back to ‘The States’ from Brazil, I pressed my nose against the window and watched America become a diorama of herself. That’s my favorite part of airplane travel. Streets too wide to cross are the width of a finger tip. A city that swallows horizons fits on a ping-pong table. And so, fueled by months away, fatigue, and this perspective, I cried for the entire 30 minutes of initial descent. I’m still not sure why (this song helped), but I sobbed quietly in my seat while my Brazilian neighbor pretended not to notice. There was sadness. And there was relief. There was excitement. And there was confusion. The feelings dissolved into each other like cotton candy hit by water.

I’m left with a sweetness that turns bitter in my mouth. 

I’m lonely here at home, and I don’t know how to talk about it because no one talks about the loneliness that occurs when you travel. Or at least I didn’t. I talked about the victories: the awesome people I met, the time I climbed a mountain and took an awesome picture with my arms raised above the cloud line. I talked about the terrible moments – the time I lost my luggage and used bad Portuguese to find it, the time the Tourist Police drove me home in torrential downpour (spoiler alert: I’m still alive). But no one talks about the loneliness enmeshed in every moment. We don’t discuss the melancholy that comes with being a tourist in your own life. No one talks about the ways that self-sufficiency can become a prison, or the biological effects of constantly using courage – the cortisol and the adrenaline always coursing through your veins. We don’t share the inner pep-talk we must ceaselessly give ourselves when perpetually encountering the unfamiliar (I’m safe. I’m fine. I know the word for ‘help’).

Nope. You share cool pictures, crazy stories..and you come home.

You come home and everyone wants to know if you fell in love. You did. And you come home and everyone thinks you’re brave. And, yes, you are.  But maybe you’re also scared that nothing quite as strange, beautiful, terrifying, and miserable will ever happen to you again. Or maybe you’re scared that this wonderfully bizarre experience is the beginning of a weird relationship you will forever have with yourself. Maybe you’re afraid there’s no such thing as home, and you’re grasping for reasons to stay exactly where you are.

Or maybe no one feels this way but me.

I didn’t expect to feel the loneliness of traveling when I got home, but I do. My daily life feels foreign, and my native tongue is no longer an adequate connector. I’m home, yet I’m very much still traveling by myself. And so, I suspect, this isn’t a blog post about travel. Maybe its a post on how past is always dying whether we kill it with a passport or the passage of another day. We don’t have to travel to face the unfamiliar. We don’t have to leave town to adventure into our own lives. Solitude, space, and distance are wrapped in more than miles or yards.

There are a million ways to feel trapped in the solitude of an experience.

There are a million ways to separate yourself from the world at large.

And, my hope, is there are a million ways to eventually come home…even after a stretch of time spent elsewhere.

I hope you are home. I hope I am too.

I hope to find comfort in the strangeness of my life.

And so it is.

(photo cred: Ryan Mcguire)