Every four years or so it’s exactly the same thing. First I start getting restless. Then one day I find myself randomly looking at job possibilities on the internet. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before I start bookmarking job pages for Saudi oil companies, Chinese universities and Thai refugee camps, and calculating how much money I could get if I sold all my things on eBay. It’s kind of like being single…after a while you lose all objectivity and simply EVERYTHING looks great. During my last travel mania I was actually considering applying as a cafeteria lady in Antarctica.
I love it here in Köln, don’t get me wrong, so the last time the travel bug hit I gritted my teeth and stood my ground. It took about a month to get over it, and it took all my willpower to come back here from a holiday in Japan.
So here it is again. Last night I actually looked at a job in Siberia with honest interest (and I hate cold weather more than anything on this planet. Except maybe spiders and clowns) and I realized I had it bad.
And maybe it would be time for a move, except I’m one year away from being able to apply for nationalization here. I’ve been playing the visa bureaucracy game for coming on 12.5 years here in Europe, and I am, frankly, over it. This would enable me to vote for the government I pay so many taxes to, to take summer work in other EU countries when work slows down here and most of my students are on holiday. It would also allow me to be officially a part of the society I feel at home in, to be an insider instead of an outsider. This is what makes it stupid for me to seriously consider bailing this year, and why I’m so proud I’ve stuck it out this far.
On the other hand, some days I do get this overwhelming fear that maybe I’ve done all the interesting things already in my life, that I did them too fast and didn’t spread them out over my lifetime. That the rest of my life is doomed to normalcy. That if I don’t keep moving I’ll stop completely, and end up being one of those people who sit at pubs and tell exciting stories about their youth. Which would be fine, except I’m only 31, which is definitely not old enough to be reminiscing about the olden days when I was fun. This is not a helpful feeling when the bug hits and my brain has enough work convincing me that moving now would be Stoopid.
I guess the rational solution would be to take a holiday, right? Unfortunately when I travel, I prefer to move to the country and explore around it. Short holidays just begin to feel like one night stands after a while… you know, you haven’t in so long, so you think, well, I’ll just have this little thing and afterwards I’ll feel really relaxed and better and ready to work, but instead it isn’t enough and you’re just as bored and restless as you were before.
I love the excitement of packing up and moving to somewhere I know nothing about, and learning everything from the ground up. The less I know about somewhere before I move there the better. There are no expectations, no prejudices, and everything seems exotic. You can learn language, culture, politics from the beginning, learn the little streets, find favorite cafes and restaurants, navigate a foreign supermarket, figure out the public transportation system, meet new people from new backgrounds. It’s a kick like no other and I really do miss the adrenaline of it all. And after a time, the thrill is gone and nothing is new anymore, and Burkina Faso starts to look like the obvious place to live next.
That said, let’s hope that my trips Sweden and Hawaii this year are enough to kick this bug out and make me feel normal and settled again!