Sitting in a café in the French Alps where we had abused free wifi privileges for an entire week, I tuned in to watch my basketball club back home compete in game one of the state championship final from the screen of my iPhone. I had friends on court and friends in the stands, all coming together to, in some way, partake in a game that was such a large part of my life for so long. Once the game was finished, and my team had unfortunately blown a lead and lost to a buzzer beating layup, I found myself feeling something I’ve found to be incredibly rare in the last year; homesickness. Now in fairness, it wasn’t a strong feeling but it was one nonetheless. It allowed me to assess the things I was missing out on back home and what I had sacrificed in order to achieve a life of perpetual travelling.
The first thing that came to mind was family and friends. I keep in regular enough contact with my family and know that at some stage, I’ll see them while travelling, even if it is just an excuse for Dad to visit a new place so they’ve never been too heavy a heartache. My old pets as well I feel warrant a mention, as they’ve been part of the family since I was 5 years old. It’s tough leaving knowing that it may be the last time you do ever see them after all these years but if you can accept that, then it makes it a little bit easier.
Friends is a slightly tougher one to deal with. I’m lucky enough to say I have quite a large circle of friends who I like to try and keep in touch with as much as possible and of course being absent from their lives for what realistically is now more than 2 years can certainly be a challenge. Seeing photos of people hanging out, montages of road trips, ski trips and grand adventures can invoke that longing to be home and amongst them all, having good friends to share in all those experiences with. One of the tough things about travelling solo is not being able to share your adventures with those close friends that you’ll be able to reminisce with 30 years down the track. The beauty of the modern age though is that keeping in contact is no longer as great a challenge with your WhatsApp, Facebook messaging and Skype interactions relatively free and readily accessible. But you do find yourself missing so much of what they get up to.
But like anything, you do only see the positive aspects of your friends’ lives and rarely see the standard days, day in and day out. This was help confirmed by my recent visit home to surprise my sister for her 21st birthday and where I was absolutely jam packed in trying to catch up with as many people as possible. Some people just asked me solidly about my travel stories, others were a 50-50 swap and share and with some people, it was just like hanging out before I ever went away, where nothing had changed. This helped me realise that despite pangs of desire to want to be home and spending more time with friends, this paled in comparison to what I am experiencing on a daily basis. That even travelling, some of my less memorable days are often more exciting than the days I could expect if I were back home.
I feel that everybody at some stage in their life has to sacrifice something they’re passionate about in order to achieve something more realistic. I will no doubt have to do this with the nomadic lifestyle one day but in order to first achieve this lifestyle, I had to sacrifice arguably my first and biggest love to date: basketball. I played heavily for 15 years, rarely any less than 5 days a week since the age of about 13. I followed the NBA religiously, played hours of 2K, I coached, I refereed and I went to watch my friends play just as an excuse to be in a basketball stadium. It was such a large part of my life that in order to create a dramatic change, it had to go. And I do miss it immensely; I still find myself watching old game tapes every few months and even have a deflated ball and pump I take with me to every city I visit. The solace I take in sacrificing basketball are that as a player, my best years are already behind me and that I can coach whether I’m 17 or 70. But every now and then, that longing to have a hard training session in a freezing cold stadium with some of your best mates, week in and week out for most of the year comes crawling back; that lack of teamwork and a combined goal to achieve. Giving up basketball to travel has also led to a massive decline in my personal fitness which more disciplined people would not suffer as I have. Damn you burgers and beers!
Sacrificing familiarity and how easy everything is back home is another thing you must be willing to go without. I for instance have learnt to appreciate the freedom that having a car brings so much more when you spend so long commuting on foreign public transport. Especially as an adventure guy, being able to say “I want to go caving or hiking or climbing, let’s jump in the car and go” is such a nice thing to have as opposed to figuring out the logistics of how to get to the start of a hike or figuring out where to go camping for the weekend. Those people you can go to, or a favourite place to visit to clear your mind and readjust are hard to accommodate for while you travel as well, having to substitute life-long friends for fellow travellers you’ve known a matter of days or your favourite beach for an unproven park or tourist site.
But then you leave the café, having abused their wifi to stream the game and are faced with mountains of overwhelming beauty, sharing them with people you haven’t known that long but are already great mates. You find yourself attempting to buy street food in a foreign language that you think you are far more knowledgeable in than you really are and then checking in for a flight to a completely different country the next day in order to do it all over again. And despite the sacrifices and what you’re missing out on, you know you’ve definitely made the right decision to up your roots and go, and that this life has an incredible amount to give.