Some Thoughts On The Bittersweet Nature of Travel

Some Thoughts On The Bittersweet Nature of Travel
Melissa - illumelation - Zambales, Subic Beach Sunset Silhouette

Humans, much as we try to deny it, are creatures of attachment. We’re naturally inclined to seek common ground with our peers. We find familiarity in the faces and habits of strangers; we are drawn to people whose sentiments most match our own. Whether we realise it or not, we grow closest to those whom we see ourselves reflected in. We’re perpetually in search of our soulmates, are we not?

For me, when like-minded people gather together, with the smiling universe drawing invisible lines between kindred souls and their surroundings, a quietly explosive synergy brews between them. These synergic connections feel so natural, so easy and familiar, that it’s only when the bubbles are burst that our systems are shocked into recognising what subtle love we have exchanged with complete strangers. This shock is a blessing, rekindling our appreciation for life’s marvelous possibilities.

I find that these instances happen most often when traveling, when we venture outside of our usual habitats. To travel is to connect, whether with lands or oceans or people or self. When someone enjoys the unforeseeable adventures that exploration can offer, that kind of person is likeliest to kindle meaningful friendships with fellow explorers.

landing-stage-sea-holiday-vacation.jpg

Such is our disposition for growing attached to others strengthened on small islands, in hostels and cabins and shacks, where strangers serendipitously collide and connect, yoked by a common thought, perspective or circumstance. Innumerable times have I fallen asleep sated and electrified in a new place, surrounded by new people, lulled by happy thoughts of bonding with my newfound reflections in days to come.

These moments of human connection, which blossom against backdrops of foreign landscapes and mystery horizons, are bizarre microcosms of intense friendship in its purest form. Longevity no longer matters when allied souls are brought together in a place, their thoughts and vibrations exactly alike. These moments culminate in one unforgettable, unreplicable grain of memory sifting in the infinite sands of time.

I’ve lost count of how many times I have stared out of airplane windows with hot tears rolling from sun-stroked eyes. My mind isn’t yet aware of everything I have gained, of what and who I have left behind, but my soul already knows; the soul is always ten steps ahead of the brain. There in the sky, all these tender goodbyes settle like lead on my shoulders. My body journeys further away from the people I met and the person I was at that moment in time. As experience freezes slowly into memory, I feel the keen sting of loss, a sense of finite severance.

I am overcome with sickening nostalgia. I am arrested by the sheer pain of detachment from kindred spirits that I have curled up in hammocks with, danced beneath stars with, shared waves in oceans with, dreamed on the road with, and laughed until I cried with. All is bittersweet.

Plane wing, beautiful sunset above clouds

At the very least, we can return to perfect moments with perfect people merely by closing our eyes and delving into our memories, which shimmer like golden threads in the infinite tapestries of our minds.

I am always comforted by the knowledge that, on this earth, and in my lifetime, there will always be new people to encounter, new places to explore. If we were so inclined, we could find new adventures waiting just around the corner.

After long periods of traveling, I dread returning to the city. Fragments of my spirit are always left at beaches, in rainforests, on the sticky leather seats of cars, trains and planes. Skin still brown and hair still wild, I live an anxious existence in the concrete jungle, hands clutching for leaves, for sand, for water, for humanity. I stare into mirrors on subway walls and wonder who is staring back at me.

What makes me most nervous is our adaptability. We yearn to retreat back to our tribes, to days of waking up with absolutely no plan for the day, to recover our sense of freedom. But it will be only a matter of days before we are once again buttoned up, masked, navigating blocks and banks and cubicles with dank capitalist ferocity. The most painfully reassuring knowledge of all is that no matter what, we will survive.


Mel left London to chase summer around the world, one country at a time. She loves the ocean, writing postcards, and solo exploration. Travel with her on Instagram.