Sometimes it’s Paris or Madrid… sometimes it’s a snowy mountain peak… and sometimes it’s hiding in my car in a supermarket parking. Escape is escape, no matter where it takes you, and there’s a very thin line between exquisite and dreadful.
I’d rather be anywhere but here… Everybody has thought it and felt it at least on a few occasions, I’m sure. But sometimes the need to run becomes a constant, the fuel and reason behind one’s actions, when time gets divided in small, painful increments between escapes. It’s exactly these moments away that keep you sane, that give you the strength to bear that exasperating “everyday” and if escape plans fall apart, despair, depression, anger and frustration bubble up uncontrollably.
There was this large bag the contents of which I occasionally liked to spread all over the living room rug when I was a child, much to my grandmother’s exasperation. Postcards and stationary from countless hotels in what then seemed surreal exotic places were more amazing to me than fairy tales. I never wanted to be a princess and fairy tales weren’t real, even if I enjoyed many of them. But untouchable as they might have seemed, those places were real, and my mother had seen them all. The mere idea of it made her seem untouchable as well. Travelling wasn’t as accessible back then as it is nowadays, so that collection of postcards representing places she had seen was quite an achievement. An exciting, yet frightening achievement… I wanted to grow up and go see such beautiful places as well, I remember; I also remember having no clue as to how I would manage such an extraordinary thing. Grand things are in even greater in a child’s eyes.
I have a postcard collection of my own now. I travelled because I loved to, I wanted to see all those places. I travelled because at times I felt I had no choice. But I also travelled because for a number of years I felt I had to be anywhere but home in order to be alive. No matter where you are, who you are and what you have, it’s all worthless, I was raised to believe; everything that’s truly valuable is that which you have yet to conquer; once you’ve conquered it, it becomes worthless and you need to move on to something greater, or at least new. Only weak people savour that which they have and they’re happy with their existences, I was taught.
Thinking back, I don’t regret taking any of those trips, not even the horrible ones. But eventually I had to understand the real reasons behind my need to leave, so that I could allow myself to feel accomplished and content with what my life is when I stay. There was a time when “home” had nothing for me and I was right to want to run; that attitude was no longer appropriate after a certain point, wanting to leave everything behind was no longer only a token of ambition. Instead, whether I liked it or not, I had to admit that learning to find joy in my everyday life was not a sign of weakness. And I liked it, even if it wasn’t easy… It was certainly better than constant dissatisfaction.
Some trips weren’t really for me, much as I tried to believe otherwise; they were journeys taken to gain approval I would never really gain. Other trips I haven’t taken in order to comply with somebody’s expectations and image of the person I should be… an image that would never be me. The rest… the rest of them were all about me and where I wanted to be, what I needed, and that’s the kind of travelling that I wish to be doing from now on.
Nurture is not everything; there’s also nature… my nature. And by nature, I am a restless, ambitious person, who often gets bored too easily. I can accept that, the same way that I can accept the fact that early summer, and sometimes early spring as well, make me giddy with that familiar desire… I want to get in my car or on a plane and keep going, not looking back. I love that impulse, it generally makes me feel alive, if it stems mainly in the need to travel, not to run away. That’s not a bad thing; it’s not necessarily a good one either, I remember.
I also remember something else I could no longer deny after a certain point… We desperately need to escape sometimes; what we tend to ignore or forget when we plot our escape is that there are some people who love us and whose desperate need is to be with us, when all we think about is running away…