Today, I sold the last piece of furniture that I owned. I am in a near-empty apartment, drinking bitterly strong coffee and dividing clothes and other small household items into “keep,” “donate,” and “trash” piles. So far, it has been remarkably easy to divide my life into little piles. I have spent the last week doing just that, and feeling exited about my upcoming travels.
But around four o’clock this morning, something changed. My eyes popped open and I couldn’t get back to sleep. My mind, which I had been keeping occupied with endless “To-Do” lists during my fully-awake hours, started wandering down paths I had previously refused to explore. Suddenly, the anxiety felt like a bowling ball resting on my chest: Am I really going to spend the next year of my life alone?
Sure, I will be in contact with family and friends, some of whom may even visit me along the way. And I anticipate meeting people and making friends throughout my travels – I am pretty outgoing. But, essentially, I will be alone. The most alone I have ever been. At the end of my day, no one will be there to ask me how it went. When I am in bed at night, it will just be me and my thoughts. When I began planning this trip, I had a very romantic notion of rediscovering myself and my passions. But what if I don’t like what I find? What if I get lonely?
My anxiety about loneliness was compounded by the ding of my phone’s push-alert. Mint.com wanted to remind me that I have a low checking account balance. I disabled the notifications, which would be pointless going forward. The balance will always be low. I am just transferring over enough money to survive. I am just packing enough clothing to survive. This is a radical lifestyle change, and I will be going it alone.
My fears are not unique. I know that. They are not even unique to long-term travelers. Most people worry about loneliness. Most people worry about money. But it feels different because I am giving up a great social life and a great income voluntarily. My 4 a.m. brain warned me: I may never get some of those relationships back. I may never earn that kind of money again.
But now the sun is high in the sky, I am fully caffeinated, and I have made significant progress with my little piles. I wouldn’t feel honest if I didn’t acknowledge my fears, but in the light of day, they seem much less ominous. So I am pushing forward, and busily preparing for what will undoubtedly be one of the most remarkable years of my life. A year that is sure to be full of ups AND downs, happy times and lonely times, rich times and poor times. And my excitement once again eclipses my fears.
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