A few years ago, I was sitting in a café in coastal Mui Ne, Vietnam enjoying a fresh coconut. As ugly afternoon thunderstorms rolled in above the water, I turned my gaze toward the graffiti-covered back wall of the café, where one message in particular caught my eye.
Jump, a net will appear
It seemed almost too appropriate. Although I had technically come to Vietnam on a “visa run” — my Chinese visa stipulated I needed to leave the country at least once every 30 days — I had no intention of going back. My living situation was unhealthy and, with a newfound source of income, I had no financial reason to stay in Shanghai.
So, I “jumped” and missed my return flight. And a net definitely appeared under me: My freelance work kept rolling in long enough for me to travel the world and transform this blog into an invaluable travel resource for you, and a valuable source of income for myself.
Nature, as one of my favorite self-help books explains, abhors a vacuum. Whenever a vacuum is created, something else immediately fills the space.
The moment you step onto a plane or boat, or into an automobile, you are cut off from everything that was flowing into your being, be it stress from your job or living situation, a bad relationship or breakup or anything else that might’ve been fucking up your life. This leaves you a lot of emotional space, but it won’t stay vacant for long.
Maybe you’ll meet someone, be they a friend or a lover, who confirms or denies doubts you were having about your partner. Perhaps a work or volunteering opportunity will present itself and compel you to finally resign from your own position — or highlight why you shouldn’t.
You might also think of travel as an antibiotic. Leaving stops the bleeding; and the experience of travel is the medicine that scrubs out the wound, contains the infection and heals the skin on top.
A few months after I left China, I went “home” to Austin, TX, with the intention of laying low while I saved for an upcoming trip to South America. Unfortunately, I laid a little too low, and ended up falling in love with someone.
I say “unfortunately” because I fell so deeply in love with this person that I convinced myself I didn’t need to go on the trip. The only problem? He didn’t love me back. By the grace of God, United Airlines un-cancelled my ticket.
I was still pretty raw, emotionally, when I stepped off the plane in Lima, so I walked down through Miraflores district to Costa Verde as soon as I dropped my things off at the hostel.
As the fierce Pacific crashed against the black-rock beaches at the base of the cliffs I was walking along, I noticed a sculpture, which depicted a man and a woman making love. Nosotros no inventamos el amor, it read. We don’t invent love.
The message was not only apt, but humbling. As I traveled deeper into South America, more “big” things reminded me how little the collapse of the relationship had actually affected me, from the 10,000 foot deep Colca Canyon to Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats to Brazilian’s sex motels.
Travel isn’t running away from a problem; it’s running toward a solution. You might even realize you never truly had a problem to begin with!