I’m startled by the number of people who, when they find out I’m a perpetual traveler, get excited by the assumption that I reinvent myself every time I arrive in a different place.
Which is probably the positive spin on people assuming that I’m traveling because I’m running away from something.
Which is nearly always followed, eventually, by the confession that they would like to run away from their life. Or that they once ran away and built a new life.
Reinventing yourself at each destination
I’ll admit that I’m creeped out when people suggest that I could pretend to be someone else when I’m traveling. I can’t help but assume that these people are, or aspire to be, pathological liars.
One of the things I love about traveling is just how small the world is. I cross paths with people all the time. I discover that two people I met separately, years apart and in different countries, know each other. Making up stories would certainly make these small world moments feel less like magic and more like getting caught.
Other times people aren’t suggesting I lie about who I am, but rather that I could really create a new me every few weeks. Like a New Years resolution, only more extreme. Which seems…ambitious. And exhausting.
Why would someone do this? It seems like so much effort to create a character and then pretend to be that person, convincingly, for weeks or months at a time.
Sure, when I left middle school for high school, I was eager to start fresh with a different group of classmates. But it’s not as if my goal was to become a different person overnight.
During my travels I’ve played around a lot with how to introduce myself. Do I say I’m from the Jersey Shore, Brooklyn, or Toronto? How do I explain my job? While my answers to common small talk questions vary based on context, they’re all unquestionably true.
Yes, I am a little different depending on where I am
My life is different in each place. My schedule changes when I leave a big city to go stay on a farm. Different aspects of my personality come out depending on where I am — a town with great hiking trails or a city with a thriving gallery scene — and who I’m spending time with. Some months I’m exploring every new restaurant with foodie friends while other times I’m enjoying a chef’s kitchen. If I have a big project I’ll barely socialize at all, while other times I’m out and about every day.
Mostly, though, I’m doing the same things in different places.
Certainly my friends in New Jersey, New York, and Toronto all know a slightly different version of me. My life is different in each place — and my friends in Toronto weren’t there when I had training wheels on my bike or when I shaved my head.
But none of them knows me by a different name or thinks I work in finance or that I grew up in Spain or something.
Do you want to escape your life?
The longer I travel (and the more I have these conversations) the more I’m concerned about our society.
Why do so many people get so excited about lying to stranger? Or being someone else?
The first time a Burner referred to everything outside of Black Rock City as the ‘default world’ and suggested that their real life was during that one week of the year, it seemed profoundly sad.
How many people are living lives they want to run away from?
Sure, I’m not living in my apartment in Toronto right now. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love my friends in Toronto. My apartment is a comfortable spot I enjoy living in, in a fantastic location. Toronto is still one of my favorite cities and I spend a lot of time there.
Sure, I left my hometown in New Jersey. But that doesn’t mean I disowned my family and childhood friends. I eagerly go back and spend weeks at a time with them. I grew up in an incredible area with lots to do, great schools, and a great quality of life.
I’d be happy to live in either place. I’m not there because I have the opportunity to travel North America — something that is both personally rewarding and enables me to do interesting research for my job.
When other people say they dream of traveling, do they mean they want to understand what it’s like to live in different places? Or do they mean they want to escape their lives?