~Intro by Karina Noriega~
For three months April and I have been desperately trying to balance the demands of our journey with our blogging ‘responsibilities’. While it is a labour of love, there is no doubt that creating our articles and films on the road is strenuous and exhausting. Often, finding a way (and a conducive environment) to stop our travels is much harder than continuously moving forward. Thankfully, we are able to share this responsibility as we commit to weekly updates. Thus far, April’s films have gained her numerous new fans and brought thousands more viewers to the site. Let’s face it, not everyone likes to read. 😛
This week, April is revealing a much more personal side of herself and how this journey has made an impact on her life. I am so excited and privileged to introduce her very first article.
I hope this new travelers’ confession shines a light on the truth and hardships of becoming a citizen of the World.
Achieving a sense of balance in this constantly changing environment feels like an impossible feat. Not for a second do I regret the choice I’ve made to pursue this nomadic lifestyle but there is no question, it is taking its toll on me emotionally.
With every new house I walk into, I am required to acclimate to a new environment, a new culture and a completely different way of doing things. Karina and I must adapt we go, all the while fulfilling the social obligations of the host/guest relationship. It is customary to exchange adventure stories between traveler and host when couchsurfing. Having stayed with so many different people in the 19 states we have explored over the last 3 months of our road trip, these questions can feel repetitive when we feel exhausted. When our desire for social interaction has waned, our answers are a broken record that keeps playing over and over.
Being in a position where we do not have a space to call our own reminds me of the time that I spent living with my parents as an adult. At a certain age, a child must leave the nest and yet attending University delays this process for some, as it did for me. I remained under my parents’ roof long after I should have moved out on my own so I could finish my Undergraduate education, debt free. As a result, the last few years I spent living with my parents were riddled with conflict. The desire to have a space of one’s own is a powerful one.
This trip has revealed to me that while couchsurfing is the best way to connect with the place we are traveling through, the social obligations and need to adjust to others’ household rules can be very emotionally taxing. Most hosts really have understood our need for space as they themselves have travelled for extended periods of time and have experienced a similar struggle when they too, had no home of their own. Being that we have stayed with locals for our entire 3 month journey, so far we have had the pleasure of being hosted by 30 different people (plus their partners, children, roommates, other guest and pets) during our stay in the US. For us, change is the only thing that has remained the same.
A few times Karina and I have encountered personality clashes with our hosts. Although it was never acknowledged directly, we knew it was there under the surface and this impacted our interactions with our host and with one another. Before Karina and I knew it, the tension we were both feeling impacted our moods and then we began to alienate one another. Even when we get along very well with our host (which is the case the majority of the time), the requirement for constant adaptation being in someone else’s home, can weigh heavily on me. It has been important for Karina and I to recognize our needs in order to know when it is time to pull back and spend more time discovering places on our own. The purpose of couchsurfing is not to save money on accommodations but instead to help us develop a deeper connection with the local culture around us. I never want to take the richness of my experiences staying with locals for granted.
The host we stayed with most recently seems to appreciate that while Karina and I are eager to learn about his experience in the world, we also require our own space in his home so we can decompress. His ability to relate to us may stem from the fact that he spent two consecutive years traveling through Central America. He empathized with our current position as a nomad, and he suggested that the mind can only handle so much change before one hits a breaking point. He confessed that toward the end of his journey he almost faced a mental breakdown from having lacked stability in his life for so long. Given how challenging this experience has been for me, I have considered the long term effects of living without a home. The risk of eventual burn out is inevitable if I don’t give my mind and body what it needs throughout this journey. In the end, I need to recognize that I am in complete control of how long this journey will last. I am only moving as long as I want to. I have chosen to live this way for the time being as the journey fulfills a need I have had my entire life. As long as the seeker in me still feels desire for the open road, I will continue to move.
That being said, I wouldn’t want to do this trip alone. While Karina and I do drive one another nuts at times, given that we have such different personalities and we are constantly in one another’s space, she provides the stability I need in my life. I know that I can count on her to always be there. She is the first face I see each morning. She is my one constant. In the past we often joked that in our relationship, she was the bird and I was the nest. I, being the domestic type who loved taking care of our home and she, the adventurer, most often in flight but all the while, knowing exactly where she could find her nest. We both knew exactly where home was and we each had our respective roles in that space. Now, we are both in flight, having given up our nest to explore the world. We each have new roles to adapt to; a new relationship to cultivate. Sometimes we fly high together feeling the warm sun on our faces. Often though, we soar through the sky blinded by clouds, and drained to exhaustion from the cold, hard rain. When stormy weather is predicted on the horizon, I have nightmares of flash floods taking us away in the middle of the night as we lay asleep in our tents. Survival means something different on the road. At home in Hamilton, I took for granted that I always had a faucet that produced fresh, clean water for me to drink and bathe in. Now, we carry water in our truck, always being mindful that we have enough on us in case of emergency. A gallon in case the truck overheats. Then, what if we break down in a remote place? Do we have enough water? How much is enough? This can be the difference between life and death when traveling through the desert in Arizona and Utah as we plan to do in the coming months.
In this new life Karina and I are building we move together, waking each day to plan our next move, not knowing what the day will bring. It has been months since I have experienced boredom. When I recall my experiences working the day to day grind of a job that I despised, I cringe at the thought of my trip coming to an end. I try to resist wallowing in fear of a future I don’t want, where I return to a career that impacts me like an emotional vampire, sucking away all my substance just so I can earn an income. What happens when the money runs out? Will I find what I am seeking before that time? Wait, what the hell am I seeking…that is a better question? Is the answer out there or has it been with me all along I just need experiences that will open my eyes to what was right in front of me all along? My hope is that by traveling in my current state (on a shoestring budget), I will extend my travels for as long as possible, allowing me to explore the world until I am satisfied. Exposure to so many different cultures will help me grow, learning from others’ points of view. Studying anthropology in University taught me how diverse the world really is. I am happy that now I am learning this first hand, rather than from a book.
What makes this adventure so exhilarating is that I suffer each day to make it possible and yet I still feel the desire to keep going. I am making my dreams possible but I am not doing this because it is easy. In the last few months I have stretched myself farther than I could have imagined. I have cried more times than I can count. With each new stranger I encounter in the gas station, coffee shop or visitors center, we are often asked why we have given up everything to do this trip. The repetition forces self-reflection and so I find that as my audience changes and time passes by, my answer changes as well. At times I have spoken of my desire for adventure. To others, I will speak of being disillusioned by the world of career desk jobs, mortgages and children. I tell them I am searching for something different. Something that feels right for me. What surprises me most of all, is how many have said how much they have always longed to do the same. They often say they will follow the blog going forward to live vicariously through us. Some sent us emails indicating that our storing inspired them to awake the traveler within. Our host in Georgia said her and her husband began planning a road trip after we left their home. Reading emails like this helps us to keep pushing forward on the more challenging days. After nights of sleeping cramped up in our truck to avoid camping in a hail storm, we face the day with a smile knowing we have inspired other seekers to pick up their backpack and just go…
~ An Extraordinary Story by April Beresford ~
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