The Burden of Mild Content – Returning from the RTW Adventure

Mid-April. Tax season.
Spring is starting to show itself in the sun and the sound of birds. I’ve been
back at work for 2 months, back in Madison for 4. Already 4 months…that’s over
a third of the time we spent traveling last year. This time last year, we were
just a few days from saying adios to South America and flying to London. We had
hiked the Inca Trail, explored the Atacama desert, hiked in Patagonia, stepped
foot on Antarctica, relaxed on the beaches of Uruguay, ate like royalty in
Buenos Aires, meandered around Iguazu Falls National Park early in the morning
before anyone else arrived, and drank too many Earthquakes in Santiago at a
place whose name translates to The Shithole. And yet, we had even more
experiences left to discover before the end of the year.

Last year was jam packed
with novelty- one new experience after another, with hardly any pause in
between. It was a non-stop round-the-world frolic with my very best friend in
the whole world. I guess it shouldn’t be so surprising, then, that being back
home is, comparatively, kind of depressing.

Now, before I start
sounding ungrateful, I want to acknowledge that yes, I have taken the rare
opportunity to travel which most people do not do, and that yes, my job is fun,
allows me to travel, and pays very well, and that yes, Tim and I still have a
lot of fun trips and adventures planned for this year. I fully acknowledge and
appreciate how amazing my life is. I get it. I have no reason to complain,
really.

And yet. Is it so terrible
to mourn the end of an amazing year-long trip? Of course I miss it.

When I find myself trending
towards whiney thoughts like this, I like to call on my whiney French comrade,
Jean-Paul Sartres, who knows and articulates better than anyone the pain of l’ennui
a listlessness from a lack of excitement and an excess of monotony.

“Good digestions, the gray
monotony of provincial life, and the boredom—ah the soul-destroying boredom—of
long days of mild content.” –Jean-Paul Sartres

It’s the feeling of
boredom, but deeper, because while you acknowledge that nothing is actively wrong,
there is something rather incurable that is not actively right either. Mild
content. The only salve is a dramatic flash of excitement, which engages all of
the senses, albeit briefly before you return to…mild content.

It’s this feeling that I’ve
been living in. Struggling to be present, my mind constantly day-dreaming about
the Arctic, or lions in Africa, or diving in Belize.

This is not a new topic
(just look up “post travel depression” and you’ll find quite a few others who
feel like me), and maybe it’s not such a bad thing either. After all, it’s this
itch to travel that will propel me to more adventures, more experiences, more
lessons, more people, more food, more love…more life. And, conversely, but
fittingly, fewer material ties, fewer fears, fewer limits and fewer regrets.

And so this is how I will
focus my energy- to be present daily with the people I care about, but to also
give myself that time to daydream, and let my mind float where my body cannot
yet go; quietly, diligently, stitching together my next big trip.

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