We all have a personal bubble, we need space, and we need to know that we have somewhere to seek refuge, to escape from the world and everyone in it when it’s just too much. The world is big and crowded and claustrophobic. So how do you explain the last 15 weeks I have spent jumping from dorm hostel to couchsurfing host and back again?
I can tell you that it’s not easy and yet my lousy four months doesn’t even compare to the people I know who have traveled for five months, or even the Japanese guy from Athens that was going on 22 weeks. Living out of a suitcase or backpack and for some, not even having a current address to call home is an unconventional way to go through life.
As much as I live for the adventure and wouldn’t trade in my passport and suitcase for all the land in the world, it doesn’t mean I still don’t ache for a little corner of the world that’s just mine.
Anyone who has ever aspired to travel for long periods of time (specifically on a backpackers budget) know the struggle of spending all of your time in someone else’s living room, reliving memories of sixth grade camp in a dorm hostel and forgetting what standards are.
When you are in limbo, completely unanchored, uncommitted and living each day as it comes you’ll encounter many questionable glances from your stable and stationary friends and family, or even the occasional stranger. Don’t you feel uncomfortable? Aren’t you afraid to stay with strangers? Don’t you miss home? Simply put, what’s wrong with you?
For me, I am still at that place. I have spent an immense chunk of time with a suitcase and a constantly changing zip code and no real place to call home. Rewind to just a little over four months ago and this lifestyle seemed like a whole other world compared to my safe suburban town and desk job.
Since then I have been sharing my precious space with strangers and friends alike, or better yet, they have been sharing their precious space with me and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful. Am I looking forward to a closet to hang my clothes in and trading in my travel bag for a toothbrush holder? Of course I am. But in the meantime, here are my guidelines for staying sane in the face of shared spaces and revolving rooftops.
Know why you’re doing it.
You decided somewhere along the line that you wanted this. You were either fed up with the same routine, wanted to see the world or simply wanted to escape the life you saw unfolding for you. Committing to couchsurfing and 12 bed dorms was part of the equation and you told yourself that it was worth it…AND IT IS.
Don’t for one second forget the pep talk you gave yourself that provided the motivation you needed to rough it. Losing site of the why only leads to a plane ticket back to your hometown, begging for the job you couldn’t wait to give up.
Be comfortable with yourself.
Don’t be embarrassed for wearing the same outfit three days in a row, accepting an invitation to crash on somebodies couch, or showing up to a club in your Nike’s (because who has room to pack stilettos).
You have an excuse to live like a gypsy when you’re young, to figure out who you are and who you want to be and you should own it. This is the time to make mistakes and you should embrace the richness you are receiving by experiencing a different journey than most and how much better it will be at the end. The more comfortable you are with your place in life the less others will question it, or the less you’ll care if they do.
Escape when you can.
When the opportunity presents itself to soak up some good old fashioned me time, take it. If the weather is nice, get out. Always, always, always get out. Public parks, coffee shops, or free museums will give you an environment of optimism and opportunities.
Spending your days cooped up inside will only give your mind time to wonder what exactly it is your doing with your life. And while those thoughts are going to come regardless, it’s important to not let them overcome you. Staying in will only amplify your focus on where you are instead of where you want to be and that can be crippling to your ability to work towards your goals.
This means focusing on the good, accepting the not so good, and using your energy to make a life you want instead of accepting the life you have. Nobody has one road to follow and the more you allow yourself hard lefts on your path the more opportunity there is for growth. The previous step and the current step are just as important as the next, and focusing all of your energy on one of them will only ensure staying right where you are.
You don’t need to know your next step, because maybe you’re still contemplating where you’re at today and reflecting on where you were yesterday. Allow yourself days that you do nothing and feel guiltless about it, allow yourself the occasional breakdown and anxiousness because those days keep you motivated, and because you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel a little fear.
Balance is important. Struggle only strengthens your character. Today you might be crashing on a couch in Brooklyn but it doesn’t mean you aren’t on your way to a Brownstone with a Central Park view, and you’ll probably see some pretty amazing things in the process.