The older I get, the more I come to believe that life is nothing more or less than a constant act of letting go. You let go of places, friends, love affairs, and if you are smart, you let go of the past. Some things you let go because they are toxic, or hold you back from your own limitless potential, and others you let go simply because it's time. Either way, in letting go of one thing you create space and an opportunity for something new, and oftentimes better. Despite the necessity and the positive influence of this release, the occasional melancholy still persists -
No matter the gain, it is still the end of something.
Travel brings this process into acute focus. More than that, I've found that it both amplifies and accelerates the rate at which these facets of life come and then go. You visit a city and fall in love with the meandering streets, unique scents, and the secretive lure of each corner still un-turned. You fall in love with the way you feel when you are there. Then, not three days later, you leave. You gather experiences that leave you gasping and breathless, elated with the joy of momentarily knowing something bigger and more beautiful than yourself. And then those moments fade. The feeling subsides and all of the sudden it's just a memory. You meet people, and in their company you feel joyful, inspired, and safe. You meet people who make you feel like home, even when home is one ocean and thousands of miles away. Then, whether it's two days or two years, one or both of you go another way.
Like I said, it is still the end of something.
To this end, I sometimes can not help but consider the why... If everything happens for a reason (and I more or less believe this to be true), then that surely is a lot of places, people, and events passing me by, for a lot of reasons I still don't understand.
Several years ago, driving through the (not-so-great) middle America, with Chicago behind us and Denver ahead, I was talking with one of my friends who works full-time at an animal shelter - a position that comes straddled with more emotional struggle than most. He told me that though the job was often emotionally trying, he was still glad to show up everyday, because like the Grinch, who's heart grew three sizes on Christmas day, he too felt that his heart had grown. That it had expanded so as to take all of it in - the struggle, the triumph, the sadness, and the love.
In a way, our hearts are like any other muscle: use it frequently and push constantly towards greater heights, and it will grow... It will rise to the occasion and support us through whatever lies on the horizon: good or bad.
Travel forces us, or at least has forced me to exercise that muscle with increasing regularity: much more so than I ever did at home. It seems that everyone in my life, including me, is in varying states of transit - the only difference between all of us is the exact time frame. Every relationship, both friendship and more has an expiration date. I will be leaving Korea at the end of August, so for the majority of my relationships right now, my expiration date is in a little under 8 months from now. Though that does seem like a relatively long time, I know that when the day comes, I will look back at my empty apartment and think: Wow. I feel like I just got here.
Like anything else, when it comes to the act of letting go, change your perspective, and the situation changes. This reflection has turned out a bit more somber than I planned, because honestly that's kind of how I'm feeling. The New Year has arrived and I am beyond excited for everything that is to come, but I'm also considering the year I just bid adieu. I am questioning where I fit into the lives of the people around me, and where they fit into mine. And it's not just people. It's places too. I can feel the parts of my heart that I left in Kyoto and in Kenting - two cities that I truly loved. I can feel the part of my heart that I left in Colorado, and the closer my visit grows, the more strongly that feeling burns. And while I am home, I imagine I will feel the part of my heart that now lives in Korea.
Though my mood is melancholy now, I know that it won't last. Given a week, or even a day, my heart will swell anew with the elation and the love that grows more powerful with each passing moment. Like a diamond in the sun, the light will shift, and I will once again rejoice.
All this... It's making me a better person. That much I know for sure.
Through this constant act of letting go I've grown more curious, more understanding, and more forgiving of others limitations, as well as my own. I think in many ways, this is travels greatest gift: a constant lesson in accepting that everything is temporary, yet choosing to love fiercely all the same.
What is the greatest lesson YOU have learned from travel? Do you ever feel like this? If you enjoyed this post, please share with your friends! And as always, if you have any questions or comments you can find me on Facebook or Twitter :)
Enjoy the beautiful view!