My mom is looking at me through Facetime. I can tell she wants to say something, but she decides not to. At least not verbally, but her expression already gives it away.
She wants to ask, “When are you coming back?”
I’ve been traveling, living, in SouthEast Asia for a while now, with no concrete plans of ever going back to the US. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s that I can’t afford to.
SouthEast Asia costs a quarter of what it costs to live back home in San Francisco. I could move back, stay at my parent’s place for a while and get a job, but I’d lose my freedom. I’d lose my lifestyle.
I travel every few months to a different country. I do it because I haven’t really found a place called home yet, and because my visa demands it. I don’t have a problem with traveling; in fact, I love it. I’ve written about the not-so-glorious parts of traveling before — having to stay in cockroach-infested hostels, dealing with packing and unpacking, being thousands of miles away from friends and family — and it really does suck sometimes, but never as much as the thought of losing my freedom.
People ask me why I love traveling so much. “It’s for the stories” I’d say. “It’s the adventure.” I talk about how I’ve almost roasted a lizard alive in Bali, how I stumble across a den of gangsters while searching for the best fish head curry in Malaysia, or how I forced to bribe my way through Cambodia’s borders. And I love the look they give me, when they’re living my life through my story at that exact moment because it reminds me that this is what I live for, that I’m the main character in the story that I’m telling.
I do want to go home. I miss friends and family. I miss the culture. I miss the stability. But at the same time, I’m terrified. I’m terrified that one of these days, I’m going to trade in freedom for stability, and once I go home, I’ll be inclined to stay. If one look from my mom, over thousands of miles, can make me reconsider giving up my freedom, I can only imagine what might happen if it were in person.
Which would you choose? Freedom or stability?