My sibling-in-law — aged 23 — spent the day here on Sunday visting with my son/their nephew for the last time before moving to Sweden for (at minimum) three months.
I’ve got all sorts of feelings about this.
Not in the terms that people are probably thinking; I genuinely like my sib-in-law, but between the age gap, distance, and other factors, we aren’t close. We get on well when we hang out, but the frequency with which that happens is relatively rare, and when it does happen, it’s really them hanging out with Bear (which, fair; he’s a pretty cool kid). But missing them while they are on their journey isn’t really an issue; we’d probably see them maybe twice in the intervening time.
It’s more that I’m wracked with a near debilitating case of FOMO.
I don’t even want to go to Sweden. Like, don’t get me wrong, it’s probably a lovely place, but it’s not on my bucket list, nor do I have any particular connection tot he locale or the culture to fuel my desire to visit it. It’s the concept of travel in general. It’s the freedom inherent in travel that I envy.
I didn’t have much in the way of a young adulthood. Between my mother’s over-protectiveness and need to micro-manage, my own mental illness/anxiety, and the fact that we were barely keeping our head above the water financially, travel was something that was never, ever on the table for me. The furthest I ever went was to New Hampshire — and ten minute ride over the border — to take advantage of the lack of sales tax. When I hit college and my dreams of studying abroad were dashed for financial reasons, I fought tooth-and-nail for the few opportunities that arose to do anything akin to travelling. I made friends with a girl from New York my Senior year, and after crimping and saving and a number of screaming matches with my mother, finally managed to make a couple of trips to Westchester over breaks and long weekends. That would be the totality of my travel experience until I got married.
In the intervening years since, it’s gotten a little better; I’ve been to Maine and Vermont, Florida multiple times, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Quebec, and Montreal. But in the intervening years, despite shaking off the shackles of my over-bearing mother, I now have a job, a kid, and a mortgage. I’ve never quite been able to pull my head above water financially, at least with regards to travel.
I get restless easily. I, like my husband, thrive on schedules and routines, but I also love deviation from the norm, provided it’s self-directed and desired; I balk at change thrust upon me, but will gladly throw myself into something new should the prospect appeal to me. Being told that there are Things to Be Done and that those same things are Things I will Never Have the Chance to Do Them in the same breath is heart-breaking. Knowing that the stories so many of my friends tell of their exploits — be they student exchange trips, AmeriCorp or PeaceCorp service, backpacking trips as college kids, or luxury resort-hopping as adults — are things that are always going to be aspirational for me, without the prospect of fulfillment, kills me.
There’s freedom in travel, but not everyone has the freedom to travel. My husband works a job where securing time off is difficult, and his time off is limited. We need to travel someplace child-friendly, or else make sure we can find long-term babysitting for our son, and round-trip domestic flights alone often cost nearly half a month’s income (and that’s just the flight). It’s not that we can Never, Ever Travel Ever, it’s that at the end of the day, it’s more work. It’s months and months of saving and sacrificing, planning and prioritizing, and even then, our options are limited by when we can secure time off, how much we can afford to take, and how quickly we think we can recover our losses.
So when I see friends and family — and it’s been happening more and more frequently lately — talk about booking flights and resorts and trips and cruises, with what (to me) is startling frequency, it hurts. Just a little. And just a little more each time.
I am happy for them; for my sib-in-law, for my friends and family. I just wish it was something I could be a part of.