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The Travel Junkie - short story

The Travel Junkie

Lydia was born to an affluent family in the peace time of the 1980’s. Life was good, she had everything one needs to grow up well. Good parents, nice schools, nice neighborhoods, nice cars, good friends. So how does a girl, coming from all of that, become a suicidal drug addict?

An unhappy life with no reason to complain. Feeling like an imposter to someone more deserving of the family, only, Lydia was stuck there. Frequently admonished for not realizing her full potential and/or utilizing her advantages.

Lydia felt stifled in her home under her mother’s unwavering eye and father’s constant disappointment. She was looking for an escape. First, she found that escape in drugs, sneaking out of the house and running away. Lydia also suffered from mental breakdowns and suicide attempts in her unhappiness. Finally, she turned 18 and graduated (barely) high school.

She was in no way ready or prepared for the responsibilities of college, but she saw it as the only way to truly escape from the life she’d been given and the ability to make her own. That was the earliest opportunity of solo travel and she was terrified, relieved and even excited for the first time in a long time.

Still, happiness could not be found. Conforming to all the societal norms of dorm life, college classes that felt like high school classes, SO many people…everywhere. Lydia felt she could actually feel as well as see people judging her. She fell short of every mark in both school and life. Lydia met several inspiring, engaging and talented people in college and continued to feel ‘less than’.

Soon, she was enslaved by substances to escape the everyday feelings of failure. Failing her classes and having basically secluded herself into hiding other than working her dead-end college job in order to buy more drugs. She met Roger during this time. Having utilities cut off because she failed to pay the bills on time until one day she shattered the glass box she had put herself in and pulled herself out of the open window to view endless opportunities; a variety of destinies and destinations by getting ‘on the road’. Roger had opened the doors of her mind to these plans and ideas. He raved about the freedom of traveling and meeting new people all the time.

“You just wouldn’t believe it Lydia! The people are amazing, and I promise, even without any money you’ll have everything you need.”

“I don’t know Roger; it sounds rather dangerous.”

You’re rather dangerous! Look at the way you’re living, and I know you’re not happy. I’m telling you; this will save you. It saved me.”

“…tell me how it works Roger. This idea…this idea of living does sound appealing. I mean, I love seeing new things and the people sound interesting.”

Traveling full time seemed to beckon her as the only salvation. There was really no thought process, it was the only thing that could possibly save her.

Lydia would soon be telling her friends and family, “It’s an amazing feeling to let go of everything you have and find true freedom within that act. To know all your possessions are confined to a backpack.” Of course, her parents were furious. This was definitely not in their plans for her. Her friends were concerned as well, but she told them she promised to take enough money to get herself back home if she changed her mind but an inherent demand for the unconventional called Lydia to this lifestyle and she felt the premonition of its salvation.

“Kate, this may just be what saves me! I need unconventional, I demand it, or…well, I’m just not sure what I will do if I stay.”

“Lydia, I think you are absolutely crazy right now…but I know you’ve been really struggling with the depression. Just please promise me you will check in sometimes and stay safe!”

Lydia mentally and emotionally coaches herself to strip her very soul raw. ‘I’ll recreate myself through this journey.’

Soon she would run out of money for that emergency trip home and just in general. A sense of panic came with having no money, but the fear was short lived as she found she didn’t really need it.

Lydia’s journal entries went from black and grey to blue and yellow - ‘This prolific, euphoric liberty and independence I feel with this authentic new life is so refreshing and intoxicating! Today I survived! I truly survived with only the resources allowed to me and tonight I danced naked in the moonlight and felt so rejuvenated. I am finally a sovereign being, held down by no person or thing.’

Roger had turned out to be an excellent travel companion. He showed her how to survive in a new city. How to deftly locate resources for supplies and food and how to panhandle for money. He introduced her to the people he knew who would come to light up her eyes and give fire to her soul. For once, she finally felt, ‘I’ve found my people. They accept me as I am and not only that, but they like me! And, I finally like me.’

Embarking on this hedonistic journey, everything felt timeless. Time no longer mattered, there was only the here and now. A quest with no end. A rebellious wanderer scoffing at societal norms and expectations.

Full of wonder and hope rekindled, she found that her daily risks were rewarded. Lydia writes, ‘Surviving on the kindness of strangers has restored my faith in humanity while often leading to unplanned vagabond fortunes. There are daily visions of fateful beginnings and fateful ends in both life and possible death. I’ve come to know a home every night whether it’s on a roof top, in a park, on a freight train or on a stranger’s couch. Meeting people from around the world in uncanny places has expanded my view of society, customs, dreams and possibilities in life. I’m realizing that instead of a rat race, I can work to live and not live to work. The confines I so often dreaded don’t have to be dull... Travel is possible on a shoestring budget and that has become the meaning of life.’

‘We laugh and love because there’s no need to impress or compete. These people embody what I needed for my soul to heal. We are raucous and free. There are causes we have taken up for saving local gardens, protests we join for better civil rights, information we share that makes for great story lines.

“Roger, I feel reborn and redeemed from the past. I’ve shed all the insecurities and worries of judgement. This vagabonding has become a passionate obsession. Exploring new places, swimming in the rivers and lakes; walking the streets of New York; taking a time warp when we hitchhiked to Woodstock in a short school bus that had been decorated accordingly. I knew a woman for the first time, and we’ve taken journeys on psychedelics that expanded our horizons further. People accept and even respect me on the road.

Lydia became addicted to the nomadic lifestyle in a frenzied fetish sort of way that was hard to give up…and still is.

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