Chapter 1: The Quest for Pura Vida

Wanderlust: the Traveler’s Trap

After about two weeks of backpacking–one of those solo–I realized that backpacking is, in fact, possible.  Which you would think I would have realized before, but sometimes things get out of order in my life.

Those are the fun times.

The idea came to me while I was in Bocas del Toro, Panama.  I was sitting on the front of a boat (where you’re technically not supposed to sit) (hashtag rulebreaker), headed to a dive site for the last dive necessary to get the open water certification I had spontaneously decided to go for about four days before, and I thought, “Why not?”

I could do this, and be happy.  I could travel indefinitely, by myself or and with the occasional friend on vacation.  I could travel until I ran out of money,  and then find work on the road in hostels or other places where my language skills would come in handy.  I could go home for my own “vacations.”  I would be challenged physically and mentally with hiking, swimming, and biking, and learning new cultures and seeing new places.  There would be no limit to the languages I could learn, the books I could read, and the people I could meet (which sounds like some kind of Renee-heaven).

And I could write!  Since I wouldn’t have a leave-date, I could spent as much time as I want in a place and write.

And when I’m done traveling, fine.  There’s no deadline to start a settled life.  If someone needs me at home, or if I fall out of love with traveling or in love with a guy, or whatever else happens to derail life, I could head back to San Antonio and be a normal person.

I’ve met people on the road who do this, people who have biked from Alaska to Panama with no plan of stopping soon, people who have no idea where they will be in a month, people who got a head start on their bucket list.  And they’re happy.

In terms of personal fulfillment, it’s ideal.  And it’s not like I would be harming anyone with my lifestyle.  There’s worse ways to live.

But.  That’s not what I’m made for.

I had a good conversation with a new friend, a guy who doesn’t really subscribe to organized religion, but has a more secular view of relative spirituality.  I mentioned that if I stopped believing in the Christian God, my world structure would collapse along with my belief.  I wouldn’t know what to do or base my life direction on, and I have no idea how long it would take to build a meaningful life.  I imagine at this point I would set off on the life I’ve described, to find myself.

But if the core of my life is God, I cannot give in to wanderlust.  Not because it is inherently sinful or “bad” or I couldn’t fit God into the structure–the nice thing about being Catholic is there are churches everywhere.  I was sitting on a balcony in La Fortuna looking at one when I wrote this post in my notebook, actually.

But did you catch that?  “Fit God in?” As if God is simply a puzzle piece of my life and who I am.

I was made to follow God and serve my brothers and sisters.  That doesn’t exclude traveling, but, for me at least, it does exclude indefinite self-fulfillment traveling.  There’s more to life than beaches and parties and watching sunrises from the tops of volcanoes.  There’s more to life than how interesting my story can become.  I have the privilege to be selfish, but I hope I never use it.


If thou couldst empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the Ocean shelf,
And say — “This is not dead,” —
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou,
And hast such shrewd activity,
That, when He comes, He says — “This is enow
Unto itself — ‘Twere better let it be:
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.

-T. E. Brown


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