According to Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, people become neurotic “when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life.” It is not surprising, presuming Jung’s conclusions to be true, that I succumb to what I can best describe as “post-travel neurosis” in the wake of each trip.
Every time I go home it is with the same assumption: That I have acquired adequate, correct answers to the questions of life. Yet, in the days and weeks that follow each trip through U.S. customs, I find myself in a world profoundly at odds with them.
I can no longer fit in among my friends, I think, because just as sure as I have moved forward in my understanding of the world, they have regressed in theirs.
I can no longer exist in this society, I continue, because the “Big Lie” it perpetuates is increasingly at odds with the truth I’ve come to know about the world.
I have to leave again, I conclude, because I have now been reminded why I peaced out in the first place.
Unlike has been the case on previous trips, however, I came across little knowledge between Oslo and Bangkok to suggest the answers I had prior to my most-recent departure were adequate or correct. But I did indeed remember why I peaced out in the first place: I always approach “real life” the wrong way.
I come back assuming that, because I have learned things I could not learn amid the coffee shops and bike lanes and cold springs of Austin, there is nothing to more to learn within the city limits. This assumption not only makes it difficult to enjoy iced toddies, cycling and swimming, but usually underlies my decision to leave when I inevitably do.
And although it is as inevitable as ever that I will travel overseas again in the future, I will not return to Texas tomorrow under the foolish pretense that the adequate, correct answers to the questions of life aren’t right under my sweating margarita glass.
Because they just might be.