I Wasn't Home for Christmas / by Anthony Brooks

 When you leave for a big trip, you have a sort of one-track mind. By that I mean you’re focusing solely on the overall experience; i.e. where you’re going and how to accomplish that. Not any potential repercussions and/or how the trip may affect you as an individual. At least, this is how I tend to plan ahead. 

The Backstory

As some of you who have been with me since the beginning (or have read back) may know, this trip developed entirely on a whim. I was planning on moving from Indy (Indianapolis for non-familiars) to Portland, Oregon. Which metamorphosed from a simple week-long trek across the country to taking a month to travel the western half of the United States. This stage of planning lasted maybe a week before I called my mom on my way home from work and pitched her the idea of traveling Europe instead. After all, if I was going to use my hard-earned money, why not go somewhere that I can’t just drive to? I wasn’t a fan of my job and wanted a chance to work on my artwork anyways. She wasn’t initially a fan but seems to have gotten on board as of late. I’m getting slightly off track here, but I figured that some of you may not know how this trip came to be and without that knowledge, what I’m writing this to say probably wouldn’t be as absorbable. So, you’re welcome. 

Currently, I’ve been traveling non-stop for the past 133 days. I’ve barely kept contact with anyone back home (or who I’ve met along my travels) and normally, it’s better that way. For me, solitude is the best way to become inspired. I’ve said this a thousand times already but I’ll say it again: If I travel with someone, it’s wasted time because I’m already distracted. I won’t be paying attention to my surroundings, or talking to strangers (or noticing strangers), or stopping for hours to draw something that I find interesting. Yes, it would probably be an overall happier experience as loneliness wouldn’t be as commonplace, but that isn’t the point in my trip. I want to create art, to photograph, and document an area, people, and culture(s) that many in the United States (and many other places) are frankly unaware of. Sure, they know that it exists, but they have no idea what it has to offer! 

Life of Dependence

For the duration traveled thus far, I’ve done extremely well with this mindset. Why? Because it’s how I’ve lived for years. I rarely had roommates while living in the States and I have friends, but never anyone that I talk to daily. This may sound lonely so I’ll try my best to illustrate my point of view. When you see someone every day, or simply talk to them, you form a bond. Whether that is a positive or negative bond is up to you, but you form a bond nonetheless. If it’s negative, you avoid each other and that’s that. If it’s positive, chances are you will talk and possibly become good friends (this situation applies even if you’re already family). For me, talking to someone on a daily basis means eventually you’re just conversing out of perceived necessity and after a while, it becomes less interest-based and more habitual. I avoid this. This is why I only talk to friends occasionally and only see family a few times per year. If we were to see each other daily, we would expect the visit, the conversation, the company. If we see each other 3 times per year, the effort put forth and time together is appreciated. Conversation is formed out of a desire to hear about each other’s lives and that feeling of “is he/she done yet?” is nonexistent.  

The Relevance

So how does this apply to my trip? If you jump back to the first paragraph, you’ll notice that I mentioned repercussions of the trip. Being someone who thrives on independence, I didn’t bat an eyelash at the thought of not seeing a familiar face for a year. I’ve gone long periods of time without seeing family/friends and so it didn’t even show up as a blip on my list of considerations. And for months, this wasn’t an issue. However, around month 3, I missed my Mom’s birthday, my Dad’s would-be birthday, and Thanksgiving. Then, yesterday, I missed Christmas. Individually, none of these would have had too much of an impact, but cumulatively, they hit like a bag of bricks. I don’t mind so much the not seeing everyone, but not having the chance to talk to anyone and know what’s happening back home just doesn’t sit well with me. 

Rectifying the issue

 What solutions can I come up with for this? Honestly? Not many. As I’m traveling more, I’m getting further and further from home and so the time change is gradually increasing. Currently, I’m 7 hours different than my parents. In the coming months, this will likely increase at least another hour. I don’t see a way to solve the issue but rather an adaptation. Figuring out a common time to communicate and possibly skype on occasion. Calling may be a possibility as I still have a US number and as such, can text/call family. Overall, I see this as being something that I’ll have to adjust to and less of a quick-fix solution that will magically appear. 

What Now?

In conclusion? There really isn’t any conclusion. This is still very much an open-ended problem. When you travel, consider how your relationship with family is. Your need to interact with people (and how that interaction may be insufficient in countries that aren’t English-savvy). I wasn’t home for Christmas yesterday, just as I won’t be home for Easter, my sister’s, George’s, or my own birthday. With that in mind, I’m on a trip that I wouldn’t & couldn’t have imagined as possible a year ago and I wouldn’t change that for the world. Planning ahead only goes so far and everything past that happens to push your boundaries and to shape you as someone with more experience than you had going in. 

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and to those that don’t, have a Diddly December (I think that’s catchier than Happy Holidays). 
-Anthony