Personal · Travel Tales · Two Cents

What happens when the middle-class traveler goes back to work

What did he do during this journey? Of what was he thinking? As in the morning, he watched the trees, the thatched roofs, the tilled fields pass by, and the way in which the landscape, broken at every turn of the road, vanished; this is a sort of contemplation which sometimes suffices to the soul, and almost relieves it from thought. What is more melancholy and more profound than to see a thousand objects for the first and the last time? To travel is to be born and to die at every instant

Victor Hugo, Les MisΓ©rables

The thing is, I think I may be a little depressed.

This morning, I finally got out of bed after having pressed Snooze on my phone twice. Then I think I got my towel and headed downstairs for a bath. It was when I got to the bottom step that it dawned on me: I’d done the exact same thing for about a month now — and for many, many months before.

This is after having woken up in different hotels and hostels, an hour before my alarm beeped, with the sudden jerk of realization that I had somewhere to go to that day, and getting up anyway because my head was already buzzing even though I needed the sleep. This is after having been to too many new places in only six weeks, hopping from one province, one country to another. This is after being alert and wide-eyed all the time because I was suddenly fully aware of my own mortality, so aware that it shaped every thought, so aware that I could feel it in my skin — that this could be the last time I’d see Chiang Mai or Yangon, that I could meet an accident while riding a habal-habal in Dumaguete, that I might not be able to go back home in Manila. And yet I went looking for adventure anyway.

And now that I’m back home…

I take a bath and eat breakfast, leave the house with my brother, and navigate the city among jeepneys that belch smoke at hardworking people who, like us, are on their way to work. I go to my desk and open my laptop, and I see that my wallpaper is a shot I took of a temple in Bagan while we were chasing the sunrise in a horsecart. And I realize that I’ve forgotten the name of our horsecart driver, and that I’d have to go over my notes of the time to remember. This brings sudden, unbidden tears to my eyes; I stop them from falling because I’m wearing my requisite daily makeup.

DSC_0155

It must be wrong, I think, that I covet so much. That I’d rather laze around in a land far away instead of working for whatever future I’d eventually have. That I work for (mainly) selfish reasons, unlike my friends who work because they have mouths to feed, and yet I’m the one who is dissatisfied.

So aside from my daily trip to work and my weekly commute to the so-called Gates of Hell, the traveling I do now is vicarious. I bring my students with me (a few of whom have actually gone to Europe) to ancient Greece and Rome. I try to derive metaphors from scuba diving and riding a train. I look at pictures, plan itineraries as though I had just a bit more money. I attempt to write my master’s thesis so that I could think about the next professional step forward, even though I am uninspired. I write less nonfiction and more lesson plans and tests. I think that maybe I’m just battling hormones right now. And I teach, still, knowing that it’s a sin to allow this feeling of dissatisfaction creep into my classroom.

And I look forward to the semestral break.

Advertisements

One thought on “What happens when the middle-class traveler goes back to work

  1. The ironies of life. We do the routines so that we can enjoy the mandatory respites. You could not do one without doing the other. Indulge in only one and soon, you long for the other, Such is the trick played on us mortals by the Great Provider. Rather than die of boredom, we were blessed with many choices and opportunities. We play what we are dealt and it is up to us how we play our hand. One may have four aces on his hand but still can be intimidated thinking the other holds a royal flush. C’est la vie. Enjoy every bit of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s