Birthdays, graduations, promotions are all happening while I’m a distant pin point on a map.
The internet means I get to see all those moments, but I don’t get to participate. It’s sort of like staring into a fish tank: you can see them all doing their own thing but you’ll never really be a part of it.
Missing My Sister’s Graduation
What brought on this wave of nostalgia?
A few weeks ago my little sister graduated from college. I proudly announced to everyone I saw that day that “my baby sister is an architect!” (…technically she still has another degree to go before she’s a full fledged architect, but who cares?!).
I should have been prepared for it to happen. I mean, I knew she was graduating this year. But I hadn’t realized she’d actually go to the ceremony. When I found out a few months ago, I jumped on Skyscanner to find a flight home.
Asking her if she even wanted me there was secondary.
It wasn’t feasible. Flights were too expensive. I couldn’t get the time off work. She only got two tickets to the event (apparently parents trump sisters, who knew!).
Thank God for Facetime
I participated as much as I could being half a world and what feels like a million time zones away. I helped her pick her outfit on a Facetime fashion show. I gasped along to the weekly drama of my divorced parents being assigned to sit together at the ceremony. I got my dad to order her an edible arrangement that she spent three days devouring.
There wasn’t much more I could be a part of.
Except for the actual ceremony.
My sister sent me Snapchats and my mom texted photos, but it wasn’t the same.
I desperately wanted to be in one of those shots, posing next to my little sister on her proud day. (She’d be annoyed at how weepy I’m getting just writing this and tell me it doesn’t matter.)
Bittersweet is Only Good for Chocolate
Missing moments like that makes long-term travel so bittersweet. It feels like I have to trade the new moments I’m getting for the ones I’m missing back home.
Usually I’m ok with the switch.
Christmas by myself in exchange for Germany Christmas markets? Yes, please! Missing birthdays to explore Croatia? Of course! Losing out on weekly dinners to take baking classes in Morocco? No brainer!
But some moments really make me question this lifestyle.
A Second Missed Moment in Two Days
Around the same time as my sister’s graduation, my baba had an emergency trip to the hospital. Luckily, nothing can keep that woman down (I think she’s indestructible!) and she’s feeling much better.
But I wasn’t there.
Not that I could have done much, had I been in Toronto, but I would have liked the option.
The positive or negative moments I miss make me feel guilty or regretful for the life I live. For a few seconds, I wish I’d never left home.
That never lasts long.
A quick look at my post titles will show you why. I’ve explored so many interesting cultures, ate amazing food, soared above cities and tunnelled beneath them, met fascinating people and discovered a lot about myself.
If I’d stayed in Toronto, I never would have gotten those moments.
How to Deal with Travel Guilt
I’m writing this post, not to be a downer, but to remind you that travel isn’t all bright and shiny. Sometimes there will be darker moments.
When they happen, you have to remind yourself why you’re doing this. Don’t let the swirl of negative thoughts taint your ability to move forward.
If you’re really struggling, maybe it’s a sign that you need to go home for a while. Or you need to start building more positives into your travel.
Find ways to accept the moments you miss.
For my sister’s graduation, I helped get her a gift and told her how proud I am. For my baba’s hospital visit, I called her when she got home and have demanded constant updates from my mom (even when she doesn’t have any).
Tell people when you wish you could be there. It reminds them that you haven’t forgotten about them while you’ve been away.
When you see them, take the time to make moments that matter to you. I spent last summer living with my sister to get as many of them as I could. They ended up mostly being podcast-filled drives to get insane amounts of food.
I’d rather have those moments than be in a graduation photo.
Have you ever regretted travelling?