When The Girl Who Travels Grows Up

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I write this post at the risk of sounding like my mother…or very, very old. But, alas, here we go.

A couple of blog posts hit my stream where young travelers give dating advice to other young travelers (or those who dream of it). The Date a Boy Who Travels and Don’t Date a Girl Who Travels are interesting reads to me, to say the least. My first thought is that perspective is a thing of beauty. I normally would just ignore these opinion pieces, except I hear it all. the. time. Not just in travel but in pretty much every professional space I walk into.

First let me start by saying that generalizations, as a whole, suck. The beauty of blogs is that they represent in great part the opinions and values of the people who write them and thus, like-minded people can find solace and comfort in them. But, when making generalizations about a group of people or demographic group, they tend to fail in great part because they leave a good number of those who don’t relate or agree feeling as if they have just been misrepresented or misspoken for.

I remember wanting so badly to be the girl who travels (as described in the post) too when I didn’t know any better. I was destined to be the girl who traveled. My dad traveled, and I often with him. My mom traveled the world, and was always a huge source of inspiration to me. I was going to be that girl…I was already that girl in many ways.

When I left my home at the age of 18, I decided that I was going to travel the world. I made sure to not get too serious with any one guy, to not commit too deeply to any one place, and not solidify relationships that would tie me down emotionally. But before I could travel, I needed to come up with the money (so I got a job) and I needed to get my college degree to shut my family up.

Now, some of you might not understand the whole college to please my family thing – the girl who travels certainly doesn’t. In her own words “she doesn’t care what family and friends think”.  But here’s a little cultural insight: I was the first female (and first American-born) in my family lineage to attend college. My going to college and getting that degree was equally representative of the worth of the sacrifices my grandparents made in coming to this country and working factory jobs, as it was for my own success. I can’t say I enjoyed college, because like the “girl who travels”, I wanted to…well…travel. But my family was important to me and though I knew I stood the chance of disappointing them with many other decisions I planned on making with my life (and boy, did I), this was one thing that was not negotiable for me.

I didn’t want to work either, and like the “girl who travels”, I complained and spent a lot of time earmarking catalogs on destinations I wanted to visit. But I also worked hard at my jobs and was determined to give my best in this (what I defined as temporary) role I was in, because that’s how I was raised, and professionalism and commitment to my responsibilities are a part of my value system.

Then I got pregnant with a guy I was pretty much broken up with (because again, like the girl who travels, I wasn’t about to be tied down to anyone), months before I finished college and before I went on my world trip.

I had a choice to make, and like the girl who travels, I chose a life of uncertainty and followed my heart. I took my entire round the world savings fund to quit my job and be with my son, a path that not only terrified me but also challenged me and would serve to make me a stronger, wiser, more courageous person without even stepping on a plane. I would guess that the decision to have a baby and put my dreams on hold was probably more courageous than any decision the girl who travels has made thus far. But, who really knows right? She only ever tells us how carefree, unburdened, and happy she is.

It would be years before I would find my way back on to the path I was always meant to be on and by the time that came around I had not only married a man who loves to travel (but doesn’t travel as much as me) but also had children with him. It wasn’t the life I planned, but that’s kind of how life is.

I am more a woman now than a girl, and I travel, though probably not as much and yet, there is nothing about the girl who travels’ life that I would want  – though in my 20s and even early 30s I couldn’t have imagined anything greater.

girlgonetravelI once put my dreams on hold for him. Now he joins me in my travels, making them that much more enjoyable.

The thing is, life happened and I grew up. Like me, the boy who travels grew up too and we found each other and fell in love. And our kids are a reflection of our passions. They have awesome international names like Aidan Antonio and Liam Carlos. We eat sushi and foie gras just as comfortably as burgers and macaroni and cheese. We zip line through cloud forests and hike through jungles with the same ease as when we spend lazy afternoons in neighborhood playgrounds and community pools. We pack lunches and go to school concerts, and cheer at swim meets and fall asleep on the couch watching television. We plan road trips and European excursions.

girlgonetravelLiving out my dreams with them by my side is far more rewarding than I ever imagined possible.

We see our children growing up and each other growing older. We look forward to our travels as much as we love coming home afterwards.

And though I am outspoken and independent, it is not beneath me to say that I not only love my family, I need them and miss them often when on the road. The man I share my life with, despite his inability to travel with me often, never bores me. Ever.

Having the dream to travel but wholeheartedly embracing the responsibilities of life doesn’t equate to conforming or settling. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do and depending on who you are that can mean caring about others, for others, while putting your own personal dreams on hold. Sometimes, that can be just as spiritually satisfying and emotionally enriching as any trip to anywhere.

I am not advocating for anyone to disregard their passions and aspirations, but I am pointing out that this “girl who travels” as described in the post I read will one day become a woman, and she might find that in pursuing her own goals she’s managed to neglect the worth of others in her life. She’s underestimated how good coming home can be, she’s overestimated the length of her youth, and she has totally disregarded the possibility of loving someone, if she is lucky, more than herself, who might even redirect her dreams.

I would hope for this girl who travels that in her journeys she finds that the depth of living, its weight in gold, isn’t found within the limitations of self-gratification and individual accomplishments. Sometimes, what makes the trip through life really beautiful is what others who we let in have to contribute to it all.

So travel on girl, may you find what you are looking for and may it lead you to the ability to love someone or something outside of yourself. And may your journeys one day bring you home, because there’s no shame in that either.

Final note: One major disparity between The Boy Who Travels and The Girl Who Travels is that it seems endearing and sexy that the boy looks forward to becoming a man, having a family, and incorporating his passion for both in his life. Yet, its seems that it would be pathetic, almost insulting for the girl to even consider the same things. That, it seems, this life would bore her. I am not begrudging this “girl” and her lifestyle. Have fun, enjoy every minute. Not every woman wants to be in a romantic relationship, get married, or have a family. I completely understand this. But it is no less empowering if a woman does. No less exciting if she chooses to. A family and marriage do not exclude women from being adventurous, independent, or outspoken. I find it sad that a woman who can dare proclaim to want these things, if she wants these things, is seen as a sign that she’s given up on herself and that a woman who rejects any form of warmth, affection, commitment, and compromise in her life is some how heroic and brave. That these messages come from other women is even worse.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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12 Responses to When The Girl Who Travels Grows Up

  1. Haley says:

    I want to like this post a thousand times!!! I agree with every word here! Carol, you are simply amazing and I feel lucky to know you.
    My recent post Our visit to Lockhart State Park #TxStateParks

  2. Lauren says:

    Just as I was clicking your link from Facebook I thought to myself, “I think I’m so intrigued by this woman because she reminds me that a woman can be both a mother and an independent traveler”. And then I read your post and I was like “uh, yep.” I relate so wholeheartedly to your words and feel grateful for them. For me, unexpectedly becoming a mother felt like the door was being shut on the life I intended to live… and then I realized that life as a mother could look however I/we wanted it to look. And now, here I am in Nepal (waiting for my kids to wake up), posting this comment.

    • caincarol says:

      Thank you Lauren. The image you describe is so beautiful and loving. I am so happy for you and thank you for sharing it.

  3. Shana says:

    I love you read your writing and I'm not much of a reader but your style sucks me in! I can relate very much to the conflict of traveling the world and prioritizing family. Since starting my family, I haven't traveled much especially not adventure travel. Back in my 20s I loved exploring countries in Africa and just getting lost in the streets of Cairo. So much fun…so much adventure. My most recent trip to DR was to an all inclusive beach front resort type of setup. It was definitely nice and accommodating, but definitely not the adventure travel I'm used to.
    My recent post It’s “Inuit” not Eskimo

    • caincarol says:

      Shana, I believe that the real you and what you love has a way of shining through. Often times the busy-ness family life brings can distract us from that, but it doesn't mean it's gone…simply that it's waiting for the right time to come to life again. Or you might discover that you enjoy something new.

  4. curvyroads says:

    Carol, very well said. I too, was annoyed that the judging was coming from other women. There are so many aspects to a life well lived, and it is a shame to rule any of them out.
    My recent post 10 Great Quotations from Writers about Writing

  5. Kate says:

    Hi Carol. I really liked hearing your perspective on this topic. I am a former traveling girl… and what I mean by that is that I am now a traveling woman who has yet to start a family or get married. And the fear for people like me is that I'd have to give up ALL my traveling ways if I were to "settle down." So you are a big inspiration for me – paving the way and setting an example for how to still have connection and family – and continue to travel. xo Kate
    My recent post Don’t Date a Boy Who Doesn’t Travel

    • caincarol says:

      Thank you Kate! It changes, but doesn't ever go away and the places you experience now will feel different later on as your life changes and your outlook grows. It's a beautiful thing : )

  6. Meggie Kay says:

    I loved reading this!
    At 23 and not living in 1 town for more than 2 years for my entire life, I admit I relate to the "girl who travels" on many accounts. Though I often wonder about how my life will be when I meet the right person and ready to start a family with (something that I DO want to happen one day – probably when I'm closer to 30 than 20 though). I love hearing about how other people balance a passion for travel and everything else life is about that tends to conflict with travel at first glance.
    My recent post Top 10 Travel and Romance Movies

    • caincarol says:

      Thanks so much Meggie. I am happy to share what I've learned along the way. I know the message can sometimes seem very limiting, but really there's a lot more that happens after marriage and kids than just diapers and dishes! Especially if travel is in your heart : )

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