Nomadic Travel Writer Caught Between Worlds

Torn Between Worlds with No Clear Road Map

I am sitting in a Panera Restaurant in Atlanta, chowing down a Caersar’s Salad and bowl of creamy tomato soup, trying to figure out why I am so depressed. In late December I flew home from Peru to visit my family over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays but this time around circumstances beyond my control kept me Stateside for three months, almost twice as long as normal.

Being in the U.S. for an extended period is difficult for me. I miss the stimulation of nomadic travel, the fascinating introduction and immersion into different cultures. More so, I miss the inexplicable happiness of people who have so much less than we do, but seem so much happier. The stress and heaviness I feel in the U.S. creeps insidiously into my being until I am nearly paralyzed by it. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve grown especially antsy. I squirm as I write, as if trying to break invisible shackles that bind me to my chair. I know I should walk or do Yoga, but each day I become a bit more apathetic.

That lethargy filtered into my travel planning as well. I put off buying a plane ticket, using one excuse after another to justify the delay. Not that there weren’t good reasons. After six years of trying to sell a small apartment house in Key West, Florida I finally admitted that I couldn’t hold onto it. Late last year I contacted the bank and told them I could no longer pay the mortgage. They told me to list the property at market price and three days later we had an offer. It closed in mid-February and, though it sold for about $400,000 less than I paid for it, I felt like an enormous weight had been removed from my shoulders. Finally, I would be able to travel without the worries that come with managing tenant and maintenance issues from halfway around the world.

Author, Barbara Weibel, at Agua Azul Waterfall in Chiapas, Mexico

Author, Barbara Weibel, at Agua Azul Waterfall in Chiapas, Mexico

A week after the house was sold my bank was sold. The new bank issued all new account numbers, debit cards, credit cards, and required all new paperwork to link my online Hole In The Donut corporate account with my personal account. Until that process was complete I was trapped in the States, as debit cards and online banking are crucial for my travels. The banking issues were resolved in mid-March and soon afterward, I finished my taxes and sent them off to the accountant, fully six months earlier than I normally get around to them. I’d even caught up on the backlog of articles waiting to be written for this blog. For the first time in my life, every single item on my “To Do” list had been scratched off. With nothing more to hold me back, I picked up the phone and booked a ticket to Asia.

I should be joyful. But I’m not. Something is terribly wrong.

Although I am living the life I always dreamed of, I can’t help feeling that something is lacking. For a long time I felt guilty that I wasn’t volunteering as I traveled the globe. I investigated dozens of organizations, but with no teaching or construction skills, I had little to offer. Even worse, my investigations often turned up abuse and corruption in many volunteer and charity organizations. Instead, I decided the best way I could help was to work one-on-one with individuals who needed assistance and to bring stories of the organizations I researched, both good and bad, into the public eye through my writing. Still, that has never seemed seem enough.

Barbara Weibel in Nepal, with the Annapurna Himalayas in the background

Barbara Weibel in Nepal, with the Annapurna Himalayas in the background

For many years, I have been fascinated with alternative healing practices. In addition to being a Reiki Master (Reiki is an ancient Japanese healing tradition), I work with crystals and can see people’s auras. I have long wondered whether I should follow a path in the healing arts, especially when I am in South America and Mexico, where my wanderings often put me in the presence of native curanderos. But as much as I love Latin America, when I am there I long for Asia, where I feel most grounded and have access to monasteries where I can continue my studies in Tibetan Buddhism.

I will soon be on my way to the airport, where I will board a plane for Bangkok and, a couple of days later continue on to my beloved Pokhara, Nepal, where I will spend the next two months finishing the memoir I have had on the back burner for five years. It may well be that my discomfort has as much to do with fear of failure. Maybe I’m not a good enough writer to extract this book that has been rattling around in my head for so long. We shall see. In the meantime, I meditate, with faith that I will be shown the path I am supposed to follow, asking only for wisdom to recognize the answers when they are shown to me. As they say, this too shall pass.

42 Comments on “Torn Between Worlds with No Clear Road Map

  1. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thanks!

    • No Juliana – you are the only person who can unsubscribe to comments. Look on the bottom of your emails for a link that will allow you to do that.

  2. You are living the life I aspire to–and my grandmother’s name was Weibel–so maybe we are related and the DNA travel gene will become fully activated now that i have found your blog. Best of luck in your upcoming adventures! Your altitude sickness story is one I will keep in mind if I make it to Ecuador. Om shanti

    • Hi Teresa: I will send “energy” thart your travel gene is now fully activated. 🙂 It would certainly be fun to discover we are related.

  3. You are lucky to be able to sell your condo at market and take the hit; not that I don’t understand the sentiment, but the tone of your ‘It’s hard to be in the US for too long’ [which I fully get in reality, btw], seems to be absent of the understanding of how fortunate you are to have the choice. Healing arts [trigerred by Latin America, but which you can study or practice anywhere, including Asia], or Tibetan Buddhist studies? What’s a middle aged soul seeking westerner to do? I appreciate your photos and wish you well in your continued seeking….just keep in mind that there isn’t supposed to be a fine line between photo travel journalism and a personal journal….

  4. it’s normal to feel that something is lacking. This serves as your challenge to look for something that will satisfy you most. 

  5. Great post, Barbara.

    I wish you well — with your book, and with your spiritual quest. 

  6.  Maybe not having a “clear road map” is ok.  I have spent many years volunteering in my community and I like to do volunteer projects occasionally when I travel.  Both orphanages and schools offer all kinds of rewarding possibilities.  Wonderful, personal experiences can be had without going through big organizations.  Keeping up those local connections is also enriching and easily done nowadays via email.  It’s all too easy for a writer to become self-absorbed for long periods (I know this from experience and it’s a good thing; it’s sometimes the only way to know what is worthwhile to share), but getting away from oneself through helping others can be a good thing, too.  A time for everything.  Henry Miller said, “One’s destination is never a place but a new way of looking at things.”  I’m sure you’ve had enough of those experiences to fill a memoir. 🙂

  7. Dear Barbara I hope one day you’ll also visit Georgia, Batumi. It’s full of tourists in summer and sunny like in Latin Amerika 🙂
        

  8. You did the best thing you could do…get out of the US.  It sucks everything from me.  As much as I love being there and seeing family and friends – I know that if I stay very long the ‘old’ me comes back.  Old fears are like weeds, the roots never really die. 
    Enjoy Pokhara!  Say hello to my beloved Nepal and let yourself soak it in again.  I know you’ll find your way.

    • I know that deep down, GW. Guess I’ve just been Stateside too long. Wonderful to hear from you.

  9. It’s funny, a friend of mine is just heading back to Nepal as well. He was there teaching English to monks for a few months, but this time he’s heading back to do one of the multi-week hikes with his girlfriend. Not going to lie, I’m kind of jealous!

  10. Just googled the ATM/ATT shennanigans before paying a bill online and landed here. Thanks for the clear response and your all very inspiring story Barbara  – keep wandering and exploring and stay healthy. 

  11. Barbara, thanks for an intriguing read!  I wish you all the best for the future and hope that you find the answers you are looking for 🙂

  12. You are very interesting person and I really admire you as you have been such inspiration for all who wish to travel the world. I wish you all the best and I am sure that your memoirs will be stunning!

  13. Barbara, We have never met, but somehow I feel I know you, especially after reading this post. Thank you for sharing.

    You and I have so much in common it’s not funny. I, too, have been drawn to the healing arts, and trained as a Gestalt Therapist (I worked as a therapist, part-time, for 7 years) and I have a certificate as a yoga teacher.I have always felt “heavy” in North America. I describe it as trying to move through wet concrete. When I am in Asia, especially South Asia / India, I feel light and buoyant.

    I have also wondered about volunteering and have never felt the right connection, place or fit — and I, too, have decided that using my writing and storytelling gifts for the greater good is the best way for me to contribute.

    It’s great to find other people on this journey who feel and express some of the same experiences, dilemmas and challenges. I just hope we get to meet in real life — and I hope it’s in Nepal! I have never been there, but it’s near the top of my list (along with Sri Lanka — I’ll be going there in the fall). 

    Write that memoir. Just do it.

    Mariellen

    • Hi Mariellen: So great to hear from you! Somehow I sensed we had much in common but after reading your comment I it’s clear we’re on very similar paths. How I would live to sit down with you for a day, an afternoon, or even an hour and compare notes. Sri Lanka is on my travel wish list. My itinerary after Nepal/Tibet is up in the air but I may well be in the area this fall, so do let me know when you will be there and, if the universe decrees, we can finally meet!

  14. Best wishes to you in writing your memoir – I am sure writing an intensely personal journey will be difficult but truly satisfying. Nepal should provide plenty of inspiration for the words to flow…

    • Thanks Mark! You nailed it – I also think Nepal will provide the inspiration and the peace I need. Am absolutely loving your series on New Zealand, BTW.

  15. I’m sitting here at Rev this morning missing your presence.  I read your last post and I look forward to more.  I linked to the post and the thoughts you have about Buddhism.  You were right the other night when you said the principles of the Bahai Faith sound very similar to Buddhism.  They are ‘right on’.  I have a friend here in Smyrna whose son is a follower of Tibetan Buddhism.  I’ve gotten hooked on your blog and look forward to following you.  Also, I appreciate your feedback on my writing.  Be careful.  Have fun.
    Your Friend,
    Roger

    • Hi Roger: it was so wonderful to read your comment. I arrived in Bangkok late last night (midnight) after more than 24 hours of flights and airports. By the time I got checked in to the hostel it was 3am and I was dead tired. This morning I got up early to find an ATM that works with my bank card to get cash to pay for my ticket to Nepal tomorrow. Then I had to try to remember where the Nepal Airlines office was – I’m a bit disoriented because I’m staying in a different Bangkok neighborhood than usual, so all the directions are reversed this time. But, my memory served me well and I found it. I wish I’d scheduled more time in Bangkok, as I like this neighborhood better than the regular one and I’d like more time to explore it. But, I can do that when I return in June. I have found a great little coffee shop here but I am definitely having REV withdrawal. Say hi to everyone for me and tomorrow have a coffee toast for me on my birthday! Hugs.
      Barbara Ann Weibel, Travel Writer/Photographer
      Hole In The Donut Travel Blog: https://holeinthedonut.com
      Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/holeinthedonut
      Google+: http://gplus.to/holeinthedonut
      YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/baweibel
      Twitter: http://twitter.com/holeinthedonut (@holeinthedonut)
      LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/barbaraweibel
      Skype: barbara.weibel

  16. Wishing you happiness and that you find the path you seek

  17. Thank you for sharing these thoughts Barbara. I recently did the opposite — ‘settled down’ in London and got a full-time job after five  years of freelancing and living in Spain, Mexico, etc. Financially, it’s the right thing right now, but the manic pace of city life and the grossness of consumer culture is getting me down. Your words have prompted me to think about the future and what is really meaningful.
    http://irresponsibility.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/how-to-be-happy-an-anti-marketing-manifesto/

    Best wishes on your continued travels… may they bring you peace and joy.

  18. You are a wonderful writer and I am grateful for the fascinating glimpses into your life that we get via this website. It’s a familiar issue for many of us ‘on the road’ — the whole do-I-go-or-do-I-stay and then the where-is-right question. Your book will be a perfect slice of you-ness and that’s simply splendid. So don’t doubt yourself for another second. I’ll be happily following along with your decision making process!

  19. Barbara, that’s so interesting about your fascination with alternative healing practices and your special abilities — such gifts. I totally understand about needing to travel and the frustration you can feel when it’s been a while. Look forward to following on your upcoming travels.

  20. You write beautifully – from the heart. All the best in Asia – I look forward to your memoir. ps- I’m a tad jealous you had Caesar salad and creamy tomato soup. LOL, we’ve been deprived in Asia. 😉

  21. Barbara, you write beautifully, your book will be great. I’d love to read it when you’re done! Congrats on getting rid of the condo! And I’m happy for you that you’re headed back to Asia! 

  22. Jewish proverb that I’ll have to paraphrase–When you die, God will not ask, “Why were you not Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama. He will ask why you were not Barbara.

    I’m sure your meditation will be fruitful.

     

  23. I’m not going to say you’re good enough to write that memoir, because after running a site like this for so long, that’s absolutely obviously answered without question. 😉 You’re way good enough. (Whoops, I said it. Oh well). 

    I also think you’d make an excellent speaker. Your ABC vid proved as much. 

    But we are all capable of many things – and Being Able To and Wanting To are very different things. And we are all similarly capable of adapting, as you’ve shown by spending years adapting to all sorts of realities as you’ve circled this planet.
    Your memoir will be quite the thing.   And if you write your memoir and it doesn’t go to plan, find a different plan for it. 😉 I’m thinking of what Torre DeRoche did with “Love with a Chance of Drowning”. I’m thinking of what Vonnegut did with “Slaughterhouse 5” (a memoir he struggled to get out for decades, before turning it into the most unlikely of things, a science fiction fable).
    This, today, from Colleen Wainwright (Communicatrix, on the interwebz):

    “I am starting to think endings only seem big, and also that they only seem like endings.”

    When you have finished writing your memoir…well, that’s a good beginning.

    • Oh, but if I could weave a spell such as you do with words, Mike, I would have more confidence. As usual, you have hit the nail on the head and I am SO grateful that I count you as my friend. That you can even address this so succinctly, given your recent leap of faith into the world of full-time freelance writing, is nothing short of amazing. But then, I know you will succeed. A big hug coming from me to you, my friend.

  24. Thank you all SO much for your comments. I’ve made it to Chicago and am now waiting for my plane to Hong Kong and onward to Bangkok. Still feeling unsettled but it really helps to hear from my friends and readers alike that they believe I can do it! Linda – I will definitely be visiting you at some point; Darrelyn I’m not sure of my schedule past mid-June, but up till then I’ll be in Asia, so it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to meet up with your son, but I really appreciate your offer. A big virtual hug is on the way to all of you who wrote, and all of you who read but may not comment. I could not do this without you.

  25. You are good enough to write that memoir. In fact, you are great! I have the same doubts every time I sit down to write. All writers do. Anyway, my son is in Istanbul at work in a think tank. He just got back from London where he headed a fundraiser for a charity he works with. He’ll be in Istanbul until late June. If you find yourself there, let me know and maybe you and he can chat over a steaming cup of Turkish coffee. 

  26. On a purely selfish note I am glad that you’re on the move again so I can travel with you, vicariously!

    My feeling is that if one is “born to travel” then staying too long anywhere brings out the worst in us. Though it’s almost 25 years since I first left England, returning a couple of weeks ago gave me an energy boost that living in Tenerife couldn’t. You have to wonder at times, if we are looking for Shangri-la (but then you are most certainly looking in the right place if that’s the case!), and that it’s only the myth, perhaps we expect too much from places? Perhaps that perfect combination of happiness, comfort, work and fulfillment just doesn’t exist? We’d like more comfort for those in Nepal or Africa or wherever, we’d like more understanding from those in the US or the UK, yet we feel powerless in the face of both tasks? But, believe me, you are doing your part by spreading understanding about everywhere you travel too, and clearly you have a very special connection to Asia. If the end of the road isn’t clear, just follow your instincts – they’ve served you well thus far!

    Safe and happy travels and work, Barbara. Many of us will be with you in spirit!

  27. Life’s lessons are found in reflection, your musings are part of the process and you are on the right path. The journey sometimes takes us in roundabout ways.  I love your honest and beautiful writing and reading your posts so you better finish your book. No pressure! have a great trip to Asia

  28. Excellent decision!  We all see the world differently through your eyes……….and I love every minute I read your articles.  Enjoy your life.  Thanks for always sharing what others cannot see.

    Debi
    Tennessee

  29. Barbara:

    YOU GO GIRL!  Now that you’ve cleared up your past, follow your heart and please WRITE that MEMOIR! 

    When I wrote my first book I feared either outcome: either it would never sell or it would become popular and thus a target for criticism.  Neither thing happened.  I just wrote it and then moved on.

    Do what you know you need to do in your heart and then let go of the outcome.

    Love you, Laura aka the Midlife Crisis Queen!

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