As a traveler, I’ve become a bit of a loner. I visit countries solo with the assumption that I’ll meet people through my projects, and usually intense relationships form with the rapidness of shared desperation. When we part ways, we have the internet and social media to keep in contact - and as much as I abhor spending long hours scrolling through Facebook, it is a great way to maintain friendships around the world.
I think it can be easy to leave people in some ways, especially with those advances in communication. And, truthfully, I’ve never thought that distance lessened intimacy for me. Maybe some of the experiences will stall, but the relationship doesn’t have to change.
My point of all of this is to say, while leaving my family and friends can be sad, I know they are happy that I’m living my life. They understand who I am and why I do what I do. I travel with less guilt that way.
It’s not the same for the family dogs. They get used to me being home and grow accustomed to things such as sleeping in my bed with me, or having someone around to put them out more frequently. It’s to the point where, when I am home, I reign as the second in command. And we spend a happy month or two, or a few, together when I’m working at the store or doing other projects in Portland.
But whenever I take out my suitcases again, they express their anxiety. My little gremlin especially hovers around me as I pack, her tail down and ears back. I give them extra hugs and kisses when I’m going away for especially long periods of time.
I think it’s especially painful to me because they don’t understand why I’m away. They don’t have the context to balance the feeling of a missing limb of sorts.
Rumor has it while I’m away they walk into my room and stare at my bed, or they head in there at night expecting to sleep with me. Sometimes when I’m on the phone with my mom, the gremlin will recognize my voice and lick the phone. Our big dog doesn’t even realize.
I think part of my problem is that I feel guilty over the silliest things. Troubles at my sister’s work? Wow, I feel really bad for them. The dog on the roof next store whimpering to see me? Sometimes I avoid it because I feel bad that it feels so stressed about someone being so far away.
But that dog is one of the relationships I come back to, as well as others. There are strays I recognize, a pet shar pei wearing a fleece vest on the route to my classes, and a puppy I’ve yet to meet, but for whom I brought, from our very own store, a Chippy toy and bacon treats. My goal is to make a good first impression, and everyone loves the purple chipmunk.
In the end, I have to recognize the opportunity cost of when I travel. I’m still young and trying to bridge the gap between my volunteer projects and paid work. I have too much curiosity to stay at home, and, what’s more, I think travel is necessary for being effective at my future career. It’s also necessary, then, to leave my dogs. They are still with people who love them and care for them and it will be a happy surprise when I am home again.