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Am I “Just” Travelling or Running Away? Both, Maybe

Dreamcatcher at the Byward

Many years ago, as I was heading to Australia, a friend of a friend tried to psychoanalyze me. “But, don’t you think you are running away?” she said, wisely, at the ripe old age of 20. “Travelling so much… what are you escaping from?”

I quickly brushed her comment away, both because her superior air of wisdom annoyed me and because I quite didn’t know what to say. And maybe also because she was a little bit right. I mean, it was one thing to put on a bravado face and declare that I was going halfway around the world on a dare, with little planning. But very few people knew I could barely sleep the night before travelling because I had knots in my stomach. You thought I was taking the easy road? Think again. What’s so easy about leaving everything behind and jumping into the unknown?

But on the other side, I was strangely resigned. I had to travel, it was my destiny. I simply didn’t know what else to do. When I went to study in China on my own, in 1999, it felt as if a whole world had opened up. I met backpackers and suddenly realized I could be one of them. I met expats and immigrants and came to think that I too could live somewhere else than in France.

Life was never quite the same after that. I kept on thinking I should go discover the world. I had to finish high school first but travelling became a goal in itself. I worked because I had to, saving money for travelling. I became fluent in a few languages because I wanted to be able to communicate with people when travelling. I was basically like one of these women who save themselves for marriage, except I was saving myself for travelling.

All in all, I hadn’t really given my future a lot of thought. I knew that sooner or later, after university, I would probably have to find a job. I wasn’t too optimistic about life in general. France is a competitive country and you are taught to maximize your chances. Graduate with honours, get into the best schools, suck it up and maybe you will succeed. It wasn’t very tempting.

So yes, maybe I was running away. Not from my family though—people always think I must have had a terrible relationship with my parents because I left home so young. But I didn’t. We are very close. I’m lucky to have smart parents who understood their oldest daughter was somewhat stubborn and wanted a different kind of life.

Now, I actually found a country I enjoy living in. Minus the occasional bitching about the weather, I’m happy in Canada. I love my work too and I still think I have opportunities here I wouldn’t have had in France. I don’t think I’m running away anymore.

Yet I keep running. I can’t help it. I’m addicted to travelling. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. It’s the freedom or going and leaving as it pleases me. It’s opening my eyes wide and capturing both the beauty and the ugliness of the world. It’s the fact that I’m breaking away from an accepted social model many follow and I quite don’t accept.

The house is a mess, we are packing our bags and doing last-minute laundry, recapitulating what we need.

We are flying very early tomorrow morning.

I’m still running.

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Zhu

French woman in English Canada.

Exploring the world with my camera since 1999, translating sentences for a living, writing stories that may or may not get attention.

Firm believer that nobody is normal... and it’s better this way.

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