The Psychology of Traveling

This post was initially written while on our Australia, NZ, Bali, Southeast Asia trip.  While preparing for our next adventure, I found it and completed it.  It also gave me an idea for future posts.

Three months into our world traveling adventure, I was inspired to write a perspective piece on my experience.  Looking back, it clearly reflected what I had learned during my master’s in social work program.  The 5 stages of group development.  Forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning.  Traveling took on each of these stages and I will write a few examples of how I experienced them.

Forming: I am going to back up about 6 months to August.  We had known for awhile that we were going to be taking off and traveling around the world.  But that is all that we had planned.  Sebastien wanted to just wing it which made me a little nervous.  I like some certainty but am also fine “winging it”.  I has a visual of what it would look like in my head (forming of the idea) but was experiencing the anxiety associated with not being able to know exactly if that would be a reality.

For the three months leading up to our departure I felt very relaxed and excited about the trip.  I believed that everything was going to be great!  Many people would comment, “well then you will really know if you can stand Sebastien” and things of this sort.  Both Sebastien and I would think those statements were strange and they obviously didn’t understand that we spent all our time with each other already.

A month before leaving Sebastien proposed and this just added to the excitement!  I was in the clouds about everything.  Along with those feelings also came some stress with quitting a job that I had been at for 5 years and putting all of our stuff into storage.

Once all of the “loose ends” were tied up and we were on a flight to Australia and normal anxiety set in.  Though very much optimistic that everything would be fine.  After all, I am engaged to my life partner, we were taking on a trip of a life time and I felt that this was just part of the plan.

Storming:  Our first month in Australia was combined with anxiety about how much things cost and relief when things, like meeting Clare and staying with Catherine, worked out.  However, it was stressful to navigate everything we wanted to do when we were in a place as huge as Australia.  There were times, not many, that we got on each others nerves.  But as the days and weeks continued I missed my friends and talking to other people more and more.

Norming: Two months into our trip I felt  that I settled into traveling life.  Like the norming stage of group development, we fell into a grove.  Though it did not decrease the longing for socializing with my friends and family.  I am not a confident stranger and naturally do not just strike up conversation with strangers.  Facebook and Skype (at that time) came in very handy.   Though these type of connections are never the same as sitting around next to people who really know you and understand.

Performing/Synergy stage: Looking back at our trip and think about examples of this stage I immediately recall our efficiency in packing and unpacking.  The fact that I did not lose or forget ANYTHING on this trip speaks to this stage.  Within minutes we could pack up our things and be off to our next location.

Closure:  Several months into our trip, Sebastien got a terrible rash.  This caused a lot of stress for him and home seemed to be the only option.  When we finally decided to end our trip, I felt a sense of sadness.  I wasn’t ready to leave though I knew we were ready.  Again, it reminded me of group work in which closure brings up a lot of different feelings for individuals.  For me, it was feeling like there was more to do.  I hoped that some day, we could do it all again.