When the Black Sheep is You
“You don’t really seem much like your parents,” one of my friends said to me at the gym last night. I was telling him about my upcoming solo trip to Roatán to get my PADI certification. “I wasn’t going to tell my parents at all because they, as a rule, freak out when I travel alone. Then my mom tricked me and asked if I was traveling for Memorial Day weekend. I couldn’t straight up lie.”
When I was younger, my family traveled up and down the East Coast with reckless abandon. Historical sites, amusement parks, extended family, beaches, mountains, ballparks— you name it. There was so much to see! So much to do beyond pristine Connecticut. So we explored and loved it.
But by the time I reached high school, sports took my free time, vacations, and summers. College ball meant no fall breaks or spring breaks. Summers were packed with internships and jobs. The sense of adventure I always had faded. Between my brother’s and my activities, the family rarely took trips anymore.
Then, in my junior year of college, I was able to spend a semester abroad in Australia. It changed everything. Or, rather, it reminded me of how exciting exploring is. The experience also taught me how freeing and boundless travel is. This has been a path I’ve followed for the past 12 years, with my need to see new places around the world growing more each day.
In the meantime, the rest of my family never spent 5 months in a different country learning about a different culture. They haven’t been exposed to the beautiful mindsets of those in third world countries or remote islands. The rest of the earth is completely foreign to them.
And therein lies the rub.
It’s amazing how much of a difference travel makes in a person’s personality, mindset, and motivations. It changes how you view yourself, others, and everyone’s place in the world. Travel opens your eyes and it creates the feeling of limitlessness. It breaks comfort zones and ruins satisfaction with routine. If you really let it get to you, it makes you crave more and more explorations — that you cannot help but act upon.
Somehow, travel also manages to separate those who do from those who don’t. A lack of understanding can easily transition to a lack of support, which leads to “be careful” rather than “have fun.” Even that can spiral out of control — are the concerns really out of love? Can you truly love someone if you can’t accept such a core part of their being? (Especially one as nondestructive and beneficial as travel is).
All this has made me realize that my family and I, we are at an impasse. I will not stop traveling and they will not accept it.
It’s hard to be the outcast in a close family. You feel the weight of it regularly, which is heavy. Leading a lifestyle so vastly different from the lot makes you hold your breath and hope that maybe one day they’ll accept you and just be straight up happy that you’re leading a life you love.
Then again, maybe that hope runs out one day and you can’t handle being the black sheep anymore so you run off to South America, learn to speak Spanish fluently, buy a home, and never talk to any of them again. WHO KNOWS.