Trying on New Lives Around The World

by Editor

By Caitlin Behrens

I don’t think many of us can envision just one life for ourselves; for example, I could see myself as a successful businesswoman, an island girl, a madly in-love vagabond, a famous novelist, and much more. Any life you choose takes serious commitment, so as depressing as it may be to consider, we simply don’t have the time, effort, and opportunity to be everything. That’s why we have to choose to be something. 

One of the more interesting benefits of travel is that you can sort of sample lives that aren’t your own. I have found endless opportunities to explore many of the life paths I desire and others I would never consider, even for just a brief moment in time. By plunging into the same spaces with the same people doing the same activities, imagination often takes over and makes me feel like somebody else, without the hard work of being somebody else. 

I spent nine days in Sicily this past summer, and I was mostly confined to the small seaside town that my accommodation was in. I don’t want to live like this forever, but for nine days, I got to experience slow, intentional living. Italian culture is not as rushed or busy as we are accustomed to in North America, so I took my time exploring, dining out, conversing, strolling, and enjoying my other daily activities. There was less to do, so I did less. Most of my days were spent walking around, reading or writing at the beach, lounging at the pier, or people-watching at a cafe. 

I often regret not living in New York City. I always envisioned two potential life paths here. The first was the successful businesswoman who wore great outfits, drank Martinis, went to Galas, and experienced the luxuries of life. The other life was the aspiring writer. Really, the definable feature of this second path was being someone in that limbo phase of life who was working for more, while enjoying the excitement of the uncertainty (and fewer responsibilities). This version of myself had a small apartment, and a big group of friends who were like family, like in all the New York sitcoms. When I visit New York, I feel like I’m every bit of these fake characters. I love to dress up, go to the high-end spots, and pretend I am important, and I also love to split cheap beer and roam around Manhattan with some of my dearest friends. Every time I go, I can be either or both of these people, and whenever I come back, I can pick up where I left off. 

I have always had an interest in literature, and in another life, maybe I would have pursued it more. Maybe, I would have used this interest to fuel my own passion for writing. I explored this curiosity more and more in London. At every turn, you’re at some critical plot point in literary history, some famous poet’s once-frequented pub or their house or their lover’s house, or some setting that inspired a classic. I read every pamphlet and brochure and museum label and bar plaque and Wikipedia page with so much intensity that you would have thought I was due for an exam. 

Well, I can’t be a full-time corporate businesswoman in New York or the next best American novelist, and a full-time beach bum in The Florida Keys, which is certainly another potential life path of mine. I have always been drawn to the water. I just love the tranquility of it. I’m a chronic overthinker, and I drive myself absolutely insane with the volume of my own thoughts, not to mention the speed at which they bounce around inside of my head. When I’m at the beach, it’s like I’m under some Cataonic bliss. It’s astounding, really, how fast concerns seem to wash away when a body of water is nearby. I appreciate that way of life. Some see little meaning in it; I see only giving meaning to what matters. Whenever I go to Florida, it feels like those Kenny Chesney-loving, Life, Laugh, Love people may have got it right. 

I spent close to a year on Oahu living a completely different beach life of mine. This one was adventurous and healthy. I wasn’t sipping frozen drinks listening to Jimmy Buffet everyday; I was up hiking, trying new water sports, being fairly mindful of the food and substances I put into my body, and spending long quality hours with friends. I was in the best physical shape of my life. Had I stayed there longer, I may have actualized as an Acai-eating, heady surfer girl straight out of a PacSun commercial. 

I can’t think of a single one of these lives where I don’t hold a strong sense of passion. In New York and London, it’s for productive matters like work and study. At the beach, it’s for play. And, in Argentina, it’s for love and human connection. Argentines put forth so much tenderness in their daily interactions with others. Romance, as an American in Argentina, feels like kissing under fireworks, clinging to your lover from the back of a Moped, staying up until dawn talking, roaming city streets for hours, taking silly photos, giggling, PDA, drunk in love romance that you see on screens. I’d take this life forever if I could. 

I haven’t been to India yet but I imagine I will connect with my spirituality there, and when I go to Alaska, I’ll get to enjoy life at sea. I’ll be in St. Tropez next summer and I am sure my old party girl ways will emerge, and then, when I visit the Sahara one day, I can appreciate true solitude. I am not all of these people, but all of these people are within me in different capacities, and I enjoy being able to explore all of my potential paths. In fact, I can’t imagine a life of mine where I commit myself to only one of these worlds – I want to try them all. 

Caitlin Behrens is a lifestyle writer based out of Cleveland, Ohio. She covers topics related to women’s issues and experiences, travel, and more.

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