Long-Term Travel: Leave and Never Look Back

Disappear (verb): cease to be visible.

“She disappeared into the world.”


vanish, pass from sight, be lost to view/sight, recede from view; fade (away), melt away, clear, dissolve, disperse, evaporate, dematerialize;

literary: evanesce
“by 4 o’clock the mist had disappeared”


Have you ever dreamed of disappearing, even for a little while? Ever return home from a dream vacation only to find that nothing has changed except you? Have you ever wished you could just pick up and move somewhere far, far away?

Me too. A few years ago it was the easiest thing in the world for me to imagine disappearing, if only to avoid the sidelong stares, pointed fingers, and pitying whispers of friends and acquaintances in this town of not-quite-21,000 warm and fuzzy folk after I experienced a series of horrible circumstances and events. 

So, when I decided, exactly one year ago, to travel the world, I knew I wouldn’t be going back to the lovely valley of the rogue, my home for so long. Ashland, Oregon, is, for thousands of people, a dream-town come true, a Shakespeare-themed, creative, intelligent, active small town nestled in the hills of the Siskiyou Mountains. There is no denying it is gorgeous. I have loved this little valley for over two decades. I have made many friends here, especially in this last year, oddly. So why wouldn’t I want to return?


Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon, photo by Steve Gee

I have always lived a colorful life. At eighteen I left home to live in a commune in the Santa Cruz mountains. Even then I wanted to travel the world, so one day I hitchhiked into town and joined the army. I had just seen Private Benjamin, after all, so I knew I could get stationed in Germany (whatever “stationed” meant). It was 1975, the Vietnam War was over, and the military was downsizing its troops. The recruiter promised me, “You will love Germany.” I lasted twenty-nine crazy days in the softly rolling green lawns of Fort Jackson, North Carolina, before being honorably discharged. (Another story for another time, but all good.)

From the moment I returned home to my parents’ house, I was off. I moved to the shiny little town of Laguna Beach in Southern California, got a great job (I was a hairstylist back then, a career that treated me well for twenty-eight years), and immediately started saving my money to travel to Europe—on my own dime this time rather than courtesy of the US government. My first solo travel was later that same year. I was nineteen.

London 1978

London, 1978. I still have this hat I bought at Harrod’s of London.

London bird 1978

Trafalgar Square

Off I went, exploring England (I love this country; been back four times), Holland (I swear I walked every inch of Amsterdam on foot), Germany (omg I did love Germany; I spent three days with a nineteen-year-old German soldier who looked like James Dean), and France (thank goodness for American foreign exchange students) in just sixteen days on the money I had saved. It was over as soon as it started, but I was hooked on travel, and I’ve never stopped.

Here is what I know about coming home after having a great trip: Nothing is different. Nothing. Not the people or the plays, not the parades or the weather, not the restaurants or the music or the bars or the games or the view or the food or the park. Everything. Is. The. Same. Now, lots and lots of people LOVE this about Ashland. But not me. Not any more, anyway. I crave adventure. I yearn for new. I always have; this is not an all-of-a-sudden desire. 

Did you know that there is actually a thing called “post-travel depression”? Perhaps you have experienced it. Long-time travelers, especially, often feel a huge letdown after a great trip. The only thing that makes it better is . . . more travel.

Must . . . travel

Hence my decision to move to another country once I am done with this round of long-term travel. I want a fresh start, a new country, one that isn’t divided so dramatically that it will probably never unite again in my lifetime. I want to have a blank slate, I want to go where no one knows anything about me. I know my family isn’t happy about it, but I can’t live my life for someone else. That may sound harsh (I’m sorry, family), but I’m simply not wired that way, which is probably why I never had kids. I know my friends in Ashland (my true friends, anyway—I have an awful lot of acquaintances) wish I would come back. But here’s how I know it would go: I would land there after one, two, three years of travel and immediately feel like I was back in time: nothing changed, nothing. Nothing but me.

So, have YOU ever wanted to disappear and not come back? Do you know anyone who has? Do YOU dream of traveling the world on a long-term basis? What are you doing about it? Why or why not? I would love to read your comments!




18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jill Kaufman
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 18:51:08

    Hi Jessica! I enjoy your posts : ) This is what is so fun and exciting about the world we live in (in my opinion) everyone is so different, different dreams, different lives different things that make them happy.Your journey is so much fun to read : )

  2. Jessica Vineyard
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 18:59:35

    Thank you, Jill! Yes, we all have our dreams, and they are unique to each of us. I am excited to be making my dream come true!

  3. Anne Herrick Dienel
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 19:24:10

    Yes, it does make sense to me too Jessica. I felt that way when I came here to Ashland 20 years ago. No one knew me here and I was excited about that! I came here to disappear. I was planning to change my name to Annick Sanier, but backed out when Jim Said, who invited me here to work with him, told me he refused to call me that. I quickly became aware that there was very little if no anonymity here and that really bothered me for a while. Coming off of living in NYC for 15 years that was not something I thought I could adjust to. 20 years later I’m still here. I did plan to travel the world and did some when I was younger. Mostly what stops me now is how I feel when I travel. My digestion is very often bad, sleep is bad, and at 58 I just no longer care to deal with those things. Hooray for you that you are still willing to go and actually do it! xoxo (((HUGS)))

  4. Jessica Vineyard
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 19:29:05

    Thank you for your comment, Anne! I’m glad you got your travel in when you still felt great. I am so fortunate that I feel better than I have in years. And I DO look forward to being anonymous again!

  5. Anonymous
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 21:42:27

    Oh man. Post-travel depression. Pretty sure I had that after my 6month trip to Europe.

  6. Jessica Vineyard
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 22:09:38

    Oh, what a drag. Sorry to hear it. Have you traveled since then?

  7. Laura Knapp
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 22:23:59

    I had often thought about travel to far and exotic places when I was younger. Climbing the Swiss mountains, exploring Le Louvre, boat rides into the Amazon. As I have gotten older, I have learned to love the roots I have put down. To not want to leave my loved ones behind (and I can’t imagine taking a 90 lb dog to Europe!). I still sometimes long for the sweet escape from “real life”, but just a few nights ago I dreamed of taking a theatre job in Milwaukee WI for a year, and leaving my current life. As I was saying goodbye to my man, and my dog, I thought “WHAT HAVE I DONE!” In my search for escape I would be giving up that which is dearest to me. Nipped it right in the bud -ha-ha.

    I can envision possible scenarios though where I would leave all I know behind for the great unknown and explore the world with it’s endless possibilities. I’m not there yet, but I am so happy you, Jessica, are making your dreams come true!


  8. Jessica Vineyard
    Dec 08, 2015 @ 22:26:43

    Ahh, great story, Laura! You already ARE living your dream! Funny that you had that dream to remind you of what is so precious to you.

  9. Jean Dayton Linington
    Dec 09, 2015 @ 08:58:56

    I admire you for understanding yourself and your journey, for taking the time to make this decision and change your life. The need for the new is very strong in me as well, and I feel the call of it almost daily. It’s intriguing to know someone who is actually listening to those voices, and I look forward to sharing your journey.
    Bon voyage, enjoy something new every day! Xo

  10. quiltbat
    Dec 09, 2015 @ 10:41:53

    Good for you to follow your dreams, Jessica! For me, travel is an escape from the day-to-day as well as a cultural experience. The best part is the planning and the good memories afterwards. The actual travel can be tiring. I don’t think I could do what you’re doing. I need my roots and a home base. We just got back from our month in Italy, and as much as I loved it, it felt so good to be back in my own space, in my own bed, and to catch up with friends. However, when we left VA after 40 years, I also wanted to start a new, fresh life, and each time I go back to visit the east coast, it is more and more alien to me. So I can relate to you! (I’m in my happy place in Ashland.) Missing you already!

  11. Jessica Vineyard
    Dec 09, 2015 @ 15:13:07

    Thank you for your comment, Jean. I am fortunate enough to have basically no ties that keep me from traveling. I did plan for it, save for it, and keep the goal in sight. I believe anyone can take steps toward their dreams when their desire to achieve them is strong enough. And thanks for following my blog!

  12. Jessica Vineyard
    Dec 09, 2015 @ 15:14:53

    Barbara, you figured out the BEST way to travel! There are tons of benefits of having been a flight attendant! I had often thought of that career, but mine was going along so well that I wasn’t motivated enough to change for many years. I love virtual travel through your travels. I do hope that others find inspiration in mine, as well. It’s important for us to keep each other motivated and supported!

  13. Della
    Dec 10, 2015 @ 07:23:48

    Hey Jessica,
    Dianne Helmer turned me on to your blog. Congrats for making this happen. I remember our brief conversation at the Saturday market some time ago. You were looking into Ecuador as a place to relocate. Sounds like much more has been added to your agenda. Way to go!
    I’m not sure where you are currently in your journey?
    I sure get what you mean about feeling changed but nothing is changed. In that regard, though, there is some comfort in returning home. For me, at least.

  14. Jessica Vineyard
    Dec 10, 2015 @ 08:47:32

    Hi Della! Thanks for following. Yes, a lot happened since when we last saw each other. I have spent the last year selling everything (including my house!) in preparation for traveling solo around the world for however long I can keep it up. My long-term plan is still to end up in Ecuador, but that’s a ways out. Currently I am in California to spend the month with my family. I launch for good in early January. Thanks for popping in and saying hello!

  15. Saia Blakeslee
    Dec 12, 2015 @ 16:50:03

    Ug! Yes!
    The travel itch. What is it about travel that excites and evokes in such a powerful way?
    The feeling of expanding my sense of connection to the greater world at large always creates within me a feeling of soaring.
    I want to see and hear and feel and taste new things, I want to savor and live in that feeling of present now-ness you feel when your seeing new lands, new sunsets, new faces. I yearn for deeper perspectives on who I am as a human being.
    How appropriate also, that you have chosen a career that can support your deep need to travel and experience the world. How beautiful and inspiring too as I am in the process of starting to create a similar freedom.
    I want to get paid to travel, singing my way around the world.
    Like you, through my travels, I wish to find the country, the culture, a place that feels like home and have a home to return too when I
    want to stay put for a while.

    You inspire me.

    With love,

  16. Jessica Vineyard
    Dec 12, 2015 @ 20:23:36

    Oh, Saia, you gorgeous writer, you! Yes, we share the travel spirit. And you WILL reach your dreams, and we will meet up in Paris or Delhi or Perth or Athens or somewhere else in the world! Thank you for your beautiful comment, sister!

  17. SuzMcQ
    Dec 21, 2015 @ 00:16:03

    I don’t really have the long-term travel bug right now (short escapes, yes), but am very much looking forward to traveling through your adventures and posts! And would love to meet up with you somewhere along the line.

    I find, for me, that “home” being the same—with nothing changed— is the thing I count on. Home for me is the still point, the place where I can land and have predictable things around me; where I know where things are, even if blindfolded.

    For instance, If I came back to Ashland and the parade was changed, I’d be pissed! I think it’s good to visit but not necessarily move back to a former home. Besides, there are so many places to live and experience! Looking forward to seeing where you ultimately land.

  18. Vagabond Queen
    Dec 21, 2015 @ 08:51:03

    Thanks, Suz! Not many people have the desire to give up everything and be rootless, for sure, especially as they get older. I am curious to see how I fare being untethered, even as I keep my mind open to the opportunity to discover my next home. The everyday comforts of home are hard to imagine leaving for most people, I would guess.

Please follow me at http://vagabondqueentravels.com/

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