“It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”
― Sigmund Freud

I was raised (not born) in a city and until my twenties, I couldn’t imagine life in a small town. I couldn’t imagine living in a place where time dilated, conversations were restricted to local grapevine, and everyone could trace their neighbour’s family tree upto three generations. But it was the smallness of a small town that bothered me the most. Or more so, how big I felt in comparison. Somehow, even as a regular kid, I got the feeling: I was better than them.

Because it’s easy to get blinded by glitzy city lights. It’s easy to feel smaller than towering buildings. It’s easy to be allured by the apparent openness of city life and feign ignorance of the deteriorating human condition. It’s easy to accept walls that divide neighbours and masks that hide emotion. And it’s easy to confuse happiness with money.

“How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure.”
― Alexandre Dumas

I’ve lived in different places. And every time I move to a new place, I lose a bit of the old me, while those I know remain just the way they were. It makes it harder finding a place where I belong. Can lines define where we belong? Makes me wonder if there truly is a place in this world for each one of us. A place that accepts us just the way we are. I’ve tried searching for such a place. And as a realist, I’ve came to the conclusion: it only exists in escape. Travel has proven to be a wonderful escape, taking me to some fascinating places. In those fleeting moments — I felt, I belonged.

“I think that pretty much every form of fiction (I’d include fantasy, obviously) can actually be a real escape from places where you feel bad, and from bad places. It can be a safe place you go, like going on holiday, and it can be somewhere that, while you’ve escaped, actually teaches you things you need to know when you go back, that gives you knowledge and armour and tools to change the bad place you were in.

So no, they’re not escapist. They’re escape.”
― Neil Gaiman

Great escapes offer a window to alternate realities. It’s the easiest way to experience a time warp in the real world. It gives you an opportunity to be a part of a new world instead of being a silent observer on the internet. You can temporarily forget where you come from — even if your hosts wouldn’t.

“It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge.”
― Margaret Atwood

But it isn’t always necessary to travel to distant lands and fascinating cultures — to escape mundane life. It’s possible to search for escapes in your neighbourhood. Nature is ever willing to offer a brief interlude from reality. After all home can either be a room within four walls or a deserted trail in the forest.

“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”
― Graham Greene

And when all routes to escape are closed, I seek refuge in a blank page. It’s where I can create a world of my own. Between the dots and lines, I can escape to a place that may not always be perfect, and in all likelihood imaginary, yet one that sets me free.




Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

20 replies on “Musings of an Escape Artist

  1. What a profound post Cheryl. I think every place leaves its mark on us whether we’re city or country raised. Clearly travel has had the biggest influence on you, turning you into the escape artist you are. I think that’s wonderful. 🙂 xx

    1. Thank you, Miriam! I miss travelling and exploring new places. But there are so many things to take care of. We’re finally moving into a new apartment and that’s the only excitement in my life now! 🙂 Hoping for travel plans to open after that. How have you been? We’re having a sunny day today with very bad air. Sending you a big hug!

      1. Hi Cheryl, moving into a new apartment sounds pretty exciting to me. Hope it all goes well. I know what you mean about the travel, I’m getting itchy feet again. Having said that however I’ve got a bad cold and the weather’s pretty average at the moment so maybe it’s better I’m stuck at home! A big hug back my friend xo 🙂

      2. We finally moved into the new apartment and it was harder than I thought it would be. Kind of explains my sabbatical from blogging. 🙂 I hope you’re feeling better. I’m sorry for such a late reply. Things have been crazy here. lol. Get well soon my friend. xo

      3. Nice to hear from you Cheryl. Sorry to hear you’ve had a hard time moving in. I hope things are sorting themselves out now. Life here is good and I’m well even though we’re now in the throes of winter. A lot has happened here. Hope you’re well too. Hugs xo

  2. I like how you say that cities give us the apparent impression of openess. So often cities are places of opportunity, professionally and personally. Then again, you have to play by the rules sometimes, for instance play the corporate ballgame or respect certain ‘social standards’ in order to fit in.

    Like you, I am a city person and sometimes I feel out of place in a small town. What I like about the city is what you can learn from the hustle and bustle and see how fast life can change for itself. On the other hand, I do like the slower pace that quieter places offer. On the subject of belonging, I don’t know if I’ll ever belong anywhere. I’ll just do what I feel like doing and if I’m comfortable, then so be it 🙂

    1. I changed when I quit my job. I don’t think I could fit in after that. I’ve been doing so many things and life has been a discovery. I’ve always found it hard to play by the rules and follow ‘social standards’. 🙂
      We dream of escaping to a small, nondescript town someday. It’s not an easy decision to make and often, it feels like a distant dream.
      I’ve stopped wanting to belong anywhere. I know I will be an outsider (I’ve felt that all my life) no matter where I go. People will see me through their lens and I will have to pretend. But, I don’t rule out the possibility of meeting few who would accept me the way I am. Blogging has proven that time and again. 🙂

      1. No shame in quitting or leaving something behind, and moving forwards towards what feels right for us. You never know, your dreams can come true 🙂 High five to being an outsider and being true to yourself 🙂

  3. I grew up in a small town but have lived most of my adult life in or very near a big city. Both are my place in the world, and neither is. When in one, I often crave the other. Like you, I use travel to bridge the gap between where I am and where I want to be, and I mean that both physically and psychologically. I am still trying to figure out who I am and where I belong.

    1. I know how you feel and it’s heartening to know that I’m not the only one. 🙂 We haven’t travelled (on a real trip) for months. Life keeps getting in the way. There’s a part of me that wants to escape, and a part that wants to be ‘normal’ and pretend (like everyone else) I like how predictable our life has become.

  4. Once you leave the small town for the bigger world, it’s hard to look back – both in the physical world and the virtual one. But still, there are many who prefer to stay in the safety and comfort of their “small town”, and wonder why others think they’re missing out. There’s something to be said for spending time on both sides of those worlds.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. It’s difficult to go back to a smaller world once you’ve tasted life in a big city. My parents were born and raised in a village (now it’s a town). They spent their adult lives in the city, but preferred to retire closer to their roots. I guess, it was the desire to go back to the beginning. I don’t know where we will go when the time comes to make a decision. I try not to think about it. 🙂

  5. Excellent quotes on travel and a longing for escape and belonging. Strangely, I felt at home when I landed in a country of my ancestors. And ironically, whilst travelling. The burden of everyday life evaporates and leave much more of one’s self exposed and visible on the surface, than we are wearing our workplace hats or community hats.
    Travel challenges, broadens and satisfies.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Travel has made me feel at home in so many places that I had nothing in common with. I feel at home in the mountains and lost in the city. 🙂 Hopefully, I’ll find the balance between both someday.
      Thanks for stopping by Amanda!

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