Which way pulls you?

If you had 4 months of vacation a year, what would you do with it? Well, I answer this question every year because I get 4 weeks off around Christmas and 3 months off in the summer.

In fact, I spend a lot of time thinking about this. I did it last night even though summer vacation is still 3 months away. I awoke at 4 a.m. and lay in bed fantasizing about a long-overdue trip to Italy. Over this morning’s coffee, I searched for flights despite not knowing if we could really go. As soon as the tax rebate arrives, I plot how much of it I can set aside for travel. The truth is, it’s very little–about enough to pay for a couple of plane tickets somewhere, but not enough for the rest of a trip. And that is not even considering the fact that I have two small children and two dogs.


A favorite memory from a month-long trip in southern Europe

When I was in my last year of college, I started a tradition of sorts. I thought of somewhere I wanted to go, and I went. I took advantage of every opportunity— I traveled a lot and studied and lived abroad. It all made me really happy. Later, when I met my husband, I traveled with him, but soon I started to work more and travel less. I never thought that one day it wouldn’t be so easy to travel the world. Now that I have two kids and little travel money, maybe I should just put off my travel hopes and be content settling in for a few years.

“I learned that a rooted life means making the kind of choices that I had avoided for the last decade.” (From a beautiful NYTimes essay by Elizabeth Eaves.)

Home is where I've planted roots with my family for the last 9 years, but...

The trouble is that no matter how hard I try to reassure myself that I should be content with our usual Brazil and California journeys, and that we will travel more when our lives stabilize a bit, I can’t kick my dreams. They visit me every day. I bug my husband with them. I write about travel and research places half-way around the world that I am oddly obsessed with. I still dream about living abroad again.

What is my problem?!

I blame my restlessness on my strong Vata nature. (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

The answer may be obvious. It’s my nature. I like looking at this through Ayurveda, the ancient science of medicine and well-being from India. Everyone has a constitution, a combination of the three “doshas,” or elements: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. People with dominant Kapha usually prefer lazy days at home taking a nap or soaking in the tub. People with dominant Pitta tend to be goal-oriented; they may love working and moving up the ladder. People with dominant Vata love change, movement, and stimulation.

The element of Vata is wind, so people like me are not very grounded; we are light, blowing here and there around this beautiful earth.

We can find aspects of ourselves in all three doshas, and one is not better than another, but one dosha dominates and gives us our nature. While I like to be successful in my work and cherish a lazy day at home, the Vata in me tugs hard.

Instead of fighting against this, I have decided to accept it. My love of travel and immersing myself in other cultures no matter where I am will not go away. If you love to spend your Sundays taking naps, don’t judge yourself against those Pittas who seem to be more productive. Don’t compare yourself to others. And don’t expect people to be like you. We are who we are.

Which way pulls you?


  • I just took a quiz and apparently I’m equal amounts Vata and Kapha. Very confusing as they’re the opposite. Or maybe the quiz wasn’t very reliable 🙂

    • Jenna says:

      That actually sounds a bit like me. I like to think that the Kapha in me makes me calm and makes me enjoy being home when I’m here. Try Deepak Chopra’s website for good quizzes if you want to do another one.

  • I took a quiz – I am equal parts Vata and Pitta. A 50/50 split!

    Very interesting take. At times I feel like you, at times I I am driven and focused. And sometimes I just want to relax. Maybe I am equally all three! 🙂

    • Jenna says:

      Your 50/50 split between Vata and Pitta doesn’t surprise me. Even though I haven’t met you in person, I don’t see much Kapha energy from you 🙂

  • monique says:

    “I never thought that one day it wouldn’t be so easy to travel the world” – completely agree. and agree with what you write about your nature being your nature. I, too, feel the vata pulling (while also feel the others strongly) – whenever I felt too settled pre kids, I would find another journey to take me away. I think when you eventually “settle” and have a family, you accept a new stage in life but your nature doesn’t change dramatically. And while I may not find many others at school pick up with the same travel passion (and experiences) I have, it’s nice to find other like-minded people through this community of blogging.
    another thought, even if life changes and travel isn’t as easy as before, all those travel and expat experiences have helped to create a fulfilled life that feels authentic later on…I defnitely have made choices now that I wouldn’t have if I didnt have those experiences. Thank the Gods for all that traveling!

    • Jenna says:

      I agree, Monique, that having children is a new chapter, but our natures don’t change too much, and that finding like-minded people online is fulfilling.
      About your thought about the travel and expat experiences influencing us later on… I was definitely grateful for those experiences when I decided to have children. I thought that I had done a lot and therefore was more “ready” to have kids because of that (plus I was in my mid-30s!). I didn’t expect to want to travel even more after having them!

  • Emiel says:

    I really love this this story Jenna, especially how you involved the Vata! For passionate travelers it shows that we cannot (and don’t have to) explain why we are restless while we still have a good, rooted life back home. It’s our nature, it’s Vata pulling us to discover and see more of this world. Great story!

    P.S. This lazy Vata is also very nice…but he tends to leave quite quickly again 🙂

  • Love, love, LOVE this… Vata. That’s me. I can relate so much… I’ve been a gypsy from birth and now my four kids are my biggest reason to keep traveling… they feel the wind as well. Beautiful. I’m sharing. (Hello, by the way… this is my first visit to your site!)

    • Jenna says:

      Jennifer, Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you visited. I look forward to learning more about how you travel with your 4 kids. I just visited your site for the first time this morning.

  • jade says:

    I am the opposite. I always loved traveling, but didn’t do it as much as I liked. I always thought there were things I needed to be doing, saving for, etc. at home that I didn’t make time for it. Well, not any more!! I think in the last two years I’ve gone on more vacations and trips than the rest of my life put together!

    • Jenna says:

      Good thing that you decided to just get out and do it. In my experience, the time starts to go by SO fast, so it’s good to seize the opportunity right away.

  • ehalvey says:

    I just started getting into Ayurveda over the summer through my yoga studio, and I’m a Vata. Which explains why I’m interested in so many career fields that are seemingly unrelated, why I move a lot, and why I love to travel. It’s nice to hear others explain that feeling of restlessness so well 🙂

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks for bringing up the interest in various career fields. That is so me. My students are always so surprised when I tell them that my BA is in art history and that I also studied some other subjects after I got my MA. Not only do I constantly want to be learning new things, I can also imagine myself having many different careers. I sometimes wonder how long I will be able to stay in the same one (I’ve been at the same job for almost 10 years! SO hard to believe. My, how the time has flown)

  • Abby says:

    This pull has been on the top of my mind since last fall. I’ve been writing a post about it, too, but it hasn’t been the right time to publish. Soon! I so get this entire post — and I think so many others do, too! Right? Or is it just us?!

    • Jenna says:

      Yes, I think we all get it. One thing I was trying to get across is that we are who we are, whether we prefer getting away or having long, quiet weekends at home… It just makes me feel like I am not a total nut for having a pile of Italy books next to my bed 🙂 I look forward to reading your post!

  • Sophie says:

    Interesting philosophy, Jenna. I don’t know much about Ayurveda, I’m afraid, but inspired to have a closer look now.

  • i LOVE this post!

    i’m a pitta vata – driven and yet flighty and i also love to travel. i’m nervous about change/travel and now that we’ve got ruby i’m a bit nervous…… although we traveled with her when we first met. crazy.

    we’ll stick to the west coast this year, but the sky’s the limit eventually. at some point i’d like to spend a summer in taiwan teaching english, so the girl can get a real feel for her homeland.

    plan your trips! this time off is the best benefit of the job, so use that to your advantage. plus kids who travel with their folks learn so much more than those who stay home. we raise global citizens by having them experience the world.

    • Jenna says:

      Teaching ENglish in Taiwan sounds so exciting! I will love hearing about that when it happens. Pitta vata is quite a combination! I can definitely see the Vata in you with all your books and the projects you enjoy starting 🙂 I’m exactly the same way– it’s like, who can waste time in this life when there is SO much to learn?!

  • Suzy says:

    I think I am a mix of Kapha and Vata. I love to move around from place to place, but there is something about home that I can’t resist after traveling for awhile. I tend to get cravings for places, Italy in particular. Those cravings have to be fulfilled or I get cranky. Sure I could stay home and count up my savings, but a big bank account doesn’t get me anywhere.

  • Justin says:

    Kapha? Never heard of it. I wouldn’t even know how to do it. But I guess I’ve got a lot of Pitta and Vata in me.

    I know the feeling. You can’t fight the pull – that will drive you(and everyone else) crazy!

    Nice thoughts Jenna!
    Justin recently posted..How Much Money Do I Need To Travel Forever?My Profile

  • Jenny says:

    I too feel the pull. For me, it’s gotten stronger as I’ve gotten older and had kids. We travel a ton with our kids. It’s all about expectations and bringing your own fun. We blog a lot about traveling with kids. You can totally do it and have even more fun than when you traveled before kids!
    Jenny recently posted..Simple Ideas for Happy Family Living – The Tickle TunnelMy Profile

  • Wanderplex says:

    Hmm, I feel like I am a mix of all of those “doshas” – I’m always drawn to travel, change, excitement etc but I do like to settle down at home and be in someplace “familiar” as well. An interesting way of interpreting our emotions regarding travel!
    Wanderplex recently posted..What’s new ’round the web: week of 03/16/12My Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Thanks. A mix of the 3 doshas is a good thing. I can see all 3 of them in me but the Vata is definitely the strongest.

  • Jessica says:

    Very interesting! I’ll have to take the quiz and see where I fall. I have to think I would be a mix of driven and flighty, but we’ll see. Thanks for sharing.
    Jessica recently posted..Spring has Sprung, Ya’ll!My Profile

  • Ayngelina says:

    Hmm what about looking at a trip from a different perspective. So if you can do flights but not accommodation what about looking at family volunteering or couchsurfing.

    I couchsurf a lot and while I did not think other families would do it I met quite a few that did. Man Vs. Debt did with his family as well.

    The families I met couchsurf with other families and often tent out in a backyard so the kids get a cultural experience of hanging out with other children too.

    Just a thought. If you want a new experience dig a bit deeper and maybe you will find something unexpected.
    Ayngelina recently posted..Pigging out in Playa del CarmenMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      You’re right– we have to be creative. The main way we like to travel now is to go somewhere and park ourselves for longer periods of time than we would have stayed before. Renting a house with a kitchen, for example, is a must with kids and not changing accommodations often is easier and cheaper. When the baby is a little older, I would love to do some volunteering. I hadn’t thought of the couchsurfing idea with kids. Thanks for the new ideas.

  • Laurel says:

    I like the idea of looking at this from an Ayurveda perspective. I don’t know what I am, but I know I have a hard time staying still and am always on the move. Wonderful that you have so many holidays!
    Laurel recently posted..My Chimpanzee Love Affair in Girona, SpainMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Yes, it is wonderful, but I am very busy when I am working! I’m sure you have plenty of Vata in your nature to keep you always on the move.

  • Cami says:

    As I expected, I am a Vata. Like you, I always thought it would be easy to pick up and go, to travel, to have change in my life. Then I made choices including marriage and a child, which while fulfilling, have resulted in an inability to travel for many years. A few years back, I realized that I needed to find a way to fulfill these other, important needs within myself and have traveled with girlfriends.

    • Jenna says:

      Traveling with girlfriends is a great idea. I need to write about a related topic, about how traveling can change after kids. I do travel with my kids but it has definitely changed things. I am not one of those traveling moms who travels effortlessly with two small kids even if I would love to be!

  • Hasan Niyazi says:

    Thank you for this wonderfully honest account Jenna. This is a type of restlessness that is not easy to discuss, and would have us sometimes be accused of being overly self centred. Yet, these forces do pull on us, and it is our responsibility to do something about them!

    In my case, I am drawn to knowledge first and foremost, and to be able to understand (and relate) things which my cultural heritage did not expose me to. I have seemingly less interest in the history and culture of my Turkish heritage, and like many seem to be drawn to a particular corner of Italian art history. In recent years the focus has further sharpened, and materialised into a valid project and research mission. Yet, undeniably it is often at odds with the time/place and person I have spent being for the last 35+ years, so the trick has been to find a means of balancing them both, which is never entirely easy.

    Best wishes to all who feel this pull, whatever force may be causing it, it seems a wonderful impetus to discover and learn new things, and meet new people.

    Many Kind Regards
    Hasan Niyazi recently posted..The Young Archer – a Michelangelo case studyMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      Thank you, Hasan, for your thoughtful comment. I identify with what you are saying and think of our discussions in Florence, how your art history pursuits are quite different from your other professional duties. I feel satisfied and rewarded with my “day-job” but still feel this pull all the time. It is hard for me to explain and some may think it is silly, but it is there and doesn’t go away! As you said, balancing our interests with the rest of our life’s responsibilities is the challenge.

  • Michi says:

    My stomach turned reading this. I definitely have dominant Vata too. Can’t even begin to count the number of times people have literally said to me, “What is wrong with you? Did you move AGAIN?” Or, “When will you just be happy being still?”


    I’ve also learned that I can’t change this. I will always, ALWAYS, grab onto to each and every opportunity that comes my way, whether it’s a travel one, or the possibility of learning something new, or meeting new people.

    It’s consistently reassuring to read other bloggers’ posts and know that I’m not the only one that feels the strong urge to move around and immerse myself in new languages, cultures, traditions, and experiences. And why would we want to be any different? It’s such a rich way to live. 🙂
    Michi recently posted..Snowy days, burning cars, and a bit of history on Northern Ireland.My Profile

  • After an unexpected year in Spain, well this time around, Basque Country, I’m curious how I’ll feel about travel- not that the travel bug will ever go away. This year, I felt a bit tired from my constant traveling and my goal was to create more friendships/community rather than jet off every other weekend but surprise surprise, opportunites to travel have come up than I expected…and I find it hard to say no…
    Who really knows my future and where it will lead.

    Yet the idea of creating a nest; having my space sounds really nice. But who knows. Maybe I’ll satisfy that and be ready for another adventure sooner than I think!

    And yes, it’s great you acknowledge that it’s simply how you are. I’m learning that sometimes we have to embrace who we are rather than fight aspects of ourselves!
    Lauren @ roamingtheworld recently posted..Jet-lag, a hostel stay and an unexpected friendshipMy Profile

    • Jenna says:

      I have written before about the need for “roots and wings,” which I think is especially true for those with kids (although there are some nomadic families, too, of course!). I like having a community and being able to have friends, favorite places, and that feeling of home. To me the best thing is combining a love of travel (and daydreaming!) with a purposeful life in a community you love. I do that by traveling a lot when I’m not working–a perfect combo if you ask me 🙂 Good luck with creating your balance! 🙂

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