But recently I was reading an article about Moby, and the reasons that he is done with touring, and I really could identify with what he was talking about.
“I’ve never gone on a tour and not experienced anxiety, depression and insomnia. In the early days, it seemed like a small price to pay. But at this point in my life, I can’t in good conscious punish myself and my body and my mental health out of obligation to go on tour.”
Describing planes and tour buses as “unhealthy, toxic spaces”, he added that extensive touring can result in tragic circumstances as no amount of success or wealth guarantees happiness and good health.
“To pretend otherwise is why so many touring musicians become alcoholics and addicts and eventually die. If you look at the mortality rates of people who tour, it is an incredibly dangerous profession – people die really young.”
Now, I’m not going to pretend that what I do for a living compares to the grind of a musical tour. I’m not gone months at a time without coming home. On the other hand, I spend probably close to 75% of my time on the road, and much of what he is talking about here applies to a lot of people who travel this much for a living. It is hard to be gone from home this much. It’s isolating, lonely, and can absolutely lead to a lack of stability. I know, and have known, that I need to be really aware of what is happening and make sure I don’t fall into depression and anti-social behavior.
I am writing this actually, while sitting in an airport. I’m getting ready to fly across the country, where I will check into a hotel by myself, get up in the morning to go work with a group of students during the day, and then go back to the hotel and have dinner by myself, unless I manage to connect with some friends in the area. After that is done, I’ll get on another plane back to the West Coast, but not to go home, to catch yet another flight across the Pacific to Australia, where I will spend 10 days in two cities doing very much the same thing. Then, after I finally do get home, I’ll only be there for a couple of days before I’m off to Central America.
Now, look, from a certain perspective, this is awesome. I have an opportunity to travel the world, and see things that most people only dream of. I do not take that for granted. On the other hand, I’m doing it by myself all the time. I’m away from my wife and family, I struggle to keep in touch with friends. I have no social circle in the place where we have lived for the last two years, because aside from my wife’s coworkers, I don’t know anyone. My sleep schedule is constantly changing as I go between different time zones. In truth, as much as I enjoy the opportunity, I also know I’m living on borrowed time. Like Moby, I can’t in good conscious plan to do this forever. Eventually it’s going to be too much, and it’s going to be too much of a risk to my own mental health. Then, it’ll be time to do something else.
The key is knowing when it’s too much, and for being able to honestly take a look at his life, and see that it is, I applaud Moby. I only hope that I will be able to do the same. For now, I am constantly taking stock of my situation, and I know that I have a strong wife who can handle us being apart this much, though I know she doesn’t enjoy it. I know that she has family and friends she can count on. I know that I have family and friends who continue to care about me, and keep in touch with me, even if it is “only” online! I know that some of those coworker/friends that my wife has in Corvallis are kind enough to want to hang out with me even when she isn’t around, and make sure I get out of the house when I wind up home and she is not. All of those things help, probably way more than any of those people know.
I also know what I have to do for myself. I know what steps I have to take to stay engaged with the larger world, and how to handle the stress that comes from working and traveling so much. Those are things I must constantly stay on top of, and with my history, I would be paying attention to those things no matter what i did for a living, but I have to be very cognizant of the risks involved with this much travel.
Finally, I also know that if any of this changes, it’s going to be time to stop doing this, and I am going to have to be at peace with that.
I hope I will be. I know what the price is for not taking mental health seriously, and I don’t want to pay it.