Restless Feet Syndrome- Diagnose and Treat this Ailment

Overview

Restless feet syndrome is a prevalent ailment among single adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s and manifests itself in a multitude of outward symptoms to those afflicted.  RFS can emerge at an early age and is noticeable in children who doodle, daydream and play extensively with matchbox cars, plastic airplanes and spaceships and are constantly running in circles or have creative eccentricities that are unexplainable.  As an adult, RFS can emerge at the most inopportune moments and is enhanced by environmental influences, such as Mercury in Retrograde, full moons, unruly roommates, unsatisfying jobs, disgruntled spouses and the spiteful Monthly Curse from Mother Nature.

While RFS has no true cure, other than extended travel and periodic chaos, RFS can be controlled or at least the symptoms can be managed once you are aware that a problem exists.

Symptoms

  • Clammy palms occur during the following situations; signing a long-term lease, signing your W-2 forms, sending your passport off for renewal, paying for car repairs, home repairs and health care bills with your travel kitty fund.
  • You have heart-wrenching longings when your favorite airline’s commercials appear on your Pandora account, your Gmail account or when their weekly specials are sent to your inbox.
  • You drive to a neighboring city in the hopes that a change of scenery will stop your RFS, only to find as you approach the city limits, you have the overwhelming urge to either, keep driving, flee to the beach or return to where you just left.
  • You never truly unpack your suitcase, it becomes part of your furniture.
  • You keep all of your cosmetics in your travel case, and put them back in the case every time you use them, for months, or even years at a time.
  • You keep your travel gear essentials within arms reach of your bed, just in case.
  • Your wardrobe can be balled up and tossed in a bag, one bag, at anytime. And it all fits.
  • Your wardrobe is compiled of clothes that are functional, can be washed in a sink and air-dry in 30 minutes, are wrinkle free and breathe well.
  • Your favorite clothes have numbers written on the tags in magic marker from the laundry service you used in a third world country that cost you .50 cents a load.  And you smile every time you put them on and see that number.
  • When you get bored or the restless urge overwhelms you, usually the day before a full moon or right before mother nature’s monthly visit arrives, you spend hours checking Craigslist in multiple cities you think it might be cool to live in for rentals.  If your RFS has been present for years, your Craigslist obsession might evolve into hours spent searching for travel trailers and sail boats. You check job listings in your profession in far away cities and countries and think, “maybe it won’t be like a real job and I’ll only stay for a year or so.”
  • Your passport stays in your purse/glove box at all times.  No matter what.
  • When you see an Airstream caravan or a biker gang heading down the highway, you pause, drool and lust after the sheer freedom that exudes from their presence on the highway and the possibilities of their unknown destination.
Hanging on top of a Himalayn ridge with a local sheep herder in Himachal Pradesh, India.  2006.

Hanging on top of a Himalayn ridge with a local sheep herder in Himachal Pradesh, India. 2006.

Treatments

  • Schedule small trips to previously unseen destinations periodically throughout the year until your next major trip takes place.
  • Always have your favorite movies on-hand that depict a previous travel destination that holds a special place in your heart.  Sometimes, a Friday night is best spent with a bottle (yes, RFS requires a bottle, not a glass) of divine red wine, your favorite travel movie and the some outright lusting over distant lands. Embrace these emotions and that wine. Recommended movies; Slumdog Millionaire, Thelma and Louise and anything with George Clooney in a distant land.
  • Be careful when choosing your recreational reading. The occasional travel novel is appropriate and will ease symptoms, but try to choose a classic novel that takes place in a time period of historical reference- preferably some Steinbeck, Keourac, Twain and Thoreau.  Modern travel memiors and novels might be too realistic and thus amplify the RFS to a degree of unbearable longing.
  • When symptoms are truly unbearable, choose a book whose protagonist is struggling with the same inner conflict as yourself- revolving around travel, life commitments and social conformity- and wallow in the fact that this person represents part of you and you are reading this to gain an outsiders perspective- without paying hundreds of dollars to visit a shrink.
  • Talk with your friends who are also travelers- long-term vagabonds and gypsies are preferable.  We’re not talking about your garden variety “I need a vacation” conversation.  We are talking serious, life-altering, “I need to throw myself into the unknown chaos of another culture/community or I will jump off a tall building and poke my eye-balls out due to the sheer inability to handle the mundane, routine engagements of typical social norms.” That’s deep- and only a fellow vagabond or independent traveler will understand the magnitude of your RFS.  And can empathize.  Others will merely tell you to suck it up and get a job.  Which, really, can be the worse thing for those suffering from RFS.
  • Start planning your next journey.  When all else fails, start to plan your next trip. Talk about it, dream about it, start making your gear plans and strategizing about what equipment to take, what shoes to wear and begin shopping for that perfect travel skirt/pants that can be worn every day for 3 months and still make you feel hot and sexy when necessary.
  • Limit your time on Craigslist, Emirates, Orbitz and Amtrak until its truly time to buy your tickets. Yes, it is wonderful to daydream about purchasing that ticket- and when your RFS is overwhelming, by all means, take an hour or two, go to your favorite airline’s website and start looking at all those wonderful, distant destinations.  But tread carefully, there’s a fine line to walk before you launch your RFS into a state of total despair which may not rebound until you jump the big pond.
A view from a billboard in the heart of Ramallah, West Bank. 2007.

A view from a billboard in the heart of Ramallah, West Bank. 2007.

Living with RFS

When all else fails, simply buy your ticket- one way- and go.  Just go.  Throw your shit in a bag, put your mail on hold, kiss your doggie goodbye and say I’ll be back in a couple months. Once my brain is filled with new stories, exposed to uncertain situations, once I’ve navigated a few challenges and some chaos, I’ll be back.

In an effort to deal with long term RFS, begin planning a nomadic lifestyle, using “land yachts” or sailboats and be sure your choices in life- where to live and what to do to earn a living- account for your affliction and incorporate the necessary treatments when the RFS is too much to handle.  Those who love you will understand, your true friends will find your RFS and its treatments fascinating, intriguing and may just follow you and those who don’t understand and judge you for your idiosyncrasies aren’t truly worth the effort to keep them in your life anyway.

Embrace your RFS and understand its needs and living with this affliction will take you to destinations you never thought possible.  When you approach the end of your long and interesting life with your RFS by your side, you’ll never look back and think, damn, I should’ve done this or seen that.  You’ll kick your feet back on the hitch to your Airstream or the bow of your boat and think, Damn, that was one hell of a ride.

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