Honestly, the words came at exactly the right time and articulated my lived experience in ways that I have been struggling to find.
I tell people that I’m a good solo traveler. Objectively, that is true. I can arrange my own transportation. I’m confident taking large amounts of cash out of ATMs and stuffing it in at least 4 places on my body. I know how long my stomach takes to adjust to tap water and I’ve mastered brushing my teeth in all sorts of conditions. I’m easy to chat with at hostels. I can have conversations with 60 yr old Dutch men about politics. I jump through glacier-fed canyons with complete strangers. I rely on the grace of humanity to feel my way around the globe.
So why has this been so hard?
I’m in Indonesia for the next 6 months and these first weeks sucked most of the time. Sure, there have been highlights. Eating bananas with my host family in Desa Ban, Bali. Riding a motor scooter for the first time, my nervous teacher clinging to my back. Long conversations with my new support system. Food so spicy I’ve nearly passed out.
But at some point in each day my anxiety has crept ever so stealthily into my conscious. I find myself sitting at my desk, or in my bed, or at a grocery store, or mid-conversation, overcome with the urge to cry. And sure, I’m a crier. That’s a well-known fact. But I never expected this to be so goddamn hard.
I could blame this on a lot of things. But the truth is, it’s on me.
The girl who prides herself on limited culture shock was SHOOK. Travel takes a specific mindset: the urge to shift and grow and change; a craving for spontaneity; an outlook of gratitude; a smile. Travel pushes us to new emotional levels, new personal challenges, new feats of human strength.
And it’s just as human to breakdown. Someone lovely recently insured me that my emotions are valid. That my feelings are justified. It was exactly what I needed to remind myself. Feeling down is okay because it is only temporary.
Tomorrow I will wake up and put on my positive hat and step out the front door and begin a new day of navigating dengue and work stress and food poisoning and motorbike accidents and any other anxiety I may have. And I will survive it.
To anyone else out there feeling my feels, sitting somewhere far away from home, staring at their phone or lost in thought: go ahead and take each emotion. Give it the attention it craves. Then look up and smile. Laugh aloud at the absurdity that you are somewhere you don’t belong. Then buy yourself an ice cream and move on 🙂
Honesty first; honesty always