All it's cracked up to be.
Travelling for an extended period of time is a dream for a lot of people. It has been a dream of mine for a long time. Hence, I find myself on a year long round the world adventure of my very own design. And it is a dream come true, genuinely. I turned to Neil yesterday and asked “What would you like to do tomorrow?” and after a short moment of happy reflection, I said “Isn’t it fucking great to be able to ask each other that question, day after day?” And it is. We are free to do whatever we want, without obligation or pressure from anything other than our reasonably modest daily budget. And it is a joy. But there are some things about this experience that I didn’t expect to feel. Not every moment is well-filtered instagram post, not every day is bursting out of bed with a “What’s next?!” attitude. And it is easy to curate what people see online to make it seem like it is, but I’d rather try to explain to you why not everything is what I expected on this trip - without making you want to smack me round the head because don’t I know how good I’ve got it?! I do know how good I’ve got it, I promise. This is just some musings to try and mull over why I occasionally find myself in dark moods even though I’m LITERALLY LIVING THE DREAM.
- Caring what others think
Caring about what others think is something I’ve written about wanting to do less of before. But it is a very tough habit to shake. I oscillate between being completely comfortable with who I am and my choices, to someone who is strongly influenced by the opinions of people I hold in high esteem. If I feel like someone I care about maybe doesn’t approve of a decision I have made, it can affect me in one of two ways - I push against them and lean further into my choice, in a ‘middle fingers up’ kind of gesture. Otherwise, their doubt splinters my resolve, and I start to question my self. This happened when Neil and I met some fellow travellers who had studied Spanish for a month during their trip. Neil was so into this idea, and got really amped up at the prospect of spending a few weeks stopped somewhere in Colombia and trying to put a dent in our paltry grasp of the Spanish language. Part of my enthusiasm for this idea was how excited he seemed at the prospect. I loved that he was researching, comparing and taking the reigns of the plan. His enthusiasm for this project was infectious, and if he was keen, I was keen. We decided on Toucan Spanish School in Medellin, Colombia, and we threw down a fairly modest amount of cash for two 20-hour weeks of Spanish lessons.
On a phone call home, we told one of our closest friends about this plan. His reaction was luke-warm. Why spend so long in one place? Weren’t we only in Spanish speaking countries for another 6 weeks anyway? How much could we really learn in 2 weeks? Colombia is an amazing place, why stick to Medellin, a nice but small city that you could probably experience in just a couple of days? This friend wasn’t trying to piss on our fire, he was just being practical, and he is someone I trust deeply… cue my crippling uncertainty. Was this a good idea? Shouldn’t we try to fit more places in to our trip? Im not good enough at languages for this to make much of a difference. And when I experience doubts like this, they bleed into everything. I don’t just worry about the decision at hand, I worry about everything. It can be debilitating, but is mostly just irritating (probably even more so for Neil, who has to weather the storm.) It made me call into question not just the next two weeks of our trip, but our trip in general. Are we doing this right? Are we just making mistake after mistake, doomed to never get the most out of our experiences?
The good thing about being on the move is that eventually you have to make decisions, or they just get made for you. Even just staying put is a decision when you’re travelling. So we just booked the classes despite my hesitations, and committed to staying in Medellin for 2 weeks (with a weekend getaway to Guatape to break it up.) And it has been lovely. Staying in the one spot for this long has been a breath of fresh air. We have been able to explore more deeply, get more rest and even make some friends that we’ve run into more than once. Being so far from home, it feels nice to have a glimmer of familiarity, and set up something almost resembling a routine, even if only for a hot minute. And learning Spanish has been absolutely worth it. Perhaps not in the sense that it has massively improved our language skills. But it feels good to at least try. And it feels good to have my doubts diluted, if not totally invalidated, and to have a little bit of space to reflect on them. To top it off, Medellin is incredible. It is really fun, beautiful, has great restaurants, a really excellent public transport system, great nightlife, cheap hostels, and it’s warm. After New Zealand, Chile and Argentina I was ready to not wear my down jacket for a while. So while it’s taken me a bit of emotional gymnastics to get here, I think I am a little more comfortable with Neil and I making decisions that work for us, even if they don’t make sense to our well meaning friends who I love dearly and know they only want the best for us.
- Being jealous of people on holiday
I know this one is a little ridiculous, so I’ll try not to dwell to long on it. I was mindlessly scrolling through instagram the other day and I saw a friend who was on a trip around Australia who had posted a picture of herself sitting on top of her car on a beach, and I thought “Urgh, that looks so relaxing. Wish I was doing that”. It’s no secret that social networks are engineered to make us feel inadequate, so that we keep coming back to seek further validation, only to find more and more reasons why our lives aren’t cool enough yet. I felt jealous of someone on a relaxing holiday… while on a relaxing holiday. It doesn’t make any sense. I’m not claiming to have a solution, or any particular insight here. But isn’t that strange? Has social media rewired our minds to make us jealous for things we already have? Or am I just experiencing a glitch in a matrix of my own making?
In some ways, being on holiday isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Hauling your ass from city to city can get tiring. Going out to dinner every night starts to feel a little less special than it does at home, and it can be annoying to feel like you should go out to visit that museum when all you feel like doing is watching The Handmaid’s Tale. But, good news is - I can do whatever I want. So I can go to the supermarket and get the ingredients to make red curry if that’s what I feel like and not feel guilty that I should be out eating Colombian food, and there’s no one to get me in trouble if I’d prefer to watch high end cable television, or spar with my *very excellent* message group about Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I have no boss, because I quit my job. Old habits die hard. And as my mum keeps telling me, these are good problems to have.
- Energy is a finite resource
Those who know me well know that I take (undoubtedly ill-advised) pride in how little sleep I need to function well. I can kick ass on 3 hours of sleep, having drunk enough the night before to make most people need a day off work. I am proud that I have always been, and hope to remain, robust. HOWEVER - on this trip, I have come to the uncomfortable realisation that energy is a finite resource. I cannot do all the things that I would like to, all the time, forever. Being out of your comfort zone, no matter how innocuous the activities seem, takes energy. Not understanding the language around you takes energy. Walking through new cities for hours on end with heavy back packs takes energy. Planning and thinking about your next moves takes energy. Listening to deadbeat traveller dickheads in fedoras tell you that they took Ayahuasca and now they understand music completely and can play any instrument (true story) TAKES ENERGY.
This isn’t a complaint, simply an admission that I have very seldom in the past felt that the energy required from me to win at life was beyond my means. Maybe it’s my age? Or maybe slowing down just slightly has allowed a lot of sleep-debt to catch up with me. I have even started taking occasional afternoon naps, which is something I haven’t done since I was a child. I am supposed to be robust, remember. Neil is loving it, as he is made from approximately 40% pure nap.
I’m going to finish this possibly annoyingly negative blog post with a little list of the things I am grateful for while on this holiday.
- Having lots of time to read. Reading is one of the greatest pleasures of my life, and I have been devouring books and relishing all the reading time I have. Especially when I get to do it in a hammock.
- Meeting some fascinating and lovely fellow travellers. Sure- we have met our share of dead beat fuck-wits (see fedora man mentioned above), but we have had some genuinely lovely and inspiring encounters with like minded people, fascinating characters, and top notch drinking buddies.
- Not working is awesome. Not many people are lucky enough to have the resources, both financial or temporal to do what I’m doing. I am trying not to see this as a once in a life time trip, as I think that’s a little defeatist, but it’s very special, and I appreciate that immensely.
- I have a patient and kind partner. Neil and I are learning more about each other everyday on this trip, even though we’ve been together six and a half years. He has shown me that he has seemingly infinite patience for my bullshit, and I’m trying to learn how to extend the same kindness to him.
- Beer is everywhere, and it’s cheap.