When people are lost, we tell them to travel to find themselves, or if they’re in between decisions or if they’ve had something bad happen. Travel is the holy grail of answers for our generation. Under the guise of “finding yourself” and “opening your mind”, it really is a great way to run away.
I’ve not travelled a lot, but I did do a 3-month stint in America a few years ago and it definitely opened my eyes, but probably not the way you’d think. No one ever tells you how hard it can be packing up every couple of days and moving on. Organising and finding places to stay, transport and navigating a country you’ve never been to. Our budget was insanely low, and we only managed the whole trip with the help of family in the end which I hated. The way I got through it was mostly through an attitude of resignation. Just taking things as they came and keeping moving, counting down until the next switch of location. Of course, I had some amazing experiences. I am very privileged to have had the opportunity to see the things that I saw but I wish I had waited. At the time, my relationship was breaking down, I was dealing with serious mental health issues to the point where I really questioned reality and I was drinking far more than was healthy to get through it. Being away from a routine and my support system at that time was by far the worst thing I could’ve done.
Recently I went away to the South of France. Only for a week, but we travelled from Montpellier to Nice, stopping in several places along the way. I noticed how differently I dealt with the whole thing although there were some key variances. For starters, I don’t speak French, but we were travelling with a friend who did. This meant that almost all the decisions about where to stay and how to get there were his. I offered to help, but he really had a hold over the whole thing and for that I was very grateful. Secondly, I was travelling with 3 friends, not 1 partner. Although I spent almost all the time with my best friend, there was less pressure on being active and social all the time. Thirdly, no one had money. We are all pretty much permanently strapped for cash, so we had to do the trip as cheaply as possible. When I went to America, it was with my ex who had a blatant disrespect for money which meant we spent a lot more, unnecessarily. Despite all these basic differences, my attitude of resignation was still there. Only this time it was in such a positive way. I relaxed and let go of control and let the group lead me. There were times where I had to step up and have an opinion, but overall, I just went with it. Instead of worrying about the next thing to do, I just enjoyed the moment, where I was and how I felt. I wasn’t running away anymore or searching for anything. I was just taking stock and appreciating the time. It was an amazing week in an absolutely beautiful place. And I didn’t even panic on the plane on the way home.
That week as made me realise how much I’ve changed. My mental health is so much more robust now. Bad things have happened since I went to America that have shaken me, but over the last 18 months I have really fought to become who I want to be and learn to deal with them in a healthy way. Travelling is incredible, and I encourage you to take any opportunity you can find, but it won’t change what’s going on in your head. It might give you the perspective you need, but that can only happen if you are open to it. You can be open to it right where you are now, just like you can be running away even if you stay in one place. Don’t go chasing waterfalls in an exotic locations looking for yourself, you’re right here.