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  • Writer's pictureMeggie Roach

Travel Isn't Always Pretty

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

Do you ever hear of all these magnificent places in the World where you've been inspired to go see for yourself, so you go through the research, the planning, the bittersweet goodbyes to loved ones as the process unfolds to get there, and then by the time you get there, you just can't seem to wrap your head around what was so great about this place that everyone talked up?

You feel like you have to constantly be amazed by everything you see and with any ounce of free time you get, it should be filled with excursions, or ticking things off the tourist to-do list. These preconceived notions that have accessed our thought process, clouds the mind with guilt, so you feel ashamed when you're not appreciating every moment of your travels. Well the good news is that it's spelled out like it sounds, and these thoughts really are just preconceived notions. Traveling is YOUR time to be YOU. If it's a solo journey, then even more so, the freedom is yours to do exactly as you please with your time. The bad news, is you will probably not be able to avoid running into societal expectations, that may counteract your feelings, but again, just remember you don't have to do anything you don't have energy for.

Sometimes you just want to lay low, sometimes you may be so overwhelmed by experiencing a completely diversified culture, that you just want to return to the normalcy of your home life. As a practitioner of healing others through meditative breath, and movement, I often find myself needing to pause, to check in with my mental awareness, and make sure I'm not overloading myself by saying yes to appease others, and in turn, saying no to myself.

Without the mental scans where I ask myself these two simple questions of "does this serve me?" or " does this bring me energy?," I find myself getting trapped in what I discern society expects from me as a traveler. Sometimes we may not even be aware of how much expectation we are placing on ourselves until it mirrors us in someone else.

When I meet other travelers that relate to how I've been feeling I find it so refreshing. It validates the thoughts and emotions you've been working to process, at the same time that you physically have to adapt to processing a new environment that you may not necessarily vibe with. Sometimes it takes hearing someone else's story to see that they just put into words exactly how you were feeling. That the little nuances you find getting under your skin aren't only affecting you in such a way that makes you question if it's ok to feel that way.

I find it to be extraordinarily helpful meeting people that completely understand what you are going through. Until you own your truth by confronting it, you feel quite alone, even possible that you feel unrealistic, ungrateful, and invalid in having these emotions come up.

Without discussing it, how will you ever know and how will you be able to have a turn around experience by finding the most light out of a situation you found rather dull?

I found a sign in a vegan café I often visited in Hôi An, that read "Home isn't a place, it's a feeling." This sign really resonated with me for the remainder of my trip, as I ventured to the North because it was there, that I found someone who was very similar to me. Since returning to our home countries, we both expressed immense gratitude for finding each other when we did, feeling as though it saved us. While I thought I was at wits' end of my trip, feeling like I had to surrender to my time in Vietnam due to many external factors that were outside of my control, but by connecting with another human, finding that we were so on the same wavelength in everything from personal interests to emotional constraints we were facing. I was able to let go of the negative emotion, through making light of it with acknowledgement and laughter. Through this release, we were able to lighten up and have some heck of a time together, on what were some of our last days in Vietnam.

The other point I wanted to share is for those traveling who may be battling a feeling of wanting to go home, but knowing that they just paid to have legal entry granted for an extended period of time. Carrying the weight that a visa holds makes it difficult to justify leaving that place before your amount of allowed stayed is up for a number of reasons. For one, you feel like you made this commitment to yourself. To invest your time, money, energy into this trip and then see it unfold differently than you had planned, is disappointing to say the least. Sometimes we hype these things up because of one main burden that overrules all the other components we may view as burdens. Let me introduce you to your ego. This guy's job is to make sure all of our actions are in check. Basically when your ego is in the way, you don't always see the clear picture of reality because your ego stays in "defense" mode to protect you. The bottom line is that regardless of what you told people back home, the only person who you'll have to have the conversation with for the rest of your life is yourself. So when you are dealing with that internal battle, feeling like you have to stay to appease other, ask yourself if that's a conversation you're willing to have with yourself infinitely.

The main reason I wanted to share the content of this post was to make it known that travel isn't always what we think it is. After spending 7 months abroad, I can completely understand why some people don't enjoy leaving their comfort zone for travel. Sometimes friends and I discussed the concept of travel numbness, where the more you see, the less of a reaction you feel to the places you visit. It took spending 7 months away, living in a collectivist culture to truly see the ins and outs of the changes you will face on this life altering journey. If you are currently traveling, or have been traveling, and felt any of the emotions as described, know that you are not alone in feeling this. Just stay true to yourself and follow what that inner voice tells you to do, and hopefully that leads you to taking something beautiful away, and leaving something good behind.

This post was inspired by this one of twenty, awesome Anthony Bourdain travel quotes:

"Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind." - Anthony Bourdain

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