I just returned from an epic trip overseas. Epic in the sense that it was very make or break for me. I had a terrible #travellingcriminologist gig, and was looking for something that would help me feel better.
I know how lame this sounds, but travelling really reminds me to be grateful everyday (this is something I normally do well, but it can take it’s toll when you deal with crime daily, and intensely).
I know how lucky I am to be here, and to live the life that I have. I have a life full of freedom, access to food, water and shelter. I have a cool Apple Mac, and some pretty rad nail polish from Bali on my fully operational toes. I have coffee, wine, books and everything I need to be grateful, happy and present on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, for me the past year, I couldn’t see the positives. I only saw the negatives. There were very much real reasons for this – when you are in a new city, delivering a multi million dollar project before Commonwealth Games while your leaders start making jokes about rape with you as the centrepiece, you start to get pretty negative about the job you love, and all of the people in it. And then you run, crying to Bali (yes I know I’m losing the sympathy votes here, but I live for travel, flights were $200 bucks and a mere 5 hours away – this is short for an Australian – and I got to not think for a little while).
And I finally got to process what I’d achieved. And all the lies I had told myself, and others had told during that time. Here are the lies that I told myself:
- You are not good enough. You will never be good enough.
- Once I finish this, it will all work out.
- You didn’t contribute anything
- You aren’t worth being seen and heard
- You should stay
- You can fix it. Note, I could not fix it. Culture is pervasive, and requires a team effort to recognise and work to change.
- I don’t deserve to be here
- I’m just grateful to have a job. This was true, for all of the above mentioned reasons – but note, if you are being treated differently from everybody else, or people tell you you can’t be there unless you are fucking somebody, then get the hell out.
- I know what I’m doing. That’s the excuse I used to ignore my intuition. That never works. When your gut says this is wrong, get the hell out.
I then thoughtfully repeated these lies on a few occasions to myself during the trip. But then the story started changing. I met on the trip people who, god forbid, seemed to like me. In fact, they seemed to really like me! Wtf? On the very #eatpraylove yoga retreat I attended for $13 bucks a day, there was even a send off for me with beers as I was meant to be leaving a day early.
So I cruised around Bali for a bit longer, then kept extending my trip. I then decided to hop over to Cambodia, to do Angkor Wat, the #1 item on the Lonely Planet’s Guide Ultimate Travel List.
Once I got there, on the board of the hostel was a sign – Vietnam, $10. I thought terrific, let’s go there too! I love Vietnamese food.
I found other solo travellers, who also seemed to like me. By this stage, I was excited, but also terrified. What if they found out, how badly I had stuffed up?
Here are the lies that we tell ourselves. I had created a bit of a stop/break pattern for myself personally, where I would overwork myself, often doing two jobs, travel, then get back straight into it. When travelling, I would truly be myself, but also care far to much about what others think. I worried about what people thought of me, where to go next. And I started liking the jobs less and less, which were demanding more of my time and energy, but giving less and less back.
I knew that I would do this trip badly, but what mattered is that I did it, no matter what. I knew I would cry, I would panic, and ultimately behave in ways that I don’t normally, as the pressure slowly came off from the last job.
And for the most part, it worked! The trip overall was great, with a lot of great experiences. However, the more I kept trying to hold onto lies about myself, the greater my anxiety became. I had been diagnosed with anxiety, which by the way, is absolutely fucking crippling. God knows how people deal with it for years on end. That voice in your head that tells you you suck, and keeps you paralysed. It’s awful.
And so during the trip, which was surreal, I kind of just watched my snap responses to stuff at this time in my life. I struggled to make decisions (having 3,000 choices on AirBnb for one suburb is unhelpful in that regard, if I’m being fair to myself. Bloody rabbit hole!), and would usually go along with the strongest person in the group. I also found a travel buddy, and we got long great for the most part – but he leaned into conflict whereas I try to avoid it at all costs. He also just did whatever the hell he wanted to do but without being an asshole about it. I felt, that if I did what I wanted then I was being selfish (and I think many women feel the same way). However, it usually doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. You just have to learn to ask for what you want, negotiate, and if it doesn’t fly, do it on your own. I had stopped doing this, mainly to keep the peace.
I was also a little mean, and snappy to my travel buddy. If I am being kind to myself, he was the same. Maybe we are all running away from something. But travel is intoxicating to me personally, and I live for it.
I told my co-traveller I had nothing to go home to. He replied the same. That’s what happens when you tell lies to yourself. I do, of course, have many things going for me at home, as does he.
They were the lies that I told myself. And I kept telling them, until I couldn’t anymore. I didn’t want to go home as it meant standing up and creating a new future. And making new choices that take me somewhere new. Saying goodbye to old habits, and making new choices to take me somewhere I haven’t been before.
Watch this space.
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