Forget What Travel Should Look Like And Just Do It

Bronwyn Kienapple with friends in Mexico City Distrito Federal Mexico
This is what I thought travel should always look like: party do stuff party meet new people party (these girls are lovely btw).
About two weeks before I was set to fly from Toronto to Mexico City, I almost had a major meltdown.

I was sitting in my therapist's office. It was lined with windows that looked out on the dismal Sheppard/Yonge industrial landscape. My therapist had chubby legs tucked under a fashionable skirt. I was looking at them because I didn't want to look at her face after what she'd just told me: my depression had come back.

All I could think was: do not play with me, evil heinous depression! I'm going to the scariest place on earth and you want to make yourself known NOW? No me chingas.

Well, there was nothing to be done about it. Despite my depression, anxiety, control issues, repressed anger, and bitter sense of entitlement, I really, really wanted to travel.

So, I packed up, I shipped out, and holy hell, was I ever depressed.

I was lonely, terrified, and suffering anxiety attacks after I had to call 911 on my schizophrenic superintendent. I had left behind my boyfriend, was at odds with my family, didn't have a job, was in the biggest city in the world with no friends and had no idea what I was doing with my life. Yeah, no wonder I was depressed.

But, my therapist gave me some truly wonderful advice before I left:  forget what traveling should look like, Bronwyn. You travel however you're able. And for God's sake, don't be afraid to get help. You don't need to suffer.

Bronwyn Kienapple in Copan Ruinas Honduras Central America
This is what travel actually looks like: this is uncomfortable, please make it stop so I can go back to my dorm bed and eat my feelings.
Yeah. So even though I wasn't sleeping, couldn't really talk to anybody about what I was going through, and felt like I was walking underwater half the time I forced myself to go to the doctor and get anti-anxiety medication. I reached out to my friend Miguel who made me feel safe and loved (and now he's my boyfriend, so fancy that). I went to bed early, fed myself cookies, got exercise, blogged about my feelings, and did whatever else it took to make me feel normal.

After many months and many anti-depressants later, I feel fine. Finally.

Now I spend my days inside writing. At night I cook for my boyfriend. I spend my spare time reading, walking in the park, cleaning, and playing with our cats. It is so not the glamorous traveling life I imagined.

But guess what? I've waited so long to have a home with a partner I love. I've waited so long to feel safe. So yeah, I'm going to just enjoy this boring little life. I deserve it.

Do you want to travel but fear you'll just end up holed up reading in a hammock, avoiding the wild parties, going to bed early, Skyping your friends, eating your feelings constantly? That's fine! Blogs and Facebook can make travel seem like one long mind-blowing, party-happening, up-to-mischief, chilling-with-the-locals, seeing-all-the-things experience. No dude, it's really not. Travel's like normal life except the scenery changes more.

Don't plan for the moon, plan for what you want and what makes you feel comfortable. 

Travel now. Travel your way. Travel for your own happiness--even if that involves lots of cookies.

Reading List (these books inspired me to think for myself):
  1. Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents. You may not agree with all of Elisabeth Eaves' choices but for those of us who yearn for a different life, this book will ignite a flame. 
  2. Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term Travel
  3. Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town. I love Paul Theroux and this memoir of his trip through Africa will make you hunger for long-term travel.


JK said...

Adored this post, B. I've struggled with travel expectations before, and this is so sanely, and elegantly, expressed. I'll remember it in the future.

B.Kienapple said...

Hey Jen, thanks for this!! I'm a meticulous planner but I try to leave lots of room for whimsy, unexpected fuck-ups, and plain old crash and burn days. I try not to take care of the trip's needs first, but my needs. My Central America trip was incredibly unsexy--I could have hit a lot more highlights. But I did the things I wanted to do to take care of myself, including two spiritual retreats (one wonderful one totally balls out awful). I remember both fondly for what they taught me.

Lorraine Graziani @ Online PhD UK said...

That is some of the most amazing advice I have ever heard. We should forget what life is supposed to look like and just live it the way we know how. The best way to do it is to let go and learn from new experiences. I hope things start looking up for you soon.

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