Sometimes I’m incapable of examining my own behaviour with any degree of detachment. I sit so deep within my life that I struggle to see shifts in my mood, or changes in my thinking. This has resulted in a somewhat rough week of introspection.
My most recent summer in New Zealand was an incredible time. I had been seasoned by a difficult winter, and rather than curling up into bitterness and cynicism, I hit spring with all the positivity I could muster. I found a home near the sea, worked hard with a mix of entertaining people, and experienced some of my country’s most beautiful and thrilling offerings with a Couch Surfer who was to become a great friend. It was the warm culmination of six months of rebuilding myself, of figuring out what drove my happiness.
Hosting travellers for several months had reminded me of the joys of discovering new lands and strange cultures. I resolved to set flight again, determined this time to see it as a way of achieve specific tasks, rather than just aiming to ‘expand my horizons’. Sub-consciously I knew I didn’t need to find myself, or grow in any substantial way, I had earned tranquility through my own positivity. I had an opportunity to work on my writing and spend time with an inspirational woman in the United States, and I knew the opportunity was too good to miss. I handed in my notice, and boarded a flight to Los Angeles.
I’ve travelled quite a lot, I’ve become accustomed to creating new homes in new lands in a matter of days. But each departure from home is different, and this time somehow I left something of myself back in Wellington. Within days of leaving my friends, family and stability, I began to undo, to fray at the edges. I was being introduced to some incredible experiences. I was encountering critters, scenery and kindness, and I knew I was very fortunate to be exploring a new land, with an incredible host. But somehow I remembered my capacity for over analysis. I began to actively think myself into a difficult place, largely due to uncertainty and anxiety. I was still having a great time, but I began to draw into myself.
It is a very humbling experience, having someone you care about very much let you know that they don’t know who you are anymore. I couldn’t see the changes, and in the end I had to make a very difficult decision to leave a perfect situation, to give me some space to reassess. I’m now in Northern Ireland, staying in my sister’s Backpacker Hostel while I untangle the strands of me that got knotted. I left behind a bed in a castle, a captivating American and a comfortable writing environment. I’m hoping to rejoin all of these very shortly, but I have to know I deserve them first.
In the meantime a week in Derry has helped me understand how much I’ve changed over the past few years. A couple of nights ago I was sitting in the “Indian Room” chatting at length with my sister and a Canadian traveller about life, travel, and hostel experiences. Next door in the main lounge twelve energetic young travellers were passing about bottles of Black Bush and preparing for a big night out. I realised I was in the right room. I’ve grown out of the need to steal centre stage. I used to feel a need to counteract my tendency towards quiet enthusiasm with boisterous bravado.
It’s always been important to me to remain young at heart. I’m frequently frustrated by people whose horizons shrink with every year that they age. But I realise now that I have different needs than I had in my twenties. I don’t need to age, but I do need to mature. I need to be understood for who I am, I need to spend time with people I admire, and I need to remember that the real me is far more engaging than any character I might play. I’ve also realised that some degree of stability and predictability in my life isn’t a bad thing. Knowing where I might be in six months and who I might be sharing that with, those things let me concentrate on advancing everything else.
I thought my greatest travelling challenges would involve surviving arid desert landscapes, avoiding grizzly bears, and finding a flat white in America. Instead my struggles have been internal. I’ve learnt how important it is to hold onto my sense of who I am. It’s not easy having to confront your fallibility in a foreign land, but I’m back on track now. Life should be about living that next day just a little better. And it all begins today.