Two weeks ago, I was sitting on the longest teak bridge in the world in Mandalay, Myanmar where I had a deep and intense conversation with a friend who felt lost and sad while travelling. Last week, chilling and watching a sunset on a beach here in Canggu I had a similar conversation with another friend who was also overwhelmed by sadness as an early departure had to cut her trip short. I, personally, have cried more frequently in the past 19 months on the road than in my entire life.
What’s wrong with me?
Sadness while travelling can seem illegal and dishonest because you are not supposed to be sad while travelling. For a long time on this trip, I thought I was done. I thought I had to give up because sadness and depression had taken over the joy of altogether. I knew I was ruining my once-in-a-lifetime experience but the truth is that I will always have to thank my ex for that. My reaction, my heartbreak, my deep fall in the hole was simply normal and I cannot blame myself too much.
Being sad while travelling sucks. And it sucks, even more, when all the people around you think you have no right to be sad. But don’t worry, accept that strangers – but also some friends – have no clue about travelling long term and they are talking without any direct experience.
If you aren’t on a two-week holiday in Australia, Malaysia or Samoa, yes, you might want to push back any feeling of sadness for a later date. But when the road becomes your home, you are a digital nomad and your lifestyle is full-time travelling like mine, then life happens wherever you are. And emotions and feelings follow.
The world does not stop when you travel. Nor does life around you.
In the year and a half, since I have started travelling, several tragic events have happened in my family and life and I was alone at the other side of the world to cope with them. Often hugging myself to bed crying and without anyone to hold me tight. Two of my uncles died, my sister got diagnosed and cured of cancer, she also got a divorce, I got cheated on and dumped by my ex all without a face-to-face meeting after a 4.5 yrs relationship and only a few days ago my 10-year old cousin died of brain tumour after 2.5 months since the diagnosis. [we are raising money for the hospice which took so much care of him in his last weeks; if you wish to donate click here].
If family tragedies and heartbreaks aren’t enough, there are also plenty of other things going bad on the road. As I was exploring from country to country, looking for something meaningful to keep me going, I lost my identity. Professionally and personally, I fell into a massive, black hole where I did not know who I was or wanted to be any longer. Facing myself in the mirror became a daily battle because my ego was crushed, my self-confidence smashed and my lack of self-esteem was overwhelming.
I always had so many expectations and goals for myself and suddenly, leaving my public role in society, my title and losing the only thing that kept me connected to my old self just crushed me. I was a lost traveller with no direction and no plans. During the same time, my freelance gigs went from bad to terrible and I soon started losing faith and confidence which were soon replaced by fear and anxiety. Slipping into depression again was certain and before I knew it…
I was stuck in muddy waters
I had a motorbike accident which could have ended in a much worse way if I was distracted. The last time I checked, my ex – in the usual selfish style – was posting pictures of this new amazing love completely crushing any sort of respect for me or what we had. Once again, proving what a heartless, selfish and lying person I fell in love with (and wasted SO much time for!).
As that wasn’t enough, I also bumped into a few shitty clients who decided that I was going to work for them for free, a scam job offer, another client who cut our project (and budget) by 75%. Everything was falling apart. The little things I had built slowly and with so much effort were disappearing day by day. I fell apart.
I fell apart.
I had every right to be sad.
Yet I was still travelling.
And I kept travelling because that became my personal dimension, it is my home and the “place” where I can heal my soul. A year ago I wrote one of my most-read article “No, travelling did not solve my problems ” and today, 9 months later, I’m here to confirm what I wrote there.
No, travelling doesn’t solve problems.
Yes. It’s ok to feel sad while travelling.
Remember that EVERYONE eventually gets sad travelling. It’s unavoidable and probably necessary to get back up and enjoy the rest of the trip with renewed energy and joy because exactly like the roller coasters of life, without the downhill part and the following rise back up, your travel would just be flat and boring. So, I am not telling you to fall into depression, but to feel ok when sadness hits. You are going to be OK.
It is OK to feel sad while travelling, my friend. And you know why? It is important to remember that while we are quite egocentric human beings, the world around us does change. It isn’t static as we’d like to think. The conditions and the people around us take other, unexpected ways. Nothing is permanent. You, me and the world around us. Sadness included. So, when she comes to you next time at night, welcome her in bed, hold her tight, have a little cry together and in the morning dry your tears and tell her to go. Till next time.