- Countries Visited: 34
- Travel Wishlist: Africa (but honestly, everywhere!)
- Locked down in: Mansfield, Victoria, Australia
“Having your heart in so many places of the world is simultaneously magnificent and heart breaking, because you’re always saying goodbye to some of the greatest friends you’ll ever know.”
“You’re so lucky you’re in such a beautiful place”, a comment I’ve heard many times since the lockdown begun. If you’ve ever experienced the feeling of depression, deep sadness, loneliness or anger, you’ll know that the sun doesn’t always shine through the darkness. “At least you have your family” … You’ve probably heard of the saying, you can be in a room full of people and still feel alone. At the age of 27 and after years of living out of home, I’m sure a lot of people can understand how hard it would be not only to move back in with your parents, but on top of that to be locked down with them in a small country town, where you know no one.
These statements are coming from a positive place, I know this, and in no way do I intend to invalidate, lessen or compare anyones lockdown experience with my words that follow. But it’s time like these that the saying “you have no idea what someone else’s experience is”, holds so much truth. I would say one of my greatest strengths, and greatest weakness’s, is my compassion. I have a habit of putting myself in other people’s shoes because I like understanding where they’re coming from. I say strength because compassion is a beautiful thing. To care so deeply for others allows you to understand, hold space and show unwavering love and support. To me these are some of the most important aspects of being human. I say weakness because I can fall so deeply into the darkness of other people’s misfortunes that it debilitates my own life.
My friends say that I play the devil’s advocate, and a lot of people get frustrated by this because it seems I am always fighting against them. However, I don’t view it like this, and I don’t mean to constantly disagree. I just always try to see the other side. Because of this ‘fence sitting’ mentality, I find decisions difficult. I’ve always been one to peak over the fence to see if the grass is greener, and most of the time I’ve been able to come back and realise the grass is greener where you water it. During lockdown, this very thought has made me wonder… did I make a mistake not setting myself up? That way I would have some security… “but you can’t know that” my mind would remind me and so the pendulum swings back.
I’ve been obsessed with travelling for as long as I can remember. Every job I’ve had, every dollar I’ve earned and every decision I’ve made, revolves around traveling. Choosing work that provides me with skills I can use anywhere in the world, saving every penny to put towards the next plane ticket, making decisions based around flexibility so I never miss an opportunity to explore. This has lead me to amazing places, and it’s lead me to where I am now.
In this exact moment, I am in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by nature and animals. I am incredibly grateful for this, as these are some other passions of mine. I also know how lucky I am to be able to stay with my parents and have their support to fall back on if ever needed. For many people this is a luxury that they don’t have. I am very thankful, so it breaks my heart and divides me when I experience such deep struggle.
If you haven’t already gathered, I live in Victoria, Australia. We have been in lockdown (with a short ease in restrictions in between) for 6(+) months. It has been 3 months since I have spent time with anyone other than my parents and my pop. My pop has been staying on my parent’s property in a self-contained cottage for most of the lockdown as my Nana, his partner of 60 years, passed away just at the beginning of all this madness. We spoke the other day of how thankful we are that she wasn’t in lockdown in her nursing home. For her, that would have been a worst-case scenario, as I’m sure it is for many others going through this now. I couldn’t imagine being kept away from those that I love, at what is presumably the last years, months, weeks, of their lives.
In the beginning, the restrictions didn’t faze me too much. I had been sharing rooms/beds/couches/floors/cars… everything, for so long. I had been living out of a bag forever, constantly moving, not always having a kitchen to cook my own food and carrying all that I owned on me. For all the travellers reading this, you know just how simultaneously amazing and completely annoying this can be. So initially, getting to be still and having space, was somewhat exciting. The world had shut down, there were no expectations of anyone, from anyone.
For 24 months I had been living in Canada, and as my visa was coming to an end I was overwhelmed with the inevitable question of ‘what to do next?’. Many thoughts like “crap, I have 3 years left before I’m 30” (typical ‘ticking ovarian clock’ feelings) kept popping into my head. As well as “I must see and do everything before then!”, which was fine, pre covid of course. I went on to travel more. When I returned home I had planned to stay with my parents for a month to save before heading to the next place, as I’d done so many times before. I landed myself 3 casual jobs and worked as much as I could to get the funds I needed.
As the covid restrictions kept changing, so did my plans. The rules became tighter and tighter until eventually, I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. Suddenly 1 month at my parents turned into 6. A couple of weeks without my friends, turned into months. A few months with no income turned into unemployment with no foreseeable expiry date. When you’re madly saving, frantically planning and feeling the pressure of time passing, being stuck in limbo with no control over the situation begins to take its toll.
I transitioned from ‘this is nice and relaxing’, to feeling the most hopeless and dark I’ve ever felt. It got to the point where I didn’t even know who I was anymore. The lifestyle I’d created for myself, my identity as a traveller and my greatest passion, was so rapidly torn from me. Without this what do I do? Without this, who the hell am I?
I knew there were people out there who had it much worse, which made me even more frustrated at the situation we were all in. I also knew some people were less affected, still working and doing their daily routines, or in some ways actually benefiting from the lockdown, and deep down, I was happy for them. But on the surface, I couldn’t watch. I had to remove myself from social media. I had to escape from seeing my friends travelling as if nothing had changed, from seeing my friends going for walks together, or simply having room mates to be with. It just reminded me so deeply of what I was missing.
Lockdown has made me realise many things. One being that, yes, I’m in love with travel. But something valuable I learnt whilst on the move, is that a place can be defined by the people you’re with. It can make all the difference. I quickly realised that the people you meet when exploring was one of my most favourite parts of travelling. There’s something about that short lived moment of a hostel stay, or a seasonal job. I have a theory that you throw yourself in quicker and deeper… because in a few days or months, you move onto the next place, so who really cares? I’ve always said the best and worst thing about travelling is the people you encounter. Having your heart in so many places of the world is simultaneously magnificent and heart breaking, because you’re always saying goodbye to some of the greatest friends you’ll ever know.
This lockdown and these changes had gotten me thinking, will I ever experience this type of connection again? A fellow traveller said to me once, “some of the most incredible friendships you’ll ever make and the most beautiful places you’ll ever see, you haven’t even experienced yet”. Travelling made me realise this to be so profoundly true. I know it still can be, but will it ever be the same?
The feeling of not knowing when I can travel again or if I will, is indescribable to me. It’s something I never would have thought to put into words because I feel shameful and selfish to long for such a ‘luxury’. Yet as friends and family ‘settle down’, buy houses, get married and have babies… adventure is what I long for. It’s the one thing I know that I want. So, suddenly, my adventurous life with all of my plans, my visions and dreams that I’d had, were completely uncertain.
Lock down has been a roller coaster to say the least. I have battled with depression and anxiety for the majority of my life. Only in the past few years have I become more open with this, but I’m still careful about who I share it with. I have difficulty sharing because I have identified this as a weakness, which I know is not entirely true, but I struggle with this perception nonetheless. I suffer from something called anticipation anxiety, where I constantly become anxious about what is going to happen, what could happen and what I’d like to happen. I’ve worked through a lot of this, but during isolation and all this spare time with nowhere to go, nothing to do and so much uncertainty, it has definitely tested my coping mechanisms.
Depression can come in many variants, and it is vicious. It makes me emotional to think of how to describe such a feeling. I once read in a book someone’s description of depression, they said “depression is like getting off a train at the wrong stop in the middle of nowhere and never knowing if a train will return”. I’ve described it myself at times as ‘I feel like I’m drowning, and I look around and everyone else has a floaty’. I think I relate to drowning because sometimes it feels like an exhausting effort to live. But the main thing that gets me through is my belief that a train will come, it must. That being the last train ever is ridiculous, don’t you think? Someone will lend me a hand and share their floaty… as if they wouldn’t? But this is the thing, right now the train isn’t coming, and we’re not getting any certainty that it will. I’m not surrounded by my amazing friends on unicorn floaties… that is also far out of sight.
Depression comes in waves, sometimes they’re small and other times they’re big, long, tsunamis. There are certain practices and routines I keep that help my mental state, and during lockdown these things have either been taken away from me or the effects of other variables has thrown my whole routine out. Every day is different, and I’ve pulled myself out multiple times in these last 6 months, but there’s only so long you can keep that up when your life is stuck in a perpetuating lockdown loop. As Albert Einstein said “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. But that’s all we can do right now, and honestly, I have felt truly insane a lot of the time. I’ve always used the term ‘being insane’ in an insincere way, but never had I truly meant it until these past few months.
I loved the lifestyle I created. Working seasonally, picking up jobs wherever my feet are, meeting amazing people, experiencing beautiful cultures, crazy wildlife and having once in a lifetime experiences. But now I’m here, and all future plans are so uncertain. I can’t help thinking… maybe I should have picked a career? Maybe I should have settled down, bought a house or been on my way to marriage and baby town? Because now that I’m not able to live my normal lifestyle things like being single with no steady income and no house, seem much scarier. And on top of that I don’t have my friends to turn to. Friends that I can look at and be like ‘cool, I’m not the only one stepping out of the societal norms – I’m not crazy’. I guess I’m so used to being encircled by likeminded individuals who are on a similar path. When I’m surrounded by these friends and I peak over the fence, the grass looks similar so I’m less inclined to doubt my journey.
I suppose it’s a domino effect. Or the ‘headphones in my pocket’ effect, because it feels messier and more chaotic than the perfection of dominos. All of what I’ve talked about above ties into everything. First you lose your job, which gives you an income and a routine… a purpose. Then you lose your social life, which covers your human needs like intimacy, love, connection and support. You lose you freedom which takes away your excitement and sense of adventure. With so much time to spare, you have an opportunity to learn all the new skills you’ve wanted to for years. But as the days pass you find yourself unable to wake up in the morning, miserable at the thought of another day of nothing, another day identical to the last, and the excitement is no longer. With that gone, slowly goes your ambition and motivation. You become depressed because of these things. You suffer anxiety attacks about the unknown and uncontrollable. And the more you experience these, the more you pull away from the actions and people that can help during these restrictions. Thus, the tangled headphone effect.
So I was left to re-evaluate.
And survive I did. I made it through some of my darkest days, weeks, even months. Some days are still hard. But I made the decision to make this lockdown work for me as much as possible. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. Some days I truly feel like maybe it was all a blessing in disguise (but that gets squashed pretty quickly when I think how long it may take for the boarders to reopen, haha). I decided to study again, a certification I can take anywhere with me that is relevant to my passions and where I want to be. I’ve cleansed my body, danced A LOT, reached new yoga poses, taken up stand up paddle boarding and spent a lot of time in nature with beautiful animals. The anxiety of not achieving as much as I could have is still very real, but I am getting better at releasing that feeling.
I think with mental health, a lot of it is learning how to help yourself in positive ways and manage it rather than suppress, ignore, or allow more negative emotions towards it. This is one of my greatest downfalls, getting angry at myself for feeling depressed or anxious, which as you can imagine, only digs you deeper.
Truly, it is a roller coaster. This lockdown has been one of the most turbulent times of my life. For anyone dealing with mental health issues or just struggling with the lockdown in general – I see you, I feel you and you are not alone. I send my greatest hugs to you right now.
I know the train will return. I can already feel the sunshine as I sit in my floaty out on the lake surrounded by my friends. This too, shall pass. I have to believe that. Putting my experience into words has felt extremely releasing. Even reading my friend James’s piece made me feel so much less alone. I truly hope this can give a little light to others the way it did to me.
For now, I am going to continue my studies, continue my self healing practices and just keep on floating through this life as positively as possible.