Facebook just informed me that the people on my page hadn’t heard from me in a while. It’s fine, they are not alone, the same could be said about the people on my Twitter, my Instagram and mostly the people in my private life. When we sat out to do this whole travelling adventure I was sure I’d have the time (and the energy) to write and to share everything and all the time, but this trip has proven to be so much more difficult than I thought it would be, and in about 7 weeks all I managed were 2 posts and one video.
By difficult I don’t mean bad, it is a completely amazing experience, even more than I thought it will be, and at the same time it is one of the more physically and mentally draining experiences I’ve ever gone through. The only way I can think to describe it is that it’s like someone put me in the washing-machine and made sure the spin was set to maximum before they pushed the “on” button (what can I do, some people have sports metaphors, and some people have laundry metaphors).
This trip has a different meaning for each of us, we have different things we want to gain from it and to overcome through it. For me, it was about taking a break from reality and what is supposed to be a normal life. I couldn’t deal with any of it anymore, I was tired of the fighting and the hardship and the constant laundry that filled my life. I didn’t want to stay but couldn’t bear the thought of moving again just to have the same thing in a new location. And I couldn’t shake the “is this all there is to life” feeling. So I planned this trip to be a constant roller-coaster of excitement and experiences, in constant movement and with little time to do laundry.
I just didn’t know what to expect, and yes Hidai does say I was overly naive about it all, but I have to say most of the (harder parts of the) reality of life on the road took me by surprise –
You can’t really leave yourself (or the need to do laundry) behind, so I find myself dealing with the same issues and difficulties on the trip that I did before – I’ve had panic attacks (though not as often and not as bad), I’ve had bad moments, and the levels of stress, unknowns and change in my life rocketed to new heights.
A long trip is not a holiday, so we have an alarm clock set to 7am, we don’t (usually) eat breakfast in the hotel, we have a budget, we do school (almost) every day and we have a (somewhat strict) schedule and a routine.
It is not easy spending every second of every day being nice and polite and grown-upy, and having everyone constantly look at you. Yon has already complained that paying attention all the time is just too hard. In the last 6 weeks I have turned from someone with 9 hours of quiet a day to someone who has 9 minutes of quiet a day (and even that only happens if I wake up before the alarm).
The trip is not a magic pill. Yon did not become less autistic or blind on the trip, Ron did not become less of a tween, and since we are not really financing this from our 200 million lottery win – money hasn’t magically turned into a non-issue.
Leaving real life also means leaving behind trivial things like enough towels, real-non plastic cups, a fridge, an electric kettles, TV in English and good internet connection behind. You’d be surprised how many people who run hotels, hostels and apartment rentals see these things as luxury items, that they, apparently, are under no obligation to supply (even when stated otherwise on their own websites).
Planning the trip is not done quietly and calmly with plenty of time in advance. If I am lucky I have some basic knowledge of where we’ll be next week. Usually though I wake up in distress because we are leaving this city in three days and I still don’t know where we’ll sleep next, or what there is to do and see in the next town.
A city is a city and a castle is a castle, so trying to find the best things in each and every city, which will amaze and excite and fit all of us is much harder after the fourth “biggest aquarium” and “ancientest castle” you’ve seen this week. On the other hand, when you have just a few days in each city it is almost impossible to take the time to just relax in the hotel’s pool.
Food is a very big issue – it’s true that we are at a disadvantage because we have both a vegetarian and a (very very very) fussy eater in the family, add to that the fact that we also wanted to eat as healthy as we can while still enjoying the local food, and what you get is a really big headache. For us, food is ridiculously expensive, and without a proper kitchen it is very difficult to get, control and store, and needs constant attention (we also have to make sure we don’t have any hungry or thirsty people walking amongst us because they have a tendency to turn into a cross between Dracula and a zombie, which in reality means we stop for snacks and water every 2 hours max).
Life moves in a different pace – time is constantly running and I am constantly trying to catch up. It is like cramming ten days worth of life into each and every day. Every three days or so we sit down and have “a serious talk” about slowing it all down, carving more time to work and rest, and after we totally agree with each other we end up running even faster, because we used the time allocated for work to talk.
Talking, commenting, and communicating with people are hard to impossible. I can’t sit around and talk about all the amazing places we’ve visited and wonderful things we’ve done because no one likes a show-off, and I can’t talk about how hard it is sometimes to be here, or how worried I am because no one likes a complainer. And besides, How can I talk about work, or kids, or mortgages, or even the weather with anyone? First of all as far as everyone’s concerned I no longer deal with any of it (nor have I dealt with it until 6 weeks ago); and besides my life which lets be honest, was crazy and eccentric before, took an even bigger step towards the “ahmmmm” category here and finding people who don’t think we’re completely bonkers has become even harder.
The questions are hounding me – The what ifs, the roads not taken, the what will happen in the future, the did we take the right decision, and obviously the where will be the next town that has a Laundromat, are always there, always staring me in the face, always demand answers that I usually don’t have.
And on top of it all the guilt is killing me. I feel guilty if I don’t spend every waking hour enjoying myself and for all the times the thought “what am I doing here” crossed my mind, I feel guilty when I don’t do a proper school day with the kids, I feel guilty every time I don’t have full 100% patience to tell Yon where we are going for the 20th time in an hour even though I know he needs it, I feel guilty that I don’t write enough or share enough or do one of the million things I need to be doing this very minute, and more than anything I feel guilty that I am having constant fun while everyone else is dealing with normal life.
So I do what I do best, I disappear. I am after all a master in avoidance and in giving myself excellent excuses, and if there is something I’ve gained on this trip (apart from weight) it’s an arsenal of new and improved excuses that cover all walks of life, including why this post is a bad idea and shouldn’t be written.
I have decided to ignore them all and write it anyway, mostly because I’ve never been very good in listening to anyone, including myself, but also because… Well because it is what it is and the truth is there is no break from real life, there is no way to leave it all behind, life on the road is still life with the ups and downs and sorrow and happiness, and as amazing as it is to be able to take this time and do this trip sometimes you end up on your birthday with you child throwing up in the middle of the street.