This is the post I didn't want to write.
These are the thoughts that make me feel guilty. These are the wrenching feelings that bash right up against the wall of shoulds and self-definitions and both forces crumble and I'm left awash and floundering.
These are the words that block me every time I try to write about the best parts of my adventures, and they won't seem to let me tell the stories I'd rather share until they're out and aired, as ugly as they are.
Here it is: I don't want to be here anymore.
I'm tired of the road. It doesn't feel like a home this time around. I'm desperately, painfully, palpably missing Carrboro and the Eno and the Flowjo and Weaver and my friends and my parents and my cat and all the pines and red clay and rolling acres. I feel like I was just beginning to get the best sense I've ever had of who I was and how my brain and body worked together and the most fulfilling ways of interacting with the world through the connections that my location made possible - dance, mostly, and all the beautiful ribbons of communication that wove and spiraled out of that community.
But then I decided that since I was a Traveller and a Vagabond that it was time to Hit The Road, so off I headed fearlessly with one tiny bag into a series of countries where there is a dizzying mix of familiar—the lilt of Swedish speech, the Dutch wildflowers—and utterly alien. It had the effect of jolting me more than I had ever expected, as every time the more recognisable flowers and birds and idle half-heard conversation lulled me into the thought that I was somewhere not very far from home, the next moment I'd be reminded that no, I really am 4000 miles away from the place I was beginning to be comfortable, even though I'm still struggling to see "comfortable" as anything but a sign that you need to get off your ass, uproot yourself, create more challenges, and keep on climbing.
I find myself stupidly terrified of being identified as a tourist. As soon as I've found somehwhere to drop my bags, I'll clean up and head out for a jaunt around town—as you do when in a new and breathtaking place, as I've done so many times before—but I find myself striding sullenly along as fast as I can go; mouth and brows drawn into imperturbable unapproachable parallels; avoiding eye contact as I pass locals and tourists alike. I don't stop to take nearly as many pictures as I'd like to. I am surrounded by millenia of history and beauty and I'm held back from gawping and capturing the moments as much as I long to just because I'm so terrified of being seen for what I am: a single woman wandering a new and unfamiliar place, because I feel that makes me a target.
It's been especially difficult because every time I've travelled before, I've been utterly ablaze in creative sparks. I suppose I was expecting something of the same this time around. Perhaps it's poor timing and I would have been this blank back in North Carolina; perhaps it's the fact that I've been zipping around all over the place, sometimes only spending a couple of days in a new country before heading on; perhaps it's the steady march of cities I stumbled into, one after the other; perhaps it's the fact that I've barely touched anyone since leaving the States, and hadn't realised what a huge effect even casual (but regular) hugs from friends and dances a few times a week had. Whatever the reason, the effect is that most of the time I'm teetering between dead-eyed and blank-headed and an absolute fucking mess, snotty-nosed ugly tears and all. My Instagram says I'm living the dream and all I want to do is crawl back home—or barring that, curl into a ball and cry myself into dreams of red clay and bath-warm rivers and the hot wet embrace that hits your face as soon as you open the door and all the other sparkling little facets of a Carolina summer.
It's after the fact, now. I've escaped the cities—they were, I've now realised, a big part of the problem—and have found a glowingly green space to immerse myself for the rest of my trip. I'm hoping to rekindle some sparks here, but it's also a perfect place to work on appreciation for the tremendous luck and circumstances that allowed me to find out the difficulties of travel in the first place.
I'm also trying to give myself space to accept the feeling of being lost and alone, as odd as that sounds. I felt so guilty for not being as happy as my pictures and stories suggested, like I wasn't living up to others' vicarious dreams of the idealised life I was lucky enough to have.
I find myself returning to the words I spoke to my young charge back in NC at the beginning of this year, realising after the fact how applicable they were, and how sad it was that I hadn't allowed myself such clarity of terms before that.
"It's ok to be sad. It's just a feeling you have. But it's also good to know why you're sad, and where you feel the sadness in your body, so you can help yourself not be sad. And it usually helps if you tell other people, so they can help you too."
Sadness happens everywhere. Awareness and acceptance never fail to help. It's a constant practice to realise that.