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The Leaving Journal


SPAIN | Saturday, 9 November 2013 | Views [441]

I've had several revelations about my traveling experience in the past week. One of my realizations is that I'm falsifying my experience on the internet. I'm lying. I want to remedy that. 

The advent and increase of Facebook use, blogging and other social media/sharing sites has started a very interesting epidemic of life comparison. Suddenly, we have the ability to peer into the lives of others and put our own lives on display in whatever way we choose - omitting the bad and highlighting the good.(There are myriad studies and articles on why this social development is unhealthy: see this New Yorker article detailing one such study.) Our virtual profiles are more daydream than reality. Few of us want to share our daily suffering. I will readily admit that "Facebook stalking" tends to make me feel like my own life is a failure. No matter what I do, how many adventures I go on or people I fall in love with, I will never be as happy as all of my friends seem (key word) on Facebook. It's pathetic, yes, but it's the truth, and I'm confident I'm not the only person impacted this way. Despite this, were someone to look at this blog or my Facebook page, what would they see? Living the dream, that's what. I am the picture of happiness and health, unblemished, smiling, cheerful, constantly entertained and engaged and joyful. A static and conscious lie. 

One of my favorite photos ever taken shows me at 13 years old in Puerto Limon, a Costa Rican town ridden with drugs and violence that the Lonely Planet guidebook specifically advises people to avoid. So why was I there? My father and I were taking a bus across the border to Panama when I became violently ill and, after puking up two bottles of blue Powerade into a plastic bag, could no longer travel. We were forced to stop and get a dingy, sweltering hostel bedroom while my condition deteriorated. The photo shows me sitting on the hostel bed, stripped down to my underwear, sweating from fever and green with sickness, trying to smile at the camera under heavy lids. It was probably as sick as I've ever been. 

We eventually got a taxi to a hospital where I was diagnosed with E-coli. (I originally thought the doctor said "Ebola" and burst into tears, thinking I was doomed to an early and bloody demise.) It might seem weird that I would cherish any memento from that experience, but the photo my father took of me remains one of my favorites for a few reasons. Suffering from a parasite in the hospital of a third-world country and vomiting on a Peruvian bus packed with livestock is one of my most terrifying memories and the fact that I've done that (and survived to tell the tale) makes me feel <em>badass</em>. That's how I feel when I look at that photo. Not, "Wow, I wish that had never happened to me," but "Damn, if I could get through that when I was thirteen, I'm capable of anything." But more important to me than the sense of pride I get from that photo is my knowledge that it is the truth. Costa Rica was not all sunny beaches and palm trees. It was hard, scary and challenging. I want that to be part of my memory, too, and I'm glad I have that picture to round out the pretty photo album. 

So, on the thread of keepin' it real, here's an existential crisis I've excerpted from my written journal on October 30, 2013:


"I have no idea what the fuck I am doing in this fancy, over-priced, beach-side cafe in southern Spain. I am so bored. I'm a complete waste of life. I devised this whole fucking excursion to find something: adventure, love, inspiration, passion. Something. Instead, I'm laying on the beach and drinking too much coffee and spending money but not making any. I'm so frustrated and angry. Nothing is right. My life is just as boring and routine and monotonous and silly and safe and lacking as it was when I was in the homogenous Boulder bubble. Maybe more so because I have no friends or boyfriend here to fill my time with entertaining (albeit exhausting) human social drama. 

<em>I wanted something out of this that I'm not getting</em>. My life still feels average and safe. I'm disappointed in myself for being predictable and easy and weak. I want to be this remarkable, risk-taking explorer but I still want all the comforts of home at my finger-tips. I'm a hypocrite, a walking contradiction. I hate myself for being in this beautiful, rich place with Americans and I doubly hate myself for being so ungrateful that I could hate this.

I have no idea what I want to do, where I want to be or who I want to be with. I am so utterly devoid of direction or motivation; it's indescribable. I feel like I can't even remember what I enjoy or what matters to me... It's like I can't look forward because I don't know where to look. But I also can't seem to be present because the present bores me with its' ease and simplicity... Maybe there was supposed to be some dramatic climax that never happened. Some "Oh! I'm abroad! Life is exciting and I suddenly have purpose!" moment. Or maybe I'm just one of those miserable, perpetually dissatisfied people who will never know how to be content and happy and it's my own damn fault."


At the time, I wrote this in misery and had no intentions of sharing it publicly (which is why the writing is so horrible), but in retrospect, it is the beginning of one of the greatest revelations I've had thus far about my life and what I want from it. (CUE EPIC SOUNDTRACK)

So, while I was in this state of dissatisfaction, my friend Noah arrived from France. Noah and I went to college together and he happens to be teaching English in Toulon, France, this year, and he made a last minute decision to jet off to Barcelona for Halloween weekend. This was my first experience traveling with another person. I showed him around Sitges, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside because it's a really lovely place and I felt proud of it, then we stayed in a hostel in Barcelona Friday and Saturday night. By some strange twist of fate, we met some fellow CU graduates staying at our hostel and Friday night we partied as only Buffs know how (too much Jameson and not enough healthy decision-making). I stumbled into Noah's hostel bed at 8am, phoneless, and we slept till 5pm. Saturday night was a more mellow mix of tapas, wine, ice cream and a lovely wander around the Barcelona Cathedral, turning in "early" at 1am. At some point between Thursday and Sunday, Noah and I decided to go to Morocco for Christmas.




Yeah, that's right. Morocco. The exotic-and-kind-of-intimidating North African country. WE'RE GOING. But more on that later. Back to my revelation.


After Noah left, I immediately started planning. Where do I want to go in Morocco? What do I want to see? Where could I find a homestay? Should we do a camel trek? Camp in the Todra Gorge? I put together an 11 day itinerary for Noah and me, emailed my Dad a list of backpacking necessities and contacted 7 potential hosts in 3 days. Suddenly, my fire was back. I was happy again. 

The second I started planning my next destination, I could appreciate my current place again. This is what I wanted - to be moving, going, seeing the next thing, thinking about the next stop. It's the vibrant way of life I am pursuing; it's busy and exhausting and breathless and I adore it. I have to keep my eye on the horizon and the horizon has to be something new. Knowing that Morocco will be much harder, much less like home, than this, has renewed my resolve and reminded me what I'm doing here in Sitges. I'm here because from here I can go elsewhere. And elsewhere is limitless.

Tags: movement, on the road, revelations, stimulation, travel, why we travel


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