I love to travel. It’s what I spend all my money on pretty much as soon as I get it. It’s not just the exploration of visiting new places and challenging the social norms that I bring with me but I love the actual travelling part too. Whether it’s a plane, boat or train I enjoy the suspension of knowing that I will be somewhere soon and have the time to build up the excitement within me for that next place.
What I didn’t realise is that for the past few years that I’ve travelled I’ve used it as a tool to escape when people came too close. I didn’t see it back then because I wasn’t consciously aware that I was doing it but nowadays I am conscious of this and I question myself when I embark on a new journey – am I leaving to run away from something or am I running towards something? And what might that something be?
This week I’m in Palma de Mallorca and the feelings that I have inside me are excitement, nourishment and an overwhelming sense of joy just to be here. Mallorca is the place where I arrive two years ago by boat on my first yacht delivery and from the moment that we secured the lines I liked the place. It felt like a place I could settle in, I speak Spanish, I love the people and enjoy the food and the culture so I decided to rent a flat here for 6 months and finally plant some roots whilst studying for my Yachtmaster. Those 6 months didn’t go quite as planned as a month later the traumas started rolling in, heartbreak and then getting attacked. I remember coming back to this place that I love so dearly in January 2015 (after having returned from the Caribbean) and feeling like I really didn’t want to be here. No matter what friends were here who were here before I felt like a stranger, no matter what places I knew previously I felt like a foreigner and no matter how much the sun shines, inside I felt dark and broken and un-fixable. The place which I’d finally decided to call home was now the last place I wanted to be and with that, I ended my flat rental early and moved back to my parents house in the UK where I started to see a counsellor to help me get through the post-traumatic stress that was starting to pop up in my life.
Since then I have visited Palma, I stayed for a month in May 2015 in between yacht deliveries. Although I didn’t feel as strongly negative towards the place as I had done in January I remember still feeling very unsettled inside, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be in Palma, I just didn’t actually want to be anywhere. So I jumped on the next delivery to Athens and continued to run away from those feelings, not realising that they would be on the dock in Athens waiting for me to pick them up again.
This time, it’s different, I feel different. I’ve got the carefree confidence of travelling that I had before being smashed by the traumas, but with the knowledge that I have real strength now to stop and sit through discomfort, vulnerability and any other intense negative emotion. I had it all along but I was so scared to deal with those negative feelings that I was never willing to find out that inner strength until it was tested. What’s interesting is visiting the same places where I once felt loved and also once felt destroyed, reflecting on this and realising that I was projecting the feelings that I had inside out onto my external environment. Whereas now I realise that if I can maintain a positive feeling inside then the outside reflects this back at me. Now that doesn’t mean pretending to be happy and positive on the outside when I’m actually feeling insecure or upset on the inside, no, infact that would mean putting on a superficial mask and basically bullsh*tting myself. It means giving space to those negative emotions when the arise to validate them, express them and let them pass so I can go back into my generally positive outlook, which is now back to being my centre point. Without doing that I know that the negative feelings will keep on popping up until they are dealt with and no matter how many miles I travel they will still be right there with me.
“Resistance means Persistence” is what a good friend in Bali once told me. “The more you try to busy yourself away from the difficult emotions, the more they’ll persist until you deal with them” she would say, and she was right. They did.
It’s a reminder to me that when my first reaction is no, or I don’t want to be here, or I don’t need to do that, to stop and see what emotion is driving that response. Is it fear from being vulnerable? Am I running away from something that I need to deal with? Or is there something else at play? Questions and reflections that keep me on an ever-learning path.