Updated: Sep 9, 2019
It happens. You're finally out on the solo adventure that you've been planning and saving up for for ages – it's a dream come true!
Except...you're feeling so down. You just feel SAD. This doesn't feel like a perfect dream.
You only have a few days, or a few weeks, or a few months to enjoy this trip, but instead you just want to hide out and wallow!
What's going on and how can you fix it?
I've been there. (I still go there!) And here's what has worked for me:
1. Realize it's completely normal. You're human and human beings have feelings – no matter where in the world they are or what they're doing. Sometimes even in the midst of a magnificent adventure, you can get the blues. Don't waste time on shame, guilt or self-recrimination for the simple fact that you can't be happy every second of every day.
Admittedly, this first step is very hard for me and for that reason, I am so grateful that my best friend bought me a book on self-compassion before I left for Buenos Aires! I've been reading it frequently and it's like little mini-therapy sessions to help me accept and love myself through all of my normal human travails.
2. Know that travel often stirs up complex emotions. When you venture out on your own, you're being brave. Maybe it's your first time, maybe you're an experienced adventurer. Either way, you're still challenging yourself, expanding your comfort zone, taking risks. You're vulnerable. And you're also very likely in an alien environment where you don't understand the customs or the language. This is part of what makes travel so much FUN! But it can weigh on us too.
I definitely crave this kind of culture shock! I love how every day is magically transformed into an adventure when you have to figure out the simplest things. I was so happy when I successfully navigated the subway system in Buenos Aires all by myself during my first week here. (Yup, it's the little things!) But I also remember feeling emotionally out-of-sorts too and remembering that not everyone travels solo, because it's HARD. And hard things push our buttons.
3. Adjust your expectations for your trip. There could be so many reasons why THIS trip is pushing you emotionally in ways you didn't expect. Are things uncertain at home or in your life? Have you saved for years to visit this destination and it's not what you pictured? Are you going through any big life transitions, such as divorce or career changes? Maybe you expected this trip to be a carefree party, but instead it's giving you space to heal or grieve. Let this trip be what it needs to BE.
When I went to Havana to study dance, I really struggled with this. I had a lot of ambition and high expectations for myself as a dancer, and I had to constantly remind myself that I was going through a divorce. Leaving my partner of 13 years was the hardest, most painful thing I had ever done, and I had to accept that my year in Havana was not just going to be about party-time-dancing every night. It was about grieving and healing too. Sometimes I would just sob in my bed alone. Sad, right?! But it was necessary. It was exactly what I needed.
4. Change your perception of what you “should” be doing. If you're feeling really down while you're traveling, it's time for some self-care. Don't get sucked into the fear that you're “ruining” your trip somehow. Accept that this is how you're feeling and it may last a few hours or even a few days. Feeling impatient or resistant to your feelings won't speed up the process of feeling better. Come to terms with the fact that you need a little TLC and that might mean you need to switch up some of your plans.
I did this just yesterday! I can't say that I didn't feel a bit guilty, but I did stay in and rest and watch Netflix. I just wasn't up for rallying to get dressed up and go out tango dancing. I simply was NOT feeling it. So I let go of the “shoulds” and took some time to hibernate.
5. Come up with a few things you can do for self-care. Yes, it's Treat Yo'self time. This could mean that you just say, “screw it, I'm staying in bed watching movies all day, tomorrow's another day”. Maybe it means that instead of going to a museum, you book a massage instead. Perhaps it's time to indulge in a few treats, like some dulce de leche-stuffed pastries (my medicine of choice in Buenos Aires). Or you could be really craving some food that reminds you of home. Seek that out – whether it's a giant overpriced salad or fries from McDonald's – it's OK.
Whatever it is, don't worry about trying to “solve” anything, just look for opportunities to give yourself a little loving kindness.
6. Reach out to friends and family from home. WhatsApp is my lifeline. Sometimes I just need to talk to my best friends either via wifi call or by exchanging voice messages. I can complain, whine, get all angsty, and I know they'll understand.
Although I've met MANY amazing women on the road who I can and do confide in, I have to admit that there's just so far I will go when it comes to leaning on new friends. I don't want to burden them. With my oldest and dearest friends, I don't worry about that and if I need to send a tearful voice message over the interwebs, I do it.
7. Remember your peaceful, spiritual practice and do it. You probably have one – that thing you do that makes you feel better, that makes you feel safe and OK in the world. Sometimes that's the one thing we AVOID doing when we feel down! Resist the urge to resist and give yourself that time and space to.... breathe, meditate, stretch, sing, walk, dance, do yoga....whatever it is. Find a corner in the world and sink into that peaceful place.
In the house I'm staying in now, we have a dance studio. Perfect, right?! Well, yesterday I went in there to stretch and exercise a bit, but mostly just wound up lying on my yoga mat crying and feeling sorry for myself. (Ha! I can laugh about it today.) Maybe that was the first step I needed, because this morning I put on some tango music, danced a little, stretched and exercised and felt really good!
8. Get back to that old standby for feeling happy. Fresh air! Take a walk – that's actually a perfect way to care for yourself AND do some sightseeing! Just breathe and walk, breathe and walk. Take some pictures if you want, or don't. And, yes, do this even if it's rainy or cold or windy or hot or humid where you are. You're not perfect and neither is the weather. Just get out there.
9. Write it out and share it. Yup, I'm doing this one right now! One of the tenets of self-compassion is to realize you're not alone in the world. Everyone struggles, everyone suffers. Sometimes it can help to just tell people your story. If you're comfortable with putting it out there publicly, share a bit of your experience on your favorite social media channel, or maybe just an email to friends. If not, write it down like you ARE sharing a story, but you don't need to publish it. Just get it on paper as if you are talking to someone who needs to hear it. It will often help give you perspective and allow you to relax into the experience a bit. I know it has worked for me.
So, those are the nine ways I beat the blues when I'm traveling. How about you? Do you get sad or depressed when you travel, and if so, what do you do? Tell me in the comments! Or chat with me on Facebook or Instagram @melissadances
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