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Living life with PTSD
“Pack your bags and move cities and countries. Nothing will enrich you than travel does.”― Nikita Dudani
I don’t want to lie to you, I’ve been procrastinating finishing out this post because of the sensitive material I want to talk about. This is more than just a list of items that has made my life as a traveler easier, it’s about why I started traveling in the first place, and most of all it’s about why I’ve taken two solo trips in the past 6 months, and why I’m leaving for another in a little over the week. This will make absolutely no sense to some people, but first let me explain. Solo travel teaches you about who you are as a person. Whether you’re young/old female/male, I’d recommend it. But as someone who has gone through their worst day, and can finally see the light after 4 years of just living I want to explain.
I can’t speak for everyone, only for the experience that I went through which is that 4 years ago I was raped by someone I once called a friend. That incident changed the course of my life. I slowly started to distance myself from parts of my life I loved. I wouldn’t walk around my college campus, I stopped visiting my favorite places, and stopped talking to a good majority of my friends because of views on my rapist and consent. I learned that people who understand are far and few.
Everyone has a different trigger, something that makes it impossible to move out of bed, or the apartment. Sometimes my trigger is the mall, or the street, school, or where he worked. My fear for these triggers was manageable when I went out with people to an extent, but I lost almost all my independence when I couldn’t do anything without someone. I can’t say that therapy helped because I tried it, few months here and there but ended up quitting for different reasons every time. Luckily, I’ve had my writing which has been the one constant throughout my entire life. But how does any of this relate to traveling alone?
The first thing I learned started when I was at home, and that was what I truly needed. The first was companionship, do I really need someone to go with me? What I’m learning about my twenties is that people come and go so easily, a spare few stay but you can’t wait for the right person to agree an idea is great when all you need is you. Social is something you can gain while abroad, from other travelers and locals. Trust me, you won’t be alone, I never felt it for a moment. The first moment I walked into my hostel to put my bag away I met a nice girl named Sanja. She was also just arriving and alone, so we went and grabbed some breakfast together then walked around the city. Literally just took my saying hello and within 5 minutes I had a friend.
That need to have people there to experience with is great but, it doesn’t mean you can’t experience with yourself. You’ll find that all you needed was yourself all along. Part of my issue is that my PTSD is deeply embedded in the environment I call home, so the ability to relax became easier when abroad. Now I’m not saying I wasn’t wearing a crossbody zippered bag and keys in my hand when I walked around, I got lost on about a dozen occasions but I learned to trust myself. We all have this sixth sense to situations that feel wrong, whether it’s walking down a dark alley or giving your real name to a boy you just met, we hear this voice inside of us. Listen to that voice when your hands start to sweat about the situation you’re in. If you’re alone, find the closest person who looks trusting (i.e the waiter, police officer, friend you met a few hours before, or someone with kids). Ask for directions back to wherever you’re staying, help getting away from people, just trust them enough to help you get out of your situation. I’ve found that people aren’t always out to get you, sometimes it can seem that way but most of the time people want to help.
On my most recent trip to Ireland I spent 3 days in Killarney at this amazing hostel (The Black Sheep in case you were wondering) and I met 4 amazing women, two solo travelers and two best friends. It was because I met them that I went on a day trip I wasn’t expecting, had a chill night just drinking at a pub sharing stories, and that when I got to my next city I needed to throw out my boots.
It was when I got to Cork that I realized I didn’t need to hold onto them just because I brought them with me. So I threw out my shoes, my packable ripped jacket, hair straightener, and a more because I was done holding onto items I didn’t need. Maybe it is my new found interest in minimalism, but part of me felt that I didn’t need as much as I thought I did. I packed about 22lbs of stuff into my bag and half of it was never worn!
I want to post this now because while I still struggle with PTSD, I’m figuring out how to feel human again. The thing with trauma, especially a trauma that isn’t just mental but also physical it becomes hard to do the simple things in life. I’ve learned how to look at my own body, how to shake hands with strangers, hug friends, and let go of all that has kept me tied. As I finished up my last solo trip, I felt a mark of Ireland left on me.
It took me a long time to get where I am today, and I’m not done working on my mental health because it is impossible to be ‘over’ having your body be taken advantage of. Yesterday on June 8th, 2018 I heard the news of Anthony Bourdain having committed suicide. He is a man that has traveled and inspired so many including myself. To hear that he took his own life at the age of 61 pains me. I wonder if we talked about mental health more openly if Bourdain would be here today. I hope that every one of my readers knows that not only is there help out there, but I’m here as well. You’re never alone, and as I type this I’m sitting alone in my apartment watching iZombie while my cat is chasing one of the many toys she has but I know who is there for me now. Never forget that kindness is the best thing to bring with you while traveling, even when the world is scary.
“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you.” ― Anthony Bourdain
Please comment any advice you have for solo travel, dealing with trauma, and follow if you enjoy! I truly love hearing from all of you and I can’t wait to take you along my journey.