Sometimes there are less-than-wonderful moments when you travel alone. You can get lonely easily and you can have a case of the blues for no obvious reason. I thought I’d share some of these moments with you in case you happen to be going through something similar. Remember that it’s okay if some days aren’t paradise…and mental health doesn’t take vacations.
As I look back on 2016 I don’t see it as the year of messy political situations, horrific international attacks or tragic celebrity deaths. For me 2016 was probably the best year of my life. I’m proud to say that I lived fully during that time and have no regrets of that year.
But of course there were some tough times.
A lot of times I’d be lonely. I’d wake up at 1pm and lie in bed; my warm, soft, comfortable bed with afternoon light streaming through the pink curtains, onto the white walls of my room, and I wouldn’t want to get up. A part of me would reassure myself, “it’s okay, it’s fine to take a day off and sleep and do nothing. You deserve it. You have plenty of time left here. You can do stuff tomorrow.” Then the other part would say, “you lazy bitch get the fuck UP. Time is running out, you’re wasting away, you’ve already slept in too much. You’ll regret this for sure.” I’d calculate how much time I had if I took a shower and went out to eat, “but would anywhere be open? Employees are probably on break…I already missed lunchtime anyway. It would take too long by métro to get someplace good. No use in going out now…” And so on.
But it’s not that I missed home. This was home to me. My sunny room in this family’s house in the southern edge of Paris almost at the périphérique in a different country on another continent was home. Technology made it easy to be close to my family in the States, so I didn’t really miss much.
Other days or nights I had anxiety and panic attacks usually followed. Sometimes they happened for no apparent reason, or I’d wake up in the night with one shaking me awake. I’d be a slave to my own body; there would be a good 15 minutes where it didn’t belong to me. I’d be powerless to my full-body muscle spasms and shortness of breath.
There was the time I was assaulted on the métro on my way to work in October. You can read about that here.
On November 12th 2015 I had gone to see a huge concert of some famous Dutch classical conductor and his orchestra where my two friends and I were the youngest in the audience. The next day I had slept in and gone to the movies later to see Burnt (À Vif! en français) with Bradley Cooper in it.
I was eating dinner with the family I was renting from when we got the call. “Allume la télé, ça tire de partout,“ said the dad. And then we weren’t hungry anymore. My french phone was vibrating non-stop. So were my Facebook notifications on my american phone.
Shortly after that I finally went down to Place de la République where the memorials were on display. That’s where the reality of what had happened hit me. News channels with their white tents and bright lights were encircling the perimeter. I saw Anderson Cooper.
About a week later, the first friend I had made in Paris/first person I met in Paris/eventual sort-of boyfriend dumped me. I had never felt this way before about someone and after a short month, here was inexperienced naive Camille already heartbroken over this jeune homme.
Sometimes he was all I thought about, and I felt like I was annoying my friends by venting about him 24/7. The grief followed me to Spain for a bit as well. But in the end I got over him.
For a brief moment around the holidays in December I found that Paris had lost its luster. The city was cold, rainy and gray. I felt lonely again, despite seeing some French family for Christmas in my mother’s hometown, Vichy.
I can lighten this all up by assuring you that things picked up in January when I went to Oslo to visit a friend and then when I left for Barcelona in February. My family came to visit me there and we visited Valencia and Granada.
I did miss Paris a lot that first month in Barcelona though. I felt like I had left a part of myself there along with all the friends I had made and whom I’d then left. The places called out to me in my dreams. I’d expect to wake up back in the 13th again. Sometimes I missed it so badly it physically ached, other times I silently cried myself to sleep.
But I didn’t really have any other worries in Barcelona other than getting sleepy way too early when everyone else wanted me to stay up and go clubbing with them.
I read in some young-adult novel long ago that in Homer’s Odyssey, he explains that everyone is somewhere on some Wheel of Life: When a person is at the top, their life is going well but they eventually have to end up at the bottom as the wheel turns; their life during this time being not so great. Then inevitably the wheel will turn again until the person is at the top once more.
I like to think about this when I reflect on these tougher times.
There are downsides to every trip, every life-changing journey, but that’s all to be expected. You’re on an adventure where everything is new for you. So don’t be nervous about it not all going perfectly. Your life is a work in progress and so are you, so it’s okay to feel down sometimes. You will always end up at the top of the Wheel again.