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I’ve sat down to write this post so many times and either stared at my keyboard blankly or typed a flood of incomprehensible paragraphs that confused me so much I would end up slamming my laptop shut.

I’ve been waking up a lot lately with a heaviness that sits with me through the day.

It’s pretty hard to say “I’m not happy” when your life looks like a mashup of The Amazing Race and The Bachelorette. I basically won the global lottery — I was born healthy in the United States to an upper-middle class family that loves me. Looking at how stacked that deck is makes it difficult to lay out your cards and say there’s something off.

I’ve been struggling with this feeling of slight discontentment for a while now, but tried to silence it, or shove it to the back of my mind. Because really, it’s not unbearable. I still laugh when something funny happens, smile when I see something beautiful, get my work done on time and am generally just fine. Yet something is off. When I think back to some of my happiest times — when I was on Hawaii, for example — I know that I don’t have that radiant joy and that insatiable energy right now. What I don’t know is why.

When you’re traveling constantly and so many variables are changing all the time, it’s hard to isolate the source of your unhappiness and cherry pick it out of your life.

OneYearLater_003

Missing My People

While I wouldn’t label myself homesick, I have a lot if anxiety surrounding my relationships. Do my friends in Brooklyn miss me? Has it really been two months since I got my college best friend on Skype? Am I still considered part of the crew in Albany? Does the person I thought of as my closest friend throughout my travels ever think about me? Am I still am honorary member of what I’ve always referred to as my second family? Am I good daughter, a loyal sister? It comes down to this: Am I a meaningful part of my loved ones lives?

I cried myself to sleep last week when an offhand, completely innocuous comment made by one of my closest friends sent a signal to me that our relationship had changed. While Anders consoled me he told me that he had been blown away by the warmth radiating from my friends and might-as-well-be-family he had met in his visit to the US. “You have so much love around you, girl,” he told me. And it only made me cry harder. Can I really be offended by a skipped phone call or a missing invitation when I’m the one constantly absent from their lives?

And I don’t just miss those people, I miss having people in general. For the most part, I find connecting with other travelers and expats to come naturally and I deeply cherish and invest in the relationships I make on the road. But in South America, there’s been a notable lack of them. I can think of just three people from the past 3+ months of travel who I felt a strong and lasting connection to.

family and friends

Homesick for My Second Home

I miss Southeast Asia, deep down in my bones. I long for her in the obsessive, all-consuming way you’d miss a lost love. What I miss the most isn’t the delicious food, or the fantastic diving, or the peaceful islands, or the vibrant cities – it’s the way I feel when I’m there. Thailand has been magnetically pulling me back since I first stepped foot there in 2009, and over time has become my second home. That country just wrecks me in every way.

Recently, my memory dredged up a post I read years ago by one of the world’s funniest bloggers, Sally. But her explanation of the Portuguese notion of saudade was nothing to laugh over — she described it as “a potent mix of yearning and nostalgia; a feeling so complex that it is not easily talked about,” and “a wishful longing for completeness or wholeness.”

I simply haven’t connected to South America in the same way I did to Southeast Asia. Sometimes it feels like my heart is halfway across the planet. Realistically, I know I won’t be back for another seven months. That hurts my heart to think about – can’t I just stop time and dip back for a bit, really quickly? – but there’s nothing I can do to change it. I just need to find a way to be happy in the present.

We have a pretty big change of plans coming up — one that fills me with excitement — which I’ll announce later this week. In the meantime, I’m trying to remind myself of the little things I’m loving so far about Latin America — being able to communicate in the local language, the abundance of avocados, and being in the same time zone as friends, family and colleagues (makes life and work so much easier).

Southeast Asia

Struggling with Non-Solo Travel

I’ve spent a lot of time traveling solo in the past few years. Anyone who has traveled alone can relate to the fierce independence that develops from doing so. But I also derived a lot of my identity and pride from it. I’ve also come to understand that I need copious, quiet time alone to be able to hear my own thoughts. When I’m surrounded by other people I have a hard time “checking in” with myself.

Traveling full-time with another person again has been a sometimes challenging transition. My patience with Anders is embarrassingly low and over time his has sunk to meet mine, which equals two people who bicker frequently. At the same time I know our time together is limited as he will soon return to Denmark to begin a degree, and soon I’ll be missing my sweet, easygoing travel buddy. It’s not easy for him to travel with someone working from the road and he handles it with grace. And let’s face it: some aspects of traveling are indescribably easier with someone else on your team.

We have started to find our way. Sometimes, we spend days apart — today, he’s hiking in a National Park while I work on a freelancing project. Also, we split our time between dorms and private rooms in order to meet other people and take pressure off each other. Those two changes have made a really positive impact.

Moving Too Fast or Traveling Too Much

When I left New York at the beginning of October I wrote that I wasn’t ready to go — my time at home had been too short and I felt rushed. Yet it started out so well – In Iquitos I was overwhelmed with joy at being back on the road. That euphoria faded somewhat as the days and destinations wore on, and I laugh now as I realize I’ve become exactly the kind of backpacker I’ve always said I could never be — constantly on the move for months on end.

Granted, I’m a pretty high energy traveler and for shorter trips, like my eight days in Iceland, I’m happy to cram it all in. But on longer trips, for example my most recent five month trip to Southeast Asia, I started with three weeks on Koh Tao and I wound down with five weeks on Gili Trawangan. While on this current journey I have moved slowly compared to many travelers (I spent a whole 2.5 months in Peru!), the longest I have stayed in one place was ten days.

What have I learned from this? In the future my long-term trips must involve some significant pauses where I can settle down, catch my breath, and recharge. Also, though it makes much less sense budget-wise, I may try to shorten trips to regions other than Southeast Asia (which, as I’ve established, is like a second home) to 6-8 weeks rather than 6 months.

Travel

Feeling Like a Blob

The typical South American dish is made up of 90% carbohydrates, 9% protein, and 1% vegetables, followed by heavy heapings of sugary desserts that I find impossible to resist. Occasionally it is possible to find healthy food, though at much higher price — which I’m always willing to splash out for. But those places are hard to find. As a result, not only have I gained some weight again — I’ve seen my self-esteem plummet and my frustration with myself rise. My self-esteem and mental health are heavily tied to how strong and fit I feel — I think it’s no coincidence that one year ago when I was at my lifetime peak of fitness, I was also at one of my lifetime peaks of happiness.

I have started to make changes. I’ve cut way back on sweets and I tend to take whatever rice/bread/potatoes are on my plate and give half of them to Anders immediately. And I work out a decent amount, for a traveler — I went for runs on the beach in Montanita, hit up an actual gym in Guayaquil, and went to yoga in Mancora. But I need to get back to  working out religiously and being more vigilant about seeking out healthy eating options.

Just Plain Depressed

Maybe I’m a little depressed. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression in boughts throughout my life and I can’t help but feel a minor one rolling through right now. I know for a fact that I’m not doing the things I need to do for my mental health (daily exercise, huge doses of Vitamin D, etc). It’s so hard to separate mind and place – would I feel this way if I was sitting in this moment in Thailand? Would I have been happy had I been here this time last year?

Rainbow

. . . . . .

Blogging about tough concepts has always been positive for me — both the cathartic process of writing thought the issue and then heeding your wise words after. It also keeps me accountable, in a way. Once you publicly announce something is off in your life, I think you give yourself that extra push to correct it. In fact, I’ve felt a positive impact from just working on this post for the past two weeks.

Thanks for being here guys, for the shiny photos and the fancy destinations and also the hard stuff too.

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124 Comments...
  • Emily Roth
    January 14 2014

    I can only imagine the stress that traveling foreign lands 24/7 could bring on. I myself suffer from anxiety and it really sucks when I’m in my own environment at home. Don’t feel bad for feeling that way.

    And your friends should know you are living out your life and dreams traveling and they should respect that and still care about you and well if they don’t maybe they aren’t worth having in your life. Sadly people drift apart. And sometimes it’s for the best even though at the time it doesn’t seam to be the case.

    Hope the rest of your time in South America is amazing, maybe you’ll meet some like minded travelers, and enjoy your visit more.
    Emily Roth recently posted..Recent Reads: A Lion Called Christian by Anthony Bourke & John Rendall

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Thanks Emily, I appreciate the understanding. I would say that all my friends and family are incredibly respectful and supportive of my travels. However I can only imagine how difficult it is to have someone constantly dipping in and out of your life, and that isn’t their fault — if anything, it’s mine! And it’s just the way it is. I do agree that sometimes people drift apart, thought I’ve always had a hard time accepting that fact.

  • Caitlin Morris
    January 14 2014

    Alex,
    First let me start with how important discovering your blog this past november has been to me. As a fellow new englander Ive been bit by the travel bug, however being in the nursing field its nearly impossible to take long stretches of time off to travel (its actually seen as a negative quality in the field)unless you do Medicines sans frontiers which you need countless years experience for. What I love about your blog is taking your experiences and finding what you enjoyed most to help plan week long trips for myself (I’ll be doing in Iceland in June!). Your question to yourself; Am I a meaningful part of my loved ones lives? is a question I too have asked myself. I almost wonder if it comes not from your travel but from where you are in life (young woman making it on her own). And as for the food, >carbs and <veggies will definitely affect your mood. If you don't already I encourage you to read MindBodyGreen. I would imagine that's where part of your love for asia is greater than that of Peru and surrounding (soo many carbs!). I also can't help wonder if you've just spent too much time in a place that just doesn't suit you. I don't know if you are mulling over stopping travel but I encourage you to not make that decision until you are in a happier place! Ill leave you with one of my favorite inspirational quotes; "Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must, but take the step" Love from New England

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Hey Caitlin, I felt the love in this comment and it really warmed my heart 🙂

      I think you are right that my diet affects my mood more than I can imagine. I just bookmarked MindBodyGreen on Amazon! And I also agree on the length of trips. I have taken stock of that and am incorporating it into my future travels — I’m going to learn from it, but definitely not stop traveling! I think I need to reserve these incredibly long haul trips for Southeast Asia and make trips to other areas more of the 6-8 week variety.

      As for traveling as a nurse, I’ll hopefully have a nursing story coming up in my Earning Abroad series that maybe will give you some inspiration! Enjoy Iceland — it’s an unreal country.

  • Tommy
    January 14 2014

    “it’s the way I feel when I’m there.”

    My words exactly. I love who I am when I’m there. Southeast Asia – my second home.

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      What a special place it is! I know how you feel, Tommy.

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    January 14 2014

    I get what your saying with it’s hard to complain when you’ve “won the global lottery” . When I’m having a bad day and I get a message or comment that says “I’m so jealous of you, you’re so lucky!” Thats bound to confuse anyone. I bet most bloggers/travelers on FB can relate.

    As for the weight loss- I’m in the same boat! Indian food is so bad and when I’m homesick I eat what reminds me of home… which here is chocolate. so yeah, this week I’ve decided to start being healthier. My boyfriend eats a ton and it’s a horrible influence! Stick with it!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Breaking Stereotypes of American Travelers

    • Deepanshu
      January 14 2014

      Hey rachel
      I am an Indian and I am kind of surprised by your comment.
      Foriegners usually love Indian food and there are all sorts of options for healthy food too. May I ask where in India are you living?

      • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
        January 15 2014

        Hi Deepanshu! I should have written “bad for my body” not bad. my apologies! I am in Goa and my body just isn’t used to the ghee, or amount of oil used. I find myself eating lots of bread and rice here, so I’m just trying to cut back and eat fresher. and I must stay away from the sweets! 🙂
        Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Breaking Stereotypes of American Travelers

        • Deepanshu
          January 15 2014

          I can understand. But Goa’s still okay when it comes to that kind of food. You’d be shocked at at the amount of ghee they use here up north especially in Punjab.

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Yeah, I was having a very sad day on Thanksgiving being away from my family, and when I revealed that to an old friend they basically told me that things could be worse — didn’t I know there was a massive typhoon in the Philippines?! And it was totally true, but damn!

      Good luck with the healthy living, Rachel. Just this morning I started again what I call my “hostel workout” — 10 push ups, 10 burpees, 10 tricep dips, and 20 crunches, repeat 3x! I’m confident that if I do that 5x per week plus a couple runs I will see a huge change in my mood. The amazing thing is that as humans we usually know at least a few of the steps we need to make to be healthier and happier, yet we resist so greatly to taking them.

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad
    January 14 2014

    Thank you for this post, Alex, and for your honesty. I too feel really guilty about feeling unhappy sometimes when I’ve been blessed with so much. When I was in Southeast Asia I felt inexplicably miserable for about two months; I was fighting every urge not to just buy a ticket and go home. The second I got home I felt a weight lift and have been feeling so, so much better- honestly I think I was sick of both solo travel and travel itself. And I too notice my happiness levels go way up when I’m working out and eating clean. I’m not sure of exactly what will make you feel better but maybe a month or two at home would help you refocus. Wishing you the best in whatever you decide.
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..How to Plan an Inexpensive but Awesome Trip Abroad

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      I remember reading about that period, Ashley. I know that feeling of struggling every day not to buy a ticket home! I’m not experiencing it right now but I certainly have in the past. I have a post coming up on Thursday about my travel plans for 2014, but yes — there is plenty of time in the US on the calendar! And I couldn’t be happier about it.

  • becky hutner
    January 14 2014

    aaaaand, this is why you’ve ruined the “oh my god isn’t my life so amazing” travel blog for me. once again alex, thank you for being so honest with us!

    i can certainly relate to feeling less-than-satisfied on the road, & then guilty about it. what i try to tell myself during these times is — travel is not just about feeling carefree and experiencing pure joy. you don’t feel this way 100% of the time in your home life so why should you in your travel life? you’re still you & you still have to deal with your shit. travel is an opportunity to work through your issues in a variety of situations, to test your limits, in other words, the total cliche — to learn about yourself.

    when i left toronto for california, i too worried about remaining relevant to my friends. while it sounds like you absolutely are, i had to conclude after a few wedding snubs that i was not! sure it hurt, but when i thought about the wealth of experiences and new friends i’d gained in making a move to a place that was more “me,” it was hard to dwell. i can say almost certainly that you will lose touch with some people — it’s a part of life and you just have to be grateful for the time you had and for everything in your life at present.

    finally, you are underlining why i am scared to travel anywhere but southeast asia!! i fear that other places will lack “that feeling.” the smiles that make my heart full. the endless opportunity for adventure in a safe & welcoming milieu. no doubt about it — it is a very special corner of the world.

    good luck working through this stuff, alex. the good news is, it sounds like you know what makes you happy — staying in shape, slow travel, alone time & that is more than many people in their early 20s can say!
    becky hutner recently posted..Fashion ‘Round the World: What people wore in 2013

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      I love your attitude about travel. I do meet people on the road who seem to be having the nonstop absolute best time ever of their lives, and I definitely start to question why I can’t be so effortlessly happy. But then I remind myself that this is maybe their one vacation per year, or their one major round-the-world trip of a lifetime, and I’m happy for them! But this is life for me and a lot of days I’m “at work” just sitting in a hostel instead of a cubicle, and so of course I’m going to have a crap work day.

      And I understand your fear of the “other than Southeast Asia” destinations. I had it before this trip and in some ways it has come true! I still want to see the rest of the world, of course — I think I have just discovered I will love it most in smaller doses.

  • Having traveled alot for work alone I can relate to alot of what you say here….its gets better, especially after you return home. I miss long-term travel, but am glad I do it with family now rather than alone…
    Adam @ Visit Flyover Country recently posted..Albuquerque, NM: Duke City

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      I’m glad you’ve found your travel-happy-place, Adam! I know that I need lots of time to recharge at home too. It’s something I know about myself yet ignored this summer, and maybe I’m paying the price for it now. I’ll be better about listening to myself in the future…

  • Breanna
    January 14 2014

    I really enjoyed this post. I like that you share not just the shiny happy travel stuff but the real life stuff. It makes it more personal to read your blog.
    Now I wasn’t travelling or anything this summer when I got a bought of depression I couldn’t shake. There was no cause. And like you I had a loving family a great job, good health blah blah blah but it didn’t matter. I pretty much just rode it out while forcing the exercise and healthy eating thing.
    Anyways thanks for this post I hope things get back on track for you!

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      This comment made me laugh — the “blah blah blah” is exactly how exasperated I feel sometimes when I feel like I need to qualify my feelings 🙂 I’m glad you’re on the other side now, sounds like you knew what you had to do and made it through.

  • Erika
    January 14 2014

    Alex, as usual, I am impressed and intrigued by your openness and vulnerability. I think that, no matter how happy we are or how good things are in our lives, we have periods of dissatisfaction which may not have a huge explanation. Or, maybe they do but it takes a while to figure out how to answer that softer intuitive call. It looks like you have isolated a lot of things that may be contributing to it and some possible solutions, so that’s awesome.

    This just makes me think about how places are so different. They each have a different energy, even if they have similar shops or food or amenities. Some places make us feel happier and stronger and at peace. Other places are nice but maybe not quite for us and we can’t put our finger on it. The good news about being in those places that aren’t as good of a fit is that it helps us to be grateful and appreciate the places that are, which comes through with this post. It helps us to identify what’s unique and special to us.

    Hope this patch passes through painlessly and quickly, but moments like this could signify a change in the stage of life we are in as well as growth. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts so openly — I always love reading them!!!

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Thanks, Erika. I definitely found writing this post cathartic, and it DID help me identify changes that need to be made right now and also in the future as I make more travel plans. I also love writing posts like this because they keep me accountable. This morning I woke up and the first thing I did was a mini-workout, and added to my to-do list today is to write long emails to some close friends from home. I know everyone blogs differently but for me there would be no point if I wasn’t sharing it all, the highs and the lows.

  • Jimmy Dau
    January 14 2014

    What a great read. Thanks. Sometimes we just have to follow our hearts and focus on the on the moment and not where we need to be. After spending what felt like more time on busses going through the bottom half of Central America, I just dropped everything and spent 6 weeks in Medellin, Colombia and re-established an everyday routine, enrolled into Spanish school so that I could feel normal again.

    Missing friends especially your closest ones will always be natural and social media doesn’t help in alleviating the FOMO. In the end though, they will always be there when you get back and the best relationships are the ones where you see them again and it feels like you can just hit it off right away.

    Understand how you feel about feeling like a blob. 1 litre beers in south america don’t help as well. My saviour was hiking and there are beautiful places around your neck of the woods to get fit and appreciate a bit of nature 🙂
    Jimmy Dau recently posted..Sailing the high seas in Chile on the Navimag Ferry

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Hey Jimmy! I love that you found such a great way to get back in your groove. I am doing something semi-similar starting next week. While I already have a few commitments lined up that I can’t break, I have slowed my itinerary down as much as the time/space continuum will allow. And yes, hiking and the other outdoor adventures South America has on offer have been one of my favorite parts of traveling here. After hiking the Inca Trail it’s hard to go back to a treadmill!

  • Kerrie Tookey
    January 14 2014

    Fantastic read. Brave of you to put your feelings out for all to read but also nice too see the not so glamorous side of travelling.

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Ha, I’m always here to provide a little dose of the non-shiny side of travel, Kerrie! I feel blessed that for the most part I have not much to write negatively about but when I do, I always want to be honest and transparent. Thanks for reading.

  • Amanda @ Farsickness
    January 14 2014

    Sometimes I think that feeling like I can’t complain about something or feel bad or sad because I have it a lot better than other people actually makes me feel worse. I realized when I was on the road that even though my problems seemed trivial to some, they were still a big deal to me and that was what mattered for my mental health.

    I love the honesty- that’s why I continue to read your blog. Good luck with everything, Alex!

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      So true, Amanda. There is no such thing as the sad-lympics. We shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling human emotions. Yet sometimes it’s hard not to.

  • and this is why I read your blog. You are SO incredibly honest with not just yourself, but your readers too. Thank you thank you thank you. I too sometimes feel that something is just “off” in my life and have a hard time figuring out what it is. But I agree- once you get it all down on paper, it kind of all comes together, once you make an effort to do so.

    Be Happy! 🙂 You have so much to be thankful for!
    Jessica | A Passion and A Passport recently posted..14 Adventurous Places to Travel in 2014

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Being honest with you guys forces me to be honest with myself! That’s something I love about blogging. Thank you for reading, and keeping me accountable!

  • Bernard
    January 14 2014

    That saying goes that you need a vacation from your vacation….well it’s true. All of this just builds up when on the road. I start feeling this way around the 4th week or so. You just need to get back to that place you call home, take comfort in the familiar, spend time with loved ones, and just decompress. In no time, you’ll be wanting to be back on the road.

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      I couldn’t agree more, Bernard. I think that’s why my past long-term trips have been more “successful” — I’ve taken time to stop every 4-6 weeks to take a break, recharge, and get into a routine. By the time I take off again I’m raring to go.

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    January 14 2014

    Thank you for writing this, it just saved me a ton of time because things are the exact same way for me at the moment. So I just linked to this instead 🙂 Girl, I feel ya on all fronts. Thanks for your honesty and not sugar-coating it. Feeling unhappy seems like a sin when you live at the beach or you travel around awesome destinations but the reality is that life happens no matter where you live it or what you do for a living and it’s great sometimes and less than great other times, and that’s just the way it is. Don’t let the fear of people judging you for it hold you back from telling your own truths.
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Roatan Month 17 Roundup

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Thanks Rika, and I’m sorry to hear you’re heading through a rough patch. I’ve been guilty as well of occasionally judging people who seemed to have it all but couldn’t stop complaining (ex. every celebrity on the planet). But having the same “Just be happy! You have it all!” lobbed at me when I’m in a black hole has helped me reconsider that viewpoint.

  • Jade
    January 14 2014

    No matter what kind of life we find ourselves in, whether we have a ‘normal’ 9-5 job, are a movie star, or a travel blogger, there will always be moments of dissatisfaction. I’m not sure it would be healthy to be constantly, chronically happy all the time! Don’t beat yourself up because of how you think you should be feeling, given your circumstances.
    Emotions happen!
    You’ve obviously got a good understanding of the things you need to do to add a little more content to your life and that is the hardest step. And maybe there is something deeper, but those big questions don’t usually show themselves until they are ready.
    All we can do is work on the little things that make us happy. So make sure that you are exercising AND giving yourself a delicious South American desert every once in a while!
    I hope you start feeling better soon, and hope you can incorporate the places you really want to be into your upcoming travel schedule!

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Thanks Jade. As usual, reading through the comments has been an exercise in hearing exactly what I needed to hear. I truly feel guilt is the mind’s most toxic emotion, and adding it to my current pileup of issues is doing nothing to help anyone. You have a lot of wise words here — especially the ones about the occasional dessert! 🙂

  • Amanda
    January 14 2014

    Thinking of you, Alex. I too suffer from depression and anxiety at times and talking to a doctor/therapist helps so much! The thing about depression is that you are depressed no matter you’re circumstances/how great your life is. It’s a mental disease so you can’t beat yourself up about it. I appreciate your honesty as always!
    Amanda recently posted..Dealing with guilt in Africa

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      I have often thought about how someday I want to start a Skype therapy service for long term travelers, ha! (Please don’t crush my dreams by telling me this already exists.) Being able to take advantage of resources like support groups and/or a therapist is something I miss about being in one place.

  • Erica
    January 14 2014

    Alex, I can relate to this more than you know. This too shall pass. Follow your heart, give it time, and all will be right 🙂
    Erica recently posted..The Happiest of Holidays

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Thank you Erica. I appreciate your support and your wise, kind words. Time really does heal most wounds…

  • Kristin
    January 14 2014

    The answer is YES. I love you. Hang in there, and know I am always here for you.

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Love you so much, dear friend. And can’t wait for the Summer of Kristin and Alex ahead!

  • laura
    January 14 2014

    Alex,
    I hope you are referring to us when you indicate you wonder if you are a still considered to be an honorary member of your second family. I can tell you right now, from my heart, you will ALWAYS be part of our family. I talk about “my second daughter” quite often and send people the link to your website. Heck I have your picture hanging on my wall at work! No matter where you go or how long you are gone, please know we love you and always look forward to your trip home to see us.

    Can’t wait to see you in March and give you a big hug 🙂

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      I cried a little when I read this, Laura. I love you guys so much and as I said last night on the phone, I am counting down the days 🙂

  • Sarah
    January 14 2014

    Glad to hear there are many of us in the same un-chartered waters of ‘the ‘vis’ is always clearer on the other side’ situations. It’s an interesting feeling, because I think we all know that it’s the same feeling as you would feel back home, just from a different standpoint, which is foreign, so you may not know how to deal, or what it ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ for ourselves

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      First of all… I adore the diver twist on the “grass is always greener” saying 🙂 And I agree, sometimes minor feelings of discontent, sadness, etc. are heightened when we are traveling because we don’t have our routine or our usual supports to find comfort in.

  • Lindsey
    January 15 2014

    I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been having a tough time of it lately, and yet – I’m always relieved to know that there are other people (and people I admire, to boot), who experience this heaviness on the road. I know it’s in no way helpful at all right now, but I think that there are a lot of people who will really, really appreciate this post.
    Lindsey recently posted..Discovering the Bay of Islands, New Zealand

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Thanks Lindsey — and I’m honored, truly, to be in the category of people anyone admires! And indeed it is always helpful and immensely rewarding to know something I’ve written has touched someone in a way.

  • Janice Stringer
    January 15 2014

    Thank you for sharing Alex. At home or away, at different times, there are always factors that will affect our way of being. I think that’s life. It sounds like you have a lot going on,many thoughts running around your mind and have been adapting to many changes as you travel. Recognizing where your heart lies, what’s important to you and maybe you just need to be in one place for a while? I too have recently picked up on the signals within a friendship of mine (one that has spanned over 30 years)that there are changes and damn, it’s horrible when you realise that. With or without other love surrounding you.
    Do you have to keep travelling for the sake of it – if your heart knows what it wants – do you listen to it and follow its guidance? I hope you work it all through and remember we are here (even when you don’t know who ‘we’ are!) 🙂

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Thank you Janice, I really love this comment. I have always struggled with relationships coming to an end, natural or otherwise. For some people it seems to be so easy to let go! As far as travel plans in the future, I have tried to keep in mind the lessons I’m learning now. I think I’m doing a good job incorporating them, though the challenge for me is always not to over-schedule myself.

  • Stef
    January 15 2014

    Thanks for such an honest post Alex! I think everyone who travelled solo long-term can relate to that. People always think everything is just happiness while being on the road. At the moment I’m not travelling but have planned it to hit the road again. Travelling is what fulfills me most but as in every aspect of life there are good and bad days. Locations you like more and locations you like less because you cannot connect with it or you do not meet the right people. Travelling long-term is still what a lot of people dream of but there is a reason why many people do not have the courage to do it I guess. Because you have to put back other things. I hate to say goodbye to my friends and family and not seeing them on a regular basis. That’s definitely the worst part of travelling and a sacrifice most people do not want to make. People often do not see that and think you do not appreciate what you are doing what is totally bullshit. As I said good things come and good things go. But I’m convinced that you’ll soon will be able to experience good times again. Live your life! I wish you all the best!
    Stef recently posted..Tour Review: Dolphin Watch & Cave Tour with Dreamwave

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      I think you hit on a major point about having to “put back other things.” Every lifestyle requires some area of sacrifice and the traveling one requires straining many of your relationships. I have met a lot of long term travelers who seem a bit jaded in this respect and have severed most of their ties at home. While it makes their lives easier in a sense I never want to get to that point. My family and friends are so incredibly important to me and such a massive presence in my life… I need to make sure they know that, regardless of what country I’m in. Thanks for the love x

  • Corinne
    January 15 2014

    It is always difficult to write posts where you admit that life, even a seemingly gifted life, has its ups and downs. I’ve been traveling for years, and unfortunately my friends and even my family have stopped including me in many events. I’m not there, and I’m not going to be there. It’s a choice I’ve made, and one that I won’t change, but it does make me feel lonely from time to time. I often feel left out, but I don’t want to give up the life I’ve chosen so I know it’s one of those things I just have to deal with. It’s hard. It is, but hopefully you feel you’ve made the right choices, and guess what? If you want, you can go home. Good luck! Feel better!
    Corinne recently posted..Instagramming the Berlin Wall

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Thanks Corinne 🙂 At the moment I am still doing the cross-continental hop on a regular basis, rushing home for graduations, weddings, etc. I have missed some holidays (I spent Christmas without my family for the first time ever this year) but for the most part I’m still scheduling my travels around being home for the big events. My “travel friends” think it’s nuts but it’s my way of trying to keep a toe in both worlds, at least for now. I wonder how long I’ll be able to keep it up, though.

  • Steve
    January 15 2014

    Happiness is what we make it. The reason I started my little blog and travelled more was to rid myself of the stress that landed me in hospital. I look enviously at those like yourself who travel full time. However, I can see the downside to this. I think it is brave of you to admit to feeling unhappy. It serves as a reality check for us all.

    Whatever path you decide to take. as you long it is the right one for you will see the happiness and smiles return. Good Luck Alex
    Steve recently posted..Photo Essay – Dubrovnik

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      I’m glad you’re feeling better after what sounds like a serious case of stress, Steve. It’s amazing how the mind can affect the body — I’ve had stomach and teeth problems (grinding!) based on anxiety and it always shocks me how these emotions manifest themselves in such physical ways.

  • Agness
    January 15 2014

    I can totally relate to it, Alex. I’m right now in China counting down days to get back to Europe to see my friends and family. Although I do love travelling full-time, it’s sometimes too much to handle. I miss home and I don’t have anyone to talk to (most of Chinese don’t speak English and there are maybe 3 other foreigners around). There are days when I love China and days I hate it, but at the end of the day I smile and know I’m having a great experience some people would die for. Try to do 30-minute workout to burn off extra calories and drink plenty of water!! Stick to local fruits and veggies, visit more local markets and stay positive. If you feel down, do some yoga or call home :)xxxxxx Love,Agness
    Agness recently posted..Miso Hungry: How To Eat Well In Japan Without Going Broke

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      If only veggies were easier to get here! Fruits are pretty plentiful but finding vegetables is a laughable treasure hunt. I was taking some Spanish lessons in Quito and my tutor and I spent ages talking about it — I was not surprised when she told me heart disease was a major problem in Ecuador based on the poor diet. I absolutely do need to drink more water though, and am going to start challenging myself to do so on a daily basis! Hope the days pass quickly until Europe! x

  • Shaun
    January 15 2014

    Thanks for sharing Alex.

    I had something long typed up but I remember something I told myself, and am also deeply struggling with some life decisions right now.

    There’s no mirrors in the mind. We neglect to take inventory of our own accomplsihments and move on too quickly from them.

    You don’t always need to pursue happiness. Sometimes, you need to let it catch up with you.

    Yet, I have the most trouble sticking to those thoughts because I’m always trying to move forward.
    Shaun recently posted..How I saved $22K & spent it in an hour

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Shaun, this might be one of my favorite things I’ve read all morning while responding to comments: “You don’t always need to pursue happiness. Sometimes, you need to let it catch up with you.” I’m going to use that as my mantra for a while 🙂

  • Alexandra
    January 15 2014

    I think this post is a perfect dose of reality and I commend you for having the strength and courage to share that. Too often bloggers present only the positive and it seems as if they have these perfect fairy tales lives and let’s be honest … that’s just not reality. Do most people have good lives? Certainly, but nobody’s life is a fairy tale.

    I think social media and the internet make life harder these days because why wouldn’t readers compare themselves and their lives to these bloggers who are presenting all things wonderful? It’s too easy to feel down because you don’t have the perfect family like so and so, or that Celine bag like so and so, or you don’t live on the road like so and so.

    I love that you are real and honest in your posts and that’s why I continue to come back every day and see what’s new. I also love the way you travel and the information you share and your photos are incredible. I have to admit though, that while I have loved your Peru adventures (I want to copy your trip), I enjoyed your Southeast Asia posts more as you weren’t always reviewing a tour or hostel. Your Southeast Asia travels were just more carefree and on your own terms and I guess I’m just used to you traveling that way instead of reading reviews of this and that. (sorry!, I just have to be honest)

    Anywho, Would I love to travel and earn a living like you do? Definitely!! Am I sitting here envious of your awesome adventures? Yes!!! BUT at the same time you inspire me to plan my next trip and you give me the information to do it. I feel like you have a great life but at the same time you struggle with the same human emotions and situations that I do (unlike those perfect life bloggers who are clearly superhuman and don’t have any struggles) and honestly you make me want to meet you!

    I know you’ll find your way back to that happiness you felt earlier. I wish you much luck with that goal and I’m excited to hear what’s next!

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Thank you for this comment, Alexandra! (And amazing name, by the way.)

      I’m definitely not in the “perfect fairy tale” blogging camp. While I understand and respect that some people only want to share a very limited view of their life, for me it’s all or nothing! And I agree social media can breed feelings of inadequacy with our own lives, but as someone once said to me — be careful of comparing the highlights reel of someone else’s life with the behind the scenes of your own.

      As for the blogging feedback, I really appreciate it. I have focused on providing a lot more practical information in South America, partly because people were asking for it and partly because I was getting so many emails asking about where I stayed, how I got from A to B, etc. that I figured people really want that information! I can definitely see where you are coming from and probably the same dissatisfaction you’ve had as a reader is the same dissatisfaction I’ve had as the traveler. You may remember when I wrote about hiking the Colca Canyon sans guide I said I just had to do it — I was so desperate for an adventure! Maybe I need to find a better balance of providing that practical information like hostel reviews and packing lists, which people can really use, with more adventurous and conversational posts, that people can really enjoy.

      • Alexandra
        January 15 2014

        I also like the quote “don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle” I’m not normally one to compare but I do have my moments and I only follow blogs with writers who are relatable.

        You are definitely a relatable blogger/person and you should be proud of that (which is what I was trying to say)

        I do appreciate the practical information you’ve provided throughout Peru (where you stayed and how you got from A to B) and it’s not that I was dissatisfied with your posts because the writing, information and photos were great, it just felt like in some ways you were selling your readers tours and hotels. I’d rather read about your travels than read a review, that’s what separates you from other travel blogs (where they are constantly sponsored by this hotel or that tourism board). I know you need to make an income though (we all need it!), so finding a balance would definitely be good.

        Thanks for responding to my comment, shows you care about what your readers have to say 🙂

        • Alex
          January 17 2014

          Believe me, the last thing I want is to become one of “those” blogs! I still self-finance and control 90% of my travels, which I think does set me apart from many press-trip-overload bloggers, but the fact is that what finances those travels are sometimes doing things like app reviews or doing tours for my freelancing outlets. Of course I wouldn’t have any of this if people didn’t like to read what I’m writing about so balance is key 🙂 Thanks for helping me keep on track x

  • Sarah Somewhere
    January 15 2014

    Hi Alex, I’ve been thinking of what to say in response to your feelings of discontent, and all I can say is YAY YOU!!! In my experience, the hard times are the good times. They teach us something about ourselves and usually lead to a big break through, even if it may not be apparent in the short term.

    You know that idea of if my life were a book, how would I like it to read? Would you like to read about someone who works out, exercises and is blissfully happy for their whole life or someone who takes risks, dives into the unknown, takes chances on love and sometimes gets heartbroken but throughout it becomes a more authentic, whole person for having lived fully?

    I think it’s great you are getting out of your comfort zone, and you are exactly where you need to be. Sending love xxx
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..Sweet things are made of this:

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Sarah, I had a feeling you’d have something incredibly wise to say to this and what a surprise, I was right 🙂 I hope you are right about a big breakthrough, because at the moment I don’t feel any brewing. But maybe that’s the point, or maybe it’s just baby steps. Either way, just writing this post has helped me make some little changes and maybe they will lead to big ones. Thanks for the love, I can feel it x

  • Carla Turun
    January 15 2014

    Hi Alex,

    I cab really relate to this post, after being away for 4 years myself it makes you question how easily you can just slip back into life at home and still have the same things in common with your friends as they have all moved on. So much had changed from 2009 but i have found after being back for 5+ months now things are really great. Hope you ok xx

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      Hey Carla, that is very encouraging to read. I’m happy to hear you’re having a good adjustment! Happy home time 🙂

  • Marc
    January 15 2014

    Ditto what Laura said !!!! We will always love you Alex…no matter where you are !!! Or however long it’s been since we’ve seen you !!!

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      You guys are the best (as usual). What would I do without you?

  • Valerie
    January 15 2014

    I think anyone in their 20’s can relate to this. I don’t know many people who have made it through early adulthood without feeling periods of vague depression and discontent. I really think it’s part of growing up. Figuring out what truly brings deep joy and contentment into our lives & then making it part of our regular routine. I’ve figured out that unless I eat healthy, exercise, spend time with people I love, and spend time on creative pursuits on a regular basis I’m not as happy. So while you may be in a different country, I think you’re feeling pretty much the same as every other American 20-something. You’ll figure life out, just give it some time 🙂

    PS do some research on 5-HTP. It’s a supplement that is a serotonin precursor. I take it just to lift my mood a bit when I’m under times of stress & it makes a huge difference. I also highly recommend The Mood Cure by Julia Ross.

    • Alex
      January 15 2014

      You actually mentioned something in your comment that I didn’t bring up in my post — there is a lack of creative pursuits in my life as well. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately as well and probably should have mentioned it (but holy word count!). I deeply miss having outlets for creativity when I’m on the road — making art, throwing dinner parties, decorating, whatever. When I’m traveling, I have writing and photography, but I miss making things with my hands. That is a big part of what makes me feel whole as well.

      I will definitely look into the 5-HTP and the Mood Cure! When I’m home anytime other than summer I usually take Vitamin D. While I’m not opposed to pharmaceutical cures when necessary, I am fascinated with natural methods for handling depression and anxiety.

  • The Bald Guy
    January 15 2014

    Alex, nice post I enjoyed it. I’ve never been a massive traveler…have traveled but nothing like you or my (extreme type-A) peers. Having said that, I was able to easily relate to your journey.

    My “journeys” tend to be more life-oriented: careers, relationships, degrees, feelings, health, making sense of life. All seem in constant flux – typically moving in a positive direction but in anything but a straight line (and no one enjoys the feeling of progressing in a straight line more than I 🙂 As a fellow winner of the “lottery” (and a hard worker on top) I can relate to feeling blessed as well; which creates guilt and confusion on top of already-bad days.

    For me what helps is to remember the inherent duality of life. It takes a bad meal to know a good meal. In the same way, it takes a bad period to know and appreciate a good one. Don’t fight these periods; accept them as an absolutely essential part of life. It is probably in our toughest times that we make the most progress. Feel what you feel. Spend time taking to heart what your mind & body are saying. This process is ultimately how we learn and sets the stage for the eventual rebound. Tough as it seems, I believe this process, not straight-line progress, is essentially how we progress through life and become who we were ultimately destined to be. Soak it up!

    I look forward to meeting you soon…

    • Janice Stringer
      January 17 2014

      I agree with your point of view ‘Bald Guy’
      Straight lines – haven’t managed to walk one yet!

      • Alex
        January 18 2014

        Janice, perhaps they are overrated. Working on embracing the curves 🙂

    • Alex
      January 17 2014

      Hey Bald Guy 🙂

      You have a lot of wise words here and I nodded along as I read them. Especially about duality — when I’m missing someone terribly I try to remind myself how lucky I am to have someone in my life worth missing, and when I’m nostalgic for a certain time I try to remind myself that means I was blessed enough to have memories worth reminiscing about, even if it stings a little now.

      I look forward to meeting you too!

  • Ha! I can really relate to this post Alex. Health and fitness though are truly key for me personally, and SO hard when you’re on the move! There’s something about having that routine, of filling your body with clean fresh foods and the endorphins from exercise that just sets you up for a good day. You will find your balance!
    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel recently posted..Is Travel Really Worth It?

    • Alex
      January 17 2014

      Incredibly true. I’ve exercised every day since writing this post and my body feels slightly sore but happy. It’s a one of a million pieces of true happiness, but it’s an important one for sure.

  • TammyOnTheMove
    January 15 2014

    I couldn’t travel 24/7 either. That’s why we will have planned two long-term stays (i.e. 1 month in two cities) during our South America trip. I need time to recuperate every few weeks and get a routine, and unpack my backpack properly. That’s why I also like being an expat actually.

    You do whatever feels right for you Alex, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself! xxx
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..The day Chris lost his wedding ring

    • Alex
      January 17 2014

      I think that was my biggest mistake in this trip. I think I was so happy in the beginning as well because I stared off on the right foot — almost two weeks in one place! But then I shot off like a rocket. I wish I had incorporated a one month stay somewhere with a great Spanish school into the beginning.

  • John Bourke
    January 16 2014

    Dear Alex,
    You are still young. Seasoning will help.Both good things and difficult times await.Early challenges in life will contribute to “coping ” in later years. Brace yourself, you have been around, and seen a lot….but as the saying goes; “you ain’t seen nothing yet”. Make your experiences count , and CONSCIOUSLY let none turn into post traumatic stress, that will hound you. A few things to consider, each one is a key to “a chest” full off deep thinking.
    ONE: Humility is God’s greatest gift. TWO: The facts are the facts, and the enemy of the facts is RATIONALIZATION. THREE:It is truly better to give than receive. FOUR: Never convince yourself that you like or are in love w/ somebody, and accept your “gut” when you don’t or are not.FIVE: You can never appreciate what you have unless you have a knowledge of the past.SIX: accept happiness…it is a way of life, that must be practiced.SEVEN: try seeing things through others eyes.EIGHT: enhance your liberal arts education constantly. Nine: Wear who you are on your cuff .TEN : an old Irish saying ,”an outcast is a free man”….. if that is the price it seams you are paying….enjoy, and live hardy, live well, with real love in your heart.
    You cannot be a contributor if you are depressed, so many are depressed, this is a tough world, REALIZE THAT. Cure your depression by helping others…too much ” me” time leads to guilt and anxiety.
    One must have a GOOD HEART, and a sense of humor will save your life. Remember, never take yourself too serious….Love is the key,the kind that goes with a good heart.
    It’s good, it’s admirable to share your feelings .We must admit and share ” our challenges”. Misery loves company, but a real smile is contagious.
    ….just some things that have helped me… I always start to write, then save , and keep the helpful “thought keys”. We all have our ways.I so often worry about you and your “wonderful life”…I do know that the grass is always greener on other side, and you are living BOTH a job, and an adventure.I worry, because the HIGHER the “highs” the bigger the fall…and a fact of life is, life is “ups” and ” downs”; and LIVING, is surviving,accepting, and contributing …you will then reap the rewards…and share them. Live an ethical life;live for others,don’t be shallow, be a good person,true to yourself, and a good feeling will prevail in life and deeds.
    Good luck …I care…Ya know, the ” price of youth” is a high one; but God, I’d sure pay it if I could….maybe change a few things ?

    • Alex
      January 17 2014

      There are a lot of wise words here, my favorite being about curing depression by helping others. I think getting out of one’s own head can be invaluable! Thanks for all your advice 🙂

  • Pamela
    January 16 2014

    Hi Alex! Although I am not a full-time traveller but I always admire people like you for your guts to go for your dreams, to let the travel bug in you take the lead.

    The reality about life is that you cannot have the best of both world by being home with your family and friends yet experiencing one of those unique experiences while you travel. In life, you win some, you lose some, there is always a tradeoff somewhere.

    As much as you prefer it in S.E.A but at least you gave yourself a chance to experience South America.

    I hope you felt better after writing this post and reading all the encouraging comments. Count the small little blessings each day. 🙂
    Pamela recently posted..Accomplishing 2014

    • Alex
      January 17 2014

      Thank you truly, Pamela. Indeed I do feel better already. You are right, no path in life is without some sacrifice. And I will never regret coming to South America — how would I have known if I didn’t see for myself?

  • Jessie
    January 16 2014

    Firsty, I admire your honest about all your feelings while on the road! They can be hard to share, and even harder to analyze. I found that while being constantly in transit and only staying places short amounts of time, the biggest thing I needed was to be able to focus on goals at the same time and have some sort of routine so you don’t feel like you’re just floating and letting your energy be too thinly spread. Props for everything though, as clearly you shine and continue to produce awesome work! Balance is something we must strive for every day, and really, it’s beautiful, because things would get totally boring if we didn’t! 🙂 Peace and love, can’t wait to read about new adventures!
    Namaste, Jessie
    Jessie recently posted..Have cookies, will travel.

    • Alex
      January 17 2014

      Thanks Jessie! I find that work is my routine and it really grounds me and gives me purpose (and yeah, also totally overwhelms me sometimes). Sometimes what I really need is help stepping away from the computer! Ha. Here’s to balance in 2014 x

  • Dad
    January 16 2014

    Hey Alex, We love you and miss you and that will not change no matter how far away you are for how long you are away. Your being away is part of who you are at this stage of your life…..you are exploring, curious and eager to absorb life first hand. You have a wide circle of friends and an extended family that is routing for you and we live vicariously through your blogs. This off feeling you have about South America versus Southeast Asia means you now know how much that place means and appeals to you that you might not have appreciated as much as if you never left SE Asia. Travel broadens as the old saying goes and you have broadened your perspective on life, your ability to read your own feelings and express yourself. That all seems pretty good in the long run. Love Dad

    • Alex
      January 17 2014

      As always, the best advice. Can’t wait to see you in March!

  • Chris
    January 17 2014

    Hang tough, there will be thrills and more joys to come soon I’m sure (there will also be more tears, but that’s travel).

    Sth East Asia will always be there, waiting for you to return.

    P.S. Your dad has some pretty good words as well! 🙂
    Chris recently posted..Down and dirty (well at least sweaty) in Denpasar

    • Alex
      January 18 2014

      He’s pretty wise, isn’t he?! I try to remember Southeast Asia isn’t going anywhere, though it is changing quite fast…

  • Camille D
    January 17 2014

    Alex,
    I don’t know you and we’ve only crossed paths on the TBS Facebook page sometimes, but let me just say that for me, this was the post that touched me the most. I now have a lump in my throat because I read the words that I never got the courage to write. Most of them echo in my mind and soul very deeply. I have been on the road for fun and play the last ten years and I go through waves of feelings just like these very often.

    It’s a huge step to recognize that you want to be with your people and to take it slow…It’s hard because like you said, having a stacked deck of cards doesnt make it easier and people on the road all the time can be judgmental that you just want to slow down. So what if you don’t mash up 153 countries a year? How is that even “cool” ?!

    Like a told you a few months back, I went to the Philippines for holidays. Loved PINK… And now I am back in the Visayas since late november, and I am writing this comment from Tacloban ! Yes, even after a devastating typhoon, SEA and its people, their unconditional love will be there for you, for us !

    xoxo
    Camille

    • Alex
      January 18 2014

      Camille, I really appreciate your honest and thoughtful comment. It is of course a wonderful gift to know you aren’t alone, and to have a shared experience with someone who understands where you are coming from. I am so happy to hear you are back in the Philippines and loving it, and I hope I can say the same soon!

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    January 17 2014

    Great, honest post, Alex. I hope writing all of this has helped you work through and identify some of the things that have been bringing you down so that you can start making the changes you need in order to improve your mental health.

    One thing I’ve found is that happiness is something we have to actively pursue, whereas contentment is a relatively passive process and can also pretty quickly slide into discontent. It’s so easy to make small little choices that seem inconsequential on their own but that take us slowly away from the things that really matter to us. When they unite together, it’s like a big wall between us and the sun. Sometimes doing the same thing just stops working, so I always think it’s important to stop and re-evaluate my mood and my desires every few weeks to make sure I’m still actually doing the things that I really WANT to be doing, rather than things that I wanted a few months ago but are no longer relevant. Often this means slowing down and taking some time really listen to yourself and figure out what’s causing you grief.
    Anyway, I know what it is to be helplessly in love with Asia, which is why we’ve been here 17 months straight! Sometimes the heart wants what it wants, but as others have mentioned, it will be here ready for you whenever you make it back and at least you know there’s a place in the world that really sets you on fire. Not everyone has found that, so even though you miss it, you’re pretty lucky! 🙂
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..In Over Our Heads to Head Over Heels in HCMC

    • Alex
      January 18 2014

      As usual you’ve got some of the wisest words my comments section has ever seen! I love what you’ve said about happiness being something one needs to pursue and discontentment being more passive. I think this post was the first of many small steps I need to take and it was the kick in the bum I needed to get started on the rest of them. Having just arrived in Panama and spend the past few days in the sunshine, being active and consciously making happiness-seeking decisions, I can feel a tremendous change already.

  • Oliver
    January 17 2014

    Wonderful post! Indicates pretty well how heavy the imaginary suitcase stuffed with thoughts can be sometimes. The only home you have when living on the road is probably your soul. Sometimes it feels bright and airy, sometimes gloomy and stuffy. But in the end it’s up to us and how we arrange this “home within”…
    It can be tricky to adapt to the pace of life, so slow down and stay curious and bold!! 🙂
    Oliver recently posted..What if money was no object ~ Alan Watts

    • Alex
      January 18 2014

      Wow, what a beautiful writer you are! My imaginary suitcase was indeed bursting when I wrote this post, though I believe pressing publish helped release some of the burden. Thank you for commenting 🙂

  • Sofie
    January 17 2014

    At first I wanted to comment with some words of support, but after reading what your dad says I’m just blinking away a tear.

    You’re a strong person. You’ve proven that by traveling solo, by having done all the things you’ve done so far.
    This dip sucks, but once you’ll get out of it (and you will get out of it) you’ll probably be a few lessons richer and you’ll have gotten to know yourself just a little bit better once again.

    Keep it up, you rock.
    Sofie recently posted..The Kalmthoutse Heide, a great place to catch up

    • Alex
      January 18 2014

      Thanks Sofie. I’m overwhelmed by all the support and wisdom in these comments, and this is yet another that has made my day. Thank you for reading, and for writing x

  • Jessica
    January 17 2014

    Hey Alex – I almost never comment anymore but it’s practically impossible for me not to, here. I am in the same funk, slightly exaggerated by sickness and my new broken ankle 🙂 but what really caught me up in this post is that first part – the part about how lucky you are and that in general, you’re fine. I think I tend to do this, too. I negate my own feelings about things because I feel that I am being spoiled or selfish because I have seen so much of the world and know how little people around the world actually have. So then I feel like who am I to feel bad, or feel a certain way, look at everything I have and the life I’ve managed to create – based on where I was born, the schools I went to and the advantages I have had in life – pure luck, too. Also, I’m not connecting with South America as much as I had hoped, either. Part of it is a string of bad luck. And of course the actual activities we have been doing are the adventures I think I’ll always look back on as some of the biggest of my life, but for a girl who spent her first three years abroad living in Central America, South America just isn’t resonating with me the way I had hoped.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say – after all that rambling – that I think your plan for 2014 is going to really help you stay out of a funk. You are still living large, really sticking to your priorities and planning in what you know makes you happy. Good on you! By the looks of it we probably won’t run in to you, but it’d be awesome if we could 🙂 Big hugs from Peru!

    • Alex
      January 18 2014

      OMG, a broken ankle too?! What bad luck you are having my dear! I really do appreciate hearing from you here especially as you guys helped push me to finally write this post. I’m surprised but relieved in a way to hear your thoughts on South America are in some way mirroring mine and I’m not crazy. I have felt a weight lifted off of me since arriving in Panama — I’ve always loved Central America and this is no exception. Suddenly I am filled with hope for the New Year, and the kind of good energy that comes from FINALLY listening to the voice inside my head. Wishing the same for you over in Peru! xox

  • Camels & Chocolate
    January 18 2014

    The good news it that these are all completely normal feelings to experience as a woman in her 20s, whether you’re stable in one place and job, but even more so when you have all the changing variables that you do. And even though I have a house and a “place,” I go through the pendulum of emotions you outlined above on a near-monthly basis. I think it’s important to pinpoint them as you have and decide what makes you happy and eliminate what doesn’t.

    Cheers to an awesome 2014!
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..A Day in the Life: A Travel Festival Organizer

  • Camels & Chocolate
    January 18 2014

    Also, I think I do SO much better traveling by myself sometimes than I do with a companion. I, too, seem to have a fairly low tolerance for other people when I’m on the road 😉
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..A Day in the Life: A Travel Festival Organizer

    • Alex
      January 19 2014

      I am glad to hear I’m not the only one. Occasionally I feel a bit like a leper — I just have to be alone sometimes! But I think some amount of that is quite healthy and I like knowing I don’t NEED other people to travel.

  • Cortney
    January 19 2014

    I can really relate to this post. I have struggled mightily with adjusting to living in Vientiane. Laos has just been hard in general, compared to how much I adored living in Albania. I’ve been having these weird highs and lows of one great night followed by a rough week, and so it goes again. I’ve been living and working overseas since July of 2012, and haven’t been home since then. It’s certainly wearing on me, especially that aspect you so perfectly described: feeling left out when you miss a call, and then feeling guilty at feeling that way when you’re the “one who left.”

    It speaks to how much I adore this lifestyle that I still keep doing it, even when it’s hard. It’s hard to wander without a home. It’s hard to throw yourself into new places over and again on the faith that it will bear you up and you won’t just hit the ground (even though, sometimes, you do). I take solace in the fact that every kind of lifestyle is hard in some ways, and I have actively chosen this one with eyes wide open as to what will be hard about it. The positives outweigh the negatives, and I’m grateful for that.

    I second the comments about appreciating the honesty in the post- regardless of what kind of life you’re living, we all have our trials. When you’re living a life that other people view as a non-stop trip (I know how that goes), it can certainly be hard to talk about difficulties and have it be understood as a normal part of life.
    Cortney recently posted..Sometimes, Vientiane

    • Alex
      January 20 2014

      Hey Cortney, I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a hard time adjusting to living in Vientiane. It seems a big common thread in these comments is sacrifice — that every lifestyle has them and there’s no getting around them! I agree that the hardships of this lifestyle are for me more appealing than that of any other (I know if I was at home most of these would be non issues, but instead they’d be replaced with other, perhaps bigger ones… wanderlust, feeling trapped, etc.)

      I second the comments about appreciating the honesty in the post- regardless of what kind of life you’re living, we all have our trials. When you’re living a life that other people view as a non-stop trip (I know how that goes), it can certainly be hard to talk about difficulties and have it be understood as a normal part of life.

  • Aisha Kuryana
    January 20 2014

    I think I do SO much better traveling by myself.
    Seem to have a fairly low tolerance for other people when I’m on the road,

    • Alex
      January 20 2014

      I know how that feels! I think traveling brings out a huge independence in most people and it can be tough to go back to compromising after!

  • Le
    January 29 2014

    Alex, this is a wonderful post. You are so damn honest and I love it.

    • Alex
      January 31 2014

      Thanks Le. I really appreciate that. I try to keep it real around these parts.

  • Sherwin Walden
    February 11 2014

    i discovered your blog a couple of weeks and i have thoroughly enjoyed every post. I hope things have settled down since this post. Wish you the best! keep it up! have fallen in love with your site! I’m glad you’re on facebook now, too!

    • Alex
      February 12 2014

      Thank you so much for this lovely comment, Sherwin! A number of changes have me feeling more like myself lately, though it is definitely a work in progress. Hope you’ll stick around Wanderland 🙂

  • I love your honesty in all your posts Alex. And oh boy have I struggled with this as well. Right now I am so content and excited to be in Madrid, but I look back on the times when I was in Korea and I was so depressed. My boyfriend and I met in Korea, where he was really happy, and now here in Spain he is having a hard time. It’s a total flip flop. It makes me think about the reasons people get down, and all the factors that play into it. Another interesting factor is even though I love Madrid, I miss home and can’t wait to visit this summer. Are we just spoiled (I don’t think so) or is it something else at play?

    Also- yup, I understand the feeling like a blob and I just read your weight gain post. It got so bad for me that just in the last 3 weeks I’ve become a gym freak. I’m taking back my health and focusing on what I eat. It does get hard though because I feel like I can’t tell people that I want to lose weight because they will be annoyed that I think I’m fat haha. I just sure hope I can get my act together before summer! 😉
    Jessica of Curiosity Travels recently posted..Young, Alive & Present in Granada

    • Alex
      March 14 2014

      Ugh, I know how you feel… I always hesitate to tell people I’m trying to get healthy because it starts a chorus of “You don’t need to lose weight!” and I’m all, “But I do need to stay sane!” Wishing you the best of luck, my friend 🙂

  • MCVK
    January 11 2015

    I sympathize with you, Alex. As a child, I spent every summer traveling with my parents for at least two months, often to several countries and we averaged 25,000 miles of travel each summer. Once I grew up and got a job, I had to travel extensively to meetings in the U.S. and other countries. When I was in another country, I always took the opportunity to vacation somewhere else before coming home again. It was not glamorous at all, it was WORK. One of the tips I was given was to bring something from home with me wherever I went. I chose my pillow, which is soft down and very thin. To this day, I don’t leave home without it. I don’t know where you’ve been in South America, but their fish is fantastic! Poor people there eat lots of carbs, but you don’t have to, and the fruit is fabulous. Try weaning yourself from sweets by finding extremely dark chocolate which is almost bitter, and then switching to no-sugar sweets (except fruit), as a diabetic would do. Guayaquil is a large port, so you should be able to eat well there. And pace yourself – take breaks. Good luck.

    • Alex
      January 11 2015

      Not everyone understands — it’s nice to hear from those who do. That’s why I love this community! Thanks for your comment, MCVK.

  • Char
    March 22 2015

    I loved reading this post. I stumbled upon your blog a few months back while searching different things about diving in an attempt to distract myself from my own bought of depression. It was the first time I’d ever encountered anything like it and, like you, couldn’t understand why I was feeling this way. I even felt horrible for allowing myself to feel depressed when I have such a fortunate life. But turns out I didn’t really have a say in how I felt on this one. Anyway, long story short your blog helped to distract me when I was feeling my lowest and now, as some signs are creeping their way back in I am so thankful that I fell upon this post. You put into words so well of what has been muddled in my brain for a while now. Nice to know some people really do understand, thank you for bringing such a positive light!

    • Alex
      March 23 2015

      Hey Char, this was such a lovely comment to read. Not because you’ve been struggling with a bout of depression, of course — but because it seems you are on the upswing and it means so much to me to know that my words here have provided you with some comfort. Wishing you the best of luck getting back to smiling again!

  • Holly
    February 17 2017

    I’m a long time reader, and more recently a sometimes- commenter as well 🙂

    As much as I love your blog for the travel stories, its articles like this that make it even more special. There are a few articles you’ve written that I have bookmarked for myself to read over and over. This is one of them – whenever I’m going through a bought of anxiety/panic attacks, and struggling with the fact that I’m struggling despite having a pretty great life – I come read this. Its so cathartic to see someone else work through similar feelings and thoughts so honestly on paper.

    Thank you for doing what you do, and for sharing both your shiny and not so shiny sides of travel and life.

    • Alex
      February 26 2017

      Thanks Holly. Actually, I was thinking about this post recently… I’ve been slowly working on a kind of updated version. So hopefully you’ll love that one too <3

  • Martin
    May 19 2017

    Wonderful post! Indicates pretty well how heavy the imaginary suitcase stuffed with thoughts can be sometimes. The only home you have when living on the road is probably your soul. Sometimes it feels bright and airy, sometimes gloomy and stuffy. But in the end it’s up to us and how we arrange this “home within”…
    It can be tricky to adapt to the pace of life, so slow down and stay curious and bold!! ?

    • Alex
      May 30 2017

      “The imaginary suitcase stuffed with thoughts.” What a beautiful phrase. Thanks for reading Martin!

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