Why I Packed a Bag and Ran Away From Everything
[Above: Boyfriend and I in downtown Havana during our 2-week backpacking trip earlier this year.]
Don't run from your problems. It's a maxim I (try) to live by, hardening my shoulders against the things life throws at me, And while walking the line between facing things head on and not being too direct lands me in the occasional stumble, it's a way of life that's almost always served me well.
Except, of course, for when it hasn't.
And last winter was one such time. I was drowning. Things that used to fit—from clothes to ideas—no longer did. Unsure where to put these cast-offs, or what would take their place, I clung to familiarity.
But familiarity didn't fit anymore either.
I felt like the gap between who I was and who I wanted to be was beginning to rip open, wider, fresher, like a wound. I was scared.
Until one night when I was sitting on the couch, trying to explain how I felt while also acknowledging all the things that I am fortune enough to have. I knew I was privileged, that many would love to have the things I try my best not to take for granted.
Sometimes, though, your heart calls out for more. And that's ok (especially if it's calling out for more coffee, haha!).
So, as I shifted myself on the couch, looking out the window at a cloudy sky that felt symbolically oppressive, I admitted that I needed more.
I muttered something about wanting to get out of here... Out of the city, out of the things that didn't fit. Out of all of it.
"Well why don't we then?" Boyfriend answered.
I blinked at him. Was it really that easy? And wasn't that just a grown-up version of running away?
Maybe it was, but I decided I didn't care—not if it meant feeling a little less stuck. Soon, we were searching flight deals, and almost in a race to see who would call bullshit first, started booking a ridiculously cheap deal to one of my dream destinations: Cuba.
We began spinning plans of a backpacking trip (we're just not the resort kind), researching the destination city in the sale and making lists. I was absolutely giddy. Was this really happening? Were we actually doing this?
One of us whipped out a calendar, negotiating days off work and school for an itinerary. It was decided. We'd leave the week after next, spending 14 days wandering through the golden island of my dreams.
In two hours, I'd gone from self-wallowing on the couch to packing for a vacation. It was one of the most spontaneous things I've ever done, a fact I kept giggling about while digging out summer clothes to stuff in my suitcase.
And oh, Cuba, you did not disappoint. We spent our two weeks trekking to historical sites and museums, wandering narrow, horse-and-carriage filled streets and dining on the best local food inside crumbling mansions. We watched palm trees shimmy in the hot afternoon wind and waves crash mercilessly against stone city walls.
I could feel my freckles, my confidence and my happiness multiplying.
One day, in Havana, I spent an afternoon sipping from a fresh coconut and watching the sea. Home—and all it's problems, all the things that no longer fit—felt farther away than the 3000 kilometres we'd be flying to return there.
I realized, all of a sudden, what I should've seen from the start. Sometimes distance gives us the perspective we need, and this physical distance was a strong enforcement of how small my problems were after all.
When we finally returned home, I felt ready to unpack more than my suitcase. I was finally ready to put away the summer clothes and all the old bits I'd been holding onto, freeing myself of everything that no longer fit.
Travel gives you perspective.
Travel gives you distance.
And, if you let it, travel gives you back parts of yourself you didn't know were there.