Believe It Or Not, Travel Didn’t Fix My Problems

man sitting on gray dock
Simon Migaj / Unsplash

As I lay in bed, beautiful Lisbon outside of my window, I realized, like so many others have said before me, that you can’t outrun your sorrows. Another wave just hit.

The feelings of inadequacy crept up again; they’d followed me 4,500 miles across the sea.

I did not travel to escape my problems, honest to god. When the trip was booked in October 2017, there were no problems to escape. But somewhere between November and January, the thought blossomed: maybe this will fix me, fix us, fix everything.

What if tomorrow’s no better?

I wrote the above when I started this post in March of this year.

In case you couldn’t tell, my life was falling apart. I was in a deep, dark, shadowy place that I hope to never revisit. I was desperate for a way out of the hole that I’d recently found myself in. Somewhere along the way, the rom-com enthusiast within had decided that Lisbon would the perfect backdrop for my happily ever after. My seemingly irreparable relationship would somehow be repaired among morning strolls through Alfama and candlelit dinners at that place that I’d seen on Somebody Feed Phil. I’d follow a strict European diet and drop 40 pounds effortlessly. My hair and skin would flourish from all the water that I drank and I’d get stopped on the street by a casting agent for a spontaneous acting gig as a result, accidentally reaching levels of superstardom I’d never dreamed of. All to the soundtrack of fado.

Then I woke up.

While I did get stopped by a casting agent for a spot in a vitamin water commercial I didn’t get (they ended up casting acrobats instead), nothing else on the above list actually happened. Instead:

My partner and I fought every. single. day. But by some wonderful miracle, we reconciled.

I actually gained a few pounds, because that “European diet” that I’d made up? Actually consisted of bread, cheese, bread, pork and wine. And did I mention bread?

Literally.

We never made it to that restaurant from Somebody Feed Phil because we’re not the only people that watch the show, so the wait was always too long for my liking. (Seriously, it’s a great show. You should watch it.)

My skin and hair didn’t flourish, because hard tap water and winter and new product experimentation. Oh, and bread.

Now, as I sit typing this from my current apartment in Mexico, I can’t help but to chuckle at myself.

A lot of things can happen when you travel. Most of the time they’re not what you’d think.

The reality is, in the 3 months that I spent in Portugal, I checked off maybe 4 of the hundred-and-something things that I had on my wishlist. To be very honest, most of the time, I was either too sad, too tired (from working), too busy (with work) or too broke to do the things that I dreamed of doing.

Despite it all, Lisbon still somehow managed to become one of my favorite cities on earth. As a bonus, I managed to find my way out of the hole.

But the primary lesson that travel has taught me is this: It’s not a fix-all solution. To anything.

Life doesn’t stop because you decided to hop on a plane a flee the country. Your brain doesn’t suddenly come down with a bad case of amnesia because your coffee came from a French cafe instead of Winn-Dixie. And, as much as I hate to say it, your wallet doesn’t give a damn where in the world you are. Your account balance will drain just as fast (or faster, probably) as it does at home.

Living abroad can be wonderful and amazing and every positive adjective in the book. Most times it will be, in some capacity. But it can also be just as shitty as living in your parents’ basement.

Travel is not all ancient ruins and stunning architecture. It’s learning — about the people and places around you, sure, but mostly about yourself. It’s feeling, it’s lazy Sundays no matter where you are, it’s still craving Popeye’s knowing damn well there’s no Popeye’s in the city, let alone the country. It’s missing your family, your friends. It’s emotional.

It’s being in wonder that this is your life. Because it is your life, and everything that comes with it.

As my Mexican visa creeps closer to expiration and my wishlist grows longer and longer, I remind myself to appreciate the little things that I’ve come to love about the country, like hummingbirds, fresh produce and lasagna from the amazing Italian restaurant around the corner.

As someone wise once said, travel is no cure for the mind. TC mark

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