Travel Can’t Save You From Yourself

Ignacio Garcia
Ignacio Garcia

Eat, Pray, Love was a crock of shit.

Ok, perhaps I need not be so harsh — a woman went through a horrific break-up, subsequent life crisis, and chose to find enlightenment, pleasure, and ultimately healing by traveling the world. We should all be so lucky. I don’t doubt she had a bevy of life-altering and monumental experiences that contributed to her psychological recovery, but when I read through her stories, her thought process, her decisions, and her reasoning for embarking on a world-hopping tour, I see a woman searching for answers in the wrong places and finding Band-Aids to place on malignant tumors. I see myself.

I have been interested in travel and cultural experience since I was young. I left home for school when I was 18, lived abroad in Turkey for five months during university, journeyed alone through Europe afterwards, and am now living in Ghana for one year while my friends, family, and system of support remain in California. The ideas of exploring untouched territory and venturing out solo are certainly at the core of my desire to move freely about the world — or so I had myself believe. When I hold a mirror up to my adventures and the intense feelings of claustrophobia which begat them, I don’t see reflected a pure, unadulterated love for travel. In its stead, I’m left staring at a scared, broken girl with an urge to escape and the deep misconception that a change in psyche is the bi-product of a change in scenery. That altering the exterior will smooth out the rough interior. That most issues stem from a state of stasis and can be cured through the simple act of movement, of uproot. Physically leave the bad, and you become whole and new.

My sincere apologies to the author, but I can say now with conviction that I have eaten, prayed, and loved my way through four continents over six years, and my only steady traveling companion has been my psychological baggage. I wouldn’t trade my choices to be in motion for anything — I am grateful for every single second of these years and each person who has floated in and out along the way. My naiveté, however, I can forgo. It’s time to put away childhood things, like the notion that traveling will inherently heal my soul. It’s time to face myself and fix myself, and stop assuming my camera roll of the world will do it for me.

With my special and unique brand of mental peculiarities, which not only run the gamut but barrel roll through it, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact time they hit, or increased. When I attempted to cure myself, though — those memories and situations remain clear as day, as do their failures. When I was well into my first stint of anxiety, panic attacks, and mental fog, my plan of combat was college and a sea of new faces where I could relearn how to swim. For a year or so my strokes became stronger and my form better, but I soon began to drown again. When I weighed in at 105 pounds and finally recognized this abnormality, I decided to study in Turkey, praying I’d leave my disordered brain at home in California. When I was living with my parents and my skewed body image had not disappeared as I’d hoped, but simply reversed directions and reared its ugly head by overcompensating for my previous weight, I took off to San Francisco. Away from my childhood surroundings, I figured I’d grow as a person, shrink my self-doubt, and emerge normal in both size and psyche. When I was unimpressed with activities I once loved and felt stuck, stale, and lost, I scoured job sites for positions in Africa and transported myself to Ghana where I believed I would immediately feel “found.”

Which brings us up to the present. I am as far from home, both in culture and distance, as I could get, yet my blood still contains traces of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and claustrophobia. I have nowhere to run to. If Africa was not enough of an escape, and therefore solution to my problematic mind, I honestly don’t know what could be. What I do know, what I’ve learned, what it’s taken me years of pain, confusion, trials, and errors to understand, is that the simple act of travel is exactly that — an act of simplicity. If you want to move and alter what lies deep within your brain and your heart, this takes complexity. Travel does not imply complexity. Sitting still and talking with a friend does not imply simplicity.

What is the proper way to heal the mind and keep it at peace? I haven’t the slightest idea, but I’ll stay motionless for the time being and let you know when I do. TC mark

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