Travel Helped My Anxiety

Travelling through Southeast Asia has soothed my anxiety.

As I grew older, my anxiousness grew stronger. It started to impact my daily thoughts, my actions, and then, naturally, the decisions I made along the way. Now, I know you’re asking yourself how on earth this heavily populated and hectic part of the world could have eased my anxiety. It does seem pretty ironic to make this claim. I mean, just taking into account the sheer amount of traffic, the lack of schedules, and all of the unknowns that come with travelling through a foreign country. But maybe, just maybe, this is exactly what I needed. Travelling through Southeast Asia has forced me to let go of my imagined order of how things "should be". 

Before we set off for our backpacking adventure in 2015, I was accustomed to organization, reliability, and schedules. An orderly routine made me feel like I had some control over my life, whereas my anxiety made me feel the exact opposite. Anyone who has ever experienced this knows exactly how it looks and feels. It's like there's always some looming uncertainty and doom taking complete control over your thoughts. You constantly feel like there's something you should be doing that you're not. Trying to make a simple decision seems like an impossible feat. You construct these unachievable standards for yourself. Always comparing yourself and continuously losing. You begin to alienate yourself from people close to you who try to help. Overanalyzing and dissecting every single thing anyone does or says. You shut yourself off from the world and build an internal wall that often feels indestructible to others. Hoping that you'll experience some relief, you barricade yourself in your guilt, doubt, and worry. The truth is, you never really do. Everything is intensified. Nothing is adequate. You're fragile, lonely, and confused every step of the way. Anxiety isn't logical. Most of the time, it's hard to explain and doesn't really make any sense. Not that these truths make it feel any less real. 

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In the last two years, I came face to face with everything I just described. Everything here feels uncertain. Decisions are often made for me on the spot. So many things are constantly and completely out of my control. Schedules? They're unpredictable. Plans often change or are outright cancelled. My clothes are always wrinkled, no matter how much effort I put into folding or rolling them. Some of my stuff never even returns from the laundry service. Believe it or not, this would've  brought me to tears a couple of years ago. Makeup? Forget it. The stuff sweats off of your face the moment you step outside. Besides, most people around me don't bother either, which makes me feel that much more comfortable. Back home, overcrowded places that slowed me down made me feel restricted and drove me nuts. When we first arrived here, I was instantly overwhelmed by the sheer number of people. Over time though, I have realized that this has given me the opportunity to meet so many welcoming, friendly, accepting, and genuine people along the way. Their energy has been contagious for me. Their focus on spirituality, family, and good food, has enriched my understanding of life on this earth. I've come across many people who own very little, yet they are simply grateful and happy nonetheless. This made me realize how small most of my problems really were. It also made me realize that the pressures, the expectations, the accumulation, and the constant consumerism back home were only strengthening my anxiety. 

Travelling through Southeast Asia has soothed my anxiety.

It was here that I truly learned the meaning of the words “let it go”. Maybe it has something to do with checking out of the traditional routine. The one we are all indoctrinated into and then socialized to follow like sheep back home. Maybe the chaotic nature of this region was just too much for me to try and compete. Maybe it was something as simple as owning only what I could carry. But maybe, it was all the beauty that I finally had time to notice all around me. The light and satisfaction that exists in every possible moment, as long as you're aware and open to receive it. I feel like I have become more humble. More grateful. More mindful. More aware. More peaceful and content. Although I might always live with anxiety, I am surrounded by people, places, and things that make it feel just a little bit easier.

 

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