One of the toughest things about traveling the world alone is hearing the news from where you left. It isn’t because you necessarily miss what you ultimately flipped off, burnt, then pissed on the ashes. Although, the imagery is clear.
When I was on the Camino, I didn’t always have access to the internet. It wasn’t the worst thing (unless you were arguing with someone about a quote to a film and you had to wait to prove who was correct), but it was rather nice to not see the news. American news is rarely good news, typically filled with the latest horror and anything that has the capability to go viral. Before leaving, I’d noticed that the news was more likely to tell you every single thing going wrong, but none of the ways to fix it. It was stressful. I was happy to keep it simple while hiking through mountains.
I was also happy to not have ‘Donald Trump’ in my everyday vocabulary, unlike how it is now that I speak with people on a daily basis with internet at my beck and call.
Since leaving the states on July 19, 2015, there have been about 150 mass shootings. I heard about perhaps ten of them. This isn’t including the other “normal” shootings, the ones with police officers, the ones that have caused so much debate that everyone can simply look at their Facebook to tell which people we’re all dreading on seeing next thanks to racist posts/comments.
I am not happy that ‘mass shootings’ has become a part of my everyday vocabulary.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been overseas with something happening at home worth noting. Back in 2007, I was in New Zealand. It was during the time when we found out the government was illegally wiretapping phones without a warrant. I only vaguely remember this coming to light. I wasn’t paying attention to the news then, and it was the leader of the radio station I volunteered at who asked me how I felt about the situation that I found out what had happened.
I think my answer had been something to the effect of, “My phone is really lame and I don’t text, so it doesn’t affect me?”
His look was that of correct judgment. I was a young twenty. The kind of young that didn’t listen to the news and shrugged off politics because attaching myself to an opinion meant I had to actually do something about it, and I wanted to play video games and explore the world, damn it!That was the beginning of the internal struggle of where I want to end up due to my beliefs on violence, equality, government, and the other tidbits of politics that matter but are typically ignored because listing off important things is boring.
However, these past couple of years feel like tests of the pride I have in my country and whether I actually want to continue living there.
I was having a conversation with a college friend from Malaysia the other day wherein he told me that the grass isn’t always greener. I promptly did a Google search to say that it looked like the grass was greener for women in Iceland, Norway, and Sweden in 2014.
Aside from making sure I know all of my exit strategies if it ever came down to it (and, yes, getting a Greencard marriage has run through my head a few times), I also have been dealing with the emotional side of having familiarity nearby to make me feel better. There is a sense of panic every time the next bit of news has been read.
I once jokingly made reference to getting married to some rich foreigner to keep myself from having to go back to the states. The more that I see, the more I begin to consider it as a legit option. Not the first option, but one to keep in my back pocket in desperate situations.
It is during these times that I wish the most to be by my friends. I may not miss the politics surrounding the country I was born into, but I miss the people I surrounded myself with in times of trouble.
I’m a very affectionate person. I like hugs. I like snuggles. I like kisses and holding hands. I know plenty of people who don’t like PDA in any form, but I’m the first person in any type of relationship to initiate arms being thrown about the other person, as well as making someone be my pillow while sitting on a couch together. I like that physical contact. I’ve always felt that actions speak louder than words, even as a writer, and that means I will randomly place my head on my friends’ shoulders, kiss cheeks in greetings or goodbyes, and nudge my way into arms when I can.
Of course, I only do this will close friends or people I feel I have a connection with who are okay with these antics.
Which means that traveling alone kinda sucks right now.Calling friends helps. I message many of them every couple of days, and it is nice to remember that what is going on at home isn’t completely accepted as the normal. When you see all of these things happening from an overseas perspective with no changes, you begin to wonder if a country isn’t just keeping itself together with scotch tape and rubber bands.
But talking doesn’t always make me feel put back together. I feel better, but I often find myself sighing and wishing their faces were more than on my computer screen, that their hands were smushing my cheeks together in a reminding way that I’m being silly rather than just waving them so fast the camera cannot capture anything but a blur movement, that the loud kiss noises at the end of a conversation weren’t being dramatized because they wouldn’t need to if their lips could touch my face instead.
I’m not a clingy person. Really. I just miss being affectionate and having that affection returned in person.
I was lucky enough to have made good enough friends on my Camino to get to a point where hugs and kisses and laying heads on shoulders was within our friendship realm. Things on the trail move faster than normal timelines. It’s just that moving around from hostel to hostel doesn’t always allow the time to get to that point.
And then one of you moves on when it does. The process starting all over again.
Over years of commitment issues, I’m seeing it a bit more as to why people tend to stick around each other for the long run by putting a ring on it. I’ve never had to really see it because I was always within a reasonable radius of those that I could poke and prod in person.
It has forced me to be a bit more social than usual. When people ask if I want to join them for a drink after only knowing them for five minutes, I’m more apt to say ‘yes’. I’m as quick to offer my food, drink, or help as ever, but now with more leading words that keep the conversation going. I am particularly fond of this new outlet because I am a questionnaire extraordinaire, which means people tell me stories and I get to ask my millions of questions to have them answered rather than have someone like my father say, “You’re not five years old anymore, look it up.”
Do you know those people who start conversations with you while you sit on the bus or train, the ones that you heave a heavy sigh over when you have to remove your headphones to hear what they have to say because they keep trying to get your attention despite your own attempts to give every sign that you’re ignoring them? My greatest fear that will probably come into fruition is that I will be one of these folks by the end of my trip.In all reality, I’m becoming more open-minded. The kind of open-minded you’re supposed to be when you live in the dorms during college, but now you’re an actual adult and people aren’t as afraid to say something if you’re being rude or obnoxious. I find my experiences in hostels a bit more pleasing than the dorm rooms, but maybe that is because I’m not trying to study for finals.
Instead, I’m trying to figure out how much and where I’ll invest in the future stocks of my life. It’s easier to dream and fantasize when you’re not in the immediate vicinity of the chaos you’re trying to avoid. You come up with a plan that seems foolproof until you realize that you’re going to possibly need to plan for a psychotic presidency, your right as a sexual woman is slowly being taken away, and your want to be a world-gaming-traveller means you’ll need a proper well-paying job that wouldn’t allow you to do any of those things until you quit.
I’ve found my stress of “being alone” while traveling is lessened by the simple things. Running in the mornings. Taking a moment to take in the life I have currently. Connecting with the strangers I come across. A glass (okay, sometimes a bottle) of wine.
My personal favorite is ‘liking’ The Same Photo Of Jeff Goldblum Everyday’s status daily. The knowledge that it will be sent to my friends’ feeds (maybe some more than others…Jesse) as if it is a paid advertisement sends me into villainous cackling with every ‘like’.I still don’t know what I’ll end up doing. I know the basic facts, one of which is that I will have to go back, eventually, and face what I originally started running away from in the first place, having told myself that Future Mallory would have a plan. And, damn it all, Past Mallory is going to get away with her lazy schemes because if there are any lessons I’ve learned during my travels, they’re that you can only plan life so far, you can only control your reactions to situations, and that love inspires confidence in ourselves just as much as it does in others.
I’m not a very religious person. Gods, I’m overall terrible at it and always prefer to say I’m spiritual without ever going into much detail unless pressed.
I’ve at least found that I have more faith in myself than before. There is a need for plenty of reminders to myself that I actually do have faith in myself because imposter syndrome is a dick, but that trust, that love, calms down the stress I accumulate from the lack of physical affection and the world politics.
And thank the gods for friends. They’re pretty cool, too.