Why I travel

I’ve hinted at bits and pieces of my itchy feet before, and since I have just booked three trips for the coming three months, I thought it’d be appropriate to write some words about my travels.

One of my first jobs (after working in a café for mentally challenged people which my mother had set up), was a summerjob in France. I went there with  friend to work on an activity team there, and working nights in the bar/restaurant as a waitress/bartender. I LOVED the freedom of living in a new country with new people, with a new culture and language and simply just ‘getting away from it all’. The summer after the first, I returned, this time as an au pair. I would spend endless days walking the kids and dogs through the vineyards, there were daily picknicks (or, pickwicks as my little one called them) and dance classes with my 4 year old in the kitchen. I loved it.

After finishing grammarschool, I decided to give into my itchy feet. I quit my part time job as a waitress and booked a one way ticket to Thailand. I did not open my Rough Guide until I got onto the plane, and had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just wanted to ‘go’. After two months of Thailand (and a little hop to Cambodia) I crossed the border into Malaysia where I found a temporary job as a nanny in Kuala Lumpur.

I wanted to work and live in Asia for a while, to not just experience that part of the world as a tourist, but the get the inside scoop. To feel like I actually got to know it. The job was with an expat family, and even though they were nice and I lived in one of the most expensive neighbourhoods (private pool y’all, holla!) I felt so out of place. Had I not met the most wonderful group of local guys, I had not stayed in that crazy city. But I did, and I had the best time of my life there.

I could not cope with the expat community though. They looked and talked down on the locals, treating me as one of their own ‘higher class’ yet all my fellow-nannies (mostly Indonesian and Philipinnian (?) girls) were not even worth looking in the eye. I was pushed into the expat community, but it was the opposite of where I wanted to fit in. I was there to live the ASIAN life, not the EXPAT life after all!

So I moved in with one of the guys. In a Chinese neighbourhood. And I loved it. I would sometimes embaress the shit out of him (‘You went SUNBATHING in my garden?! What will the neighbours think of that white barely covered chick!!’), the neighbourhood loved me too. Actually, most locals did. I was the crazy white chick who mixed with the locals, who even spoke a little of the local language and slang and who did not mind if the rats nibbled her feet when she had dinner at the nightmarket.

I bloomed, I blossomed. I have never felt so me. I did not have to pretend anymore. I did not have to make myself prettier than I was, skinnier than I was, funnier than I was, more intelligent than I was, cuter than I was, cooler than I was, etc. I felt good being silly old me, and accepted just like that.

With hindsight, maybe the need to make myself a little something else was not there because I was already a little something else. But I know too that I was the fact I was so at ease and the fact I was surrounded with such awesome people that eased me into this newly found me.

I have a problem with adjusting. I adjust too easily. I forget about the me inside. I have this problem everywhere, at home and on the road. But at home I tend to adjust to the bad bits, while on the road I tend to do the opposite. I need to find a way to take this attitude with me, to internalize it. I hope to be able to do this at some point. I love to travel, but I wish I did not ‘need’ it to be me. But by living there, with people who made me see I was also good enough by being that ‘abroad me’, I got a taste of how to do that.

After my short Malaysian stay (appr 3-4 months in total) I continued to travel (Indonesia, Papua, Lao, China, Mongolia, Russia) all the way back to Holland. Which is where I got a job with mentally challenged people again and started Uni. I moved to the big city, had a great first year and then got sick. I had already lost a pile of weight before due to circumstances when travelling, had gained some of it back, and then when I got sick again, I lost a hell of a lot of weight again. The doctors couldn’t find out what was wrong, so I was off and on on antibiotics, codeine, prenisone, etc for months before they found out it was pneumonia. By that time me and food had become very unfamiliar with each other, and our relationship only worsened from there. It was never about wanting to lose a few pounds, about coping with anxiety etc at first. It happened and it screwed my brain up like nothing had done before.

I managed to squeeze some travels in, one with my mom and aunties to Morocco (highlight was a panic attack and then a fight and crying session over pizza) and a trip with my parents to Kenya to see if I could ‘reload’ or ‘re-set’ my brain. Obvious fail. When I then went with my parents and brother to Germany to visit the camps my grandfather had been to, my dad had a breakdown and cried that I looked like the men and women in the pictures of the camps. Emeciated and worn down. And still it did not hit.

Going back to Malaysia kept being postponed. I could not face seeiing my loved ones looking like this. Malaysia is a country fuelled on foods, and not even close to the health type of craze. Fat, carby, sugared stuff. The first phrase you’ll learn is ‘Sudah makan?’, which is a Malaysian greeting meaning ‘have you eaten yet?’ which is the replacement for ‘hi’. They would not survive the look of me, and I would not survive that.

It wasn’t until Christmas that year that I stepped on the scale and hit an ultimate low. I cried and realized something had to change would I ever be able to go anywhere ever again. Even the thought of going into town had gotten too scary. What if my heart would stop? What if I’d get distracted again while crossing the street? What if people would say nasty things again? Could I cope with another judging look? And why was it so far away? Wouldn’t I get tired? And what if I’d get hungry? How fast could I get back home? etc. Even the thought of just leaving my house became so overwhelming I would cry myself to sleep (if I’d even manage to fall asleep, that is…) nights in a row. I did no longer even dream of foreign, exotic place anymore. All had gotten too scary. And sleeping was pretty much absent in my life anyway.

Now I have some short trips (Istanbul with the fam, Berlin with Uni and over a month of Cuba with my good ol’ backpack) ahead. People no longer worry when I tell them I’m off travelling again, which, when I was sick, they would. They’d declare I was nuts, that one could not travel when in that condition, etc. I, ofcourse, thought differently, but I do finally see their point. It would have either killed me or saved me, but that’s a real big leap to take.

So now again I will travel. When I travel I absorb. I absorb bits and pieces of newness into me. But not in a toxic way. I take the good bits and mix them with the me bits. There is no ‘old me’ to justify, to try and change, to ignore. There is only the new me, willing to learn and experience.

Travelling, for me, is freedom. Freedom from my own disordered, slightly autistic, overly conscious and cautious brain. In a way one could see it as running, but it’s not. You cannot run from your own brain. Wherever you go, when the problem is in your head, you will take it with you. You might be able to silence it for a while, but it will not disappear by running. By being somewhere unknown, I cannot cling to all my safe routines. I need to find new ways to cope and to open up.

When I ‘go’, I need to ‘let go’.

I need to let be, and be. Be me.

Do you (like to) travel? How has it affected and shaped you&your life? Your dreams? Your plans? Please, share!

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16 thoughts on “Why I travel

  1. Yes, I like to travel! Actually, one of my conditions before I settle down is to go see the world and bring my mom with me. Wow, you’ve been to a lot of places. And you’re right about “the freedom of living in a new country with new people, with a new culture and language and simply just ‘getting away from it all’.” This post is amazing! :)

    p.s. you mentioned other nannies who were Indonesian and Philippinian. I was just wondering, maybe they are from the Philippines. We call ourselves Filipinos. Yup, I’m an Asian. Anyways, have a great day!

    • Oops, I think somehow my reply ended up somewhere I did not plan to post it? But it’s on this page somewhere! (aiyo, I’m tired of using technology…)

      • yay found your reply! :) You have been around the world. Can I just ask where are you originally from? Is it Holland? You mentioned a lot of places and I got a little overwhelmed. How does it feel, having soaked in different cultures? Must be pretty awesome.
        And, I read your conversation with Fiona and I like what you said: “Home is where the heart is. And I mostly carry my heart with me, so home is never far away.” That was just so honest.

        And I’m still living in the Philippines, but I still haven’t seen the whole country (visiting all 7,106 islands seems physically exhausting). But I just can’t wait until I get to travel abroad.

      • Yes I live in Holland now. And I know what you mean about the too many islands, I am absolutely in love with Indonesia, but even after four months I have not even seen a proper fragment of it!

        And thanks again for your kind words!!

  2. I love this post, is Sooz your name? I saw someone call you that somewhere else, I think – calling you Mundanebrain feels a bit… not right. Your writing is anything but mundane. Your travelling is amazing! You have been to so many places and seen so many things. I love how you didn’t want to join the expats and look down your nose at the Asian people and so joined the Asian people instead. That’s one of my aspirations – to go overseas and live like and with the locals, helping them out. I wouldn’t like to live like a tourist in those places because what then is the point of going there? And I would hate to look down on anybody.
    I don’t think your travelling sounds like the running away that is avoidance – because to me, it sounded more like you are growing as you travel – you take something away from everywhere you go and it becomes part of you.
    You sound to me, like someone they might call a ‘wanderer’ who is never happy to put down roots in one place, but must keep moving. Maybe one day in the future you will want to put down roots, but enjoy your freedom.
    It sounds like you are keeping yourself a lot better now with the travelling?
    Thank you for letting me know about this post, I’m glad you did :) xx

    • Oii I just typed you an immensely long reply and then WP bailed on me… Lets try again, shall we!

      Anyway, thanks for the kind words :) My name is indeed Sooz, or, at least it is on the interwebs ;). It’s actually Zoë, but most people tend to pronounce that in the ‘American way’ and I hate that name haha. And when I was a kid, there was this show called ‘As If’ and I loved the Sooz character in it. She was this cool, rebellious chick. So I adopted the name. Absolute fail ofcourse, but let’s just pretend it suits me well haha.

      In Kuala Lumpur I did not live with locals to ‘help’ them. The opposite. I was the ‘help’ in the posh, expat part of town and I was the regular peeps in the local part! It’s a big, Westernized city. Not even comparable (not in size nor in Americanizedness…err… lets pretend thats a word too!) to any city we have here in Holland!

      I have travelled with some wanderers and I do not consider myself as one of them. I have this slightly autistic, hermit side to me too. Actually, that side of me was the reason for my year long travel in the first place. I needed to break free from all my safe routines and fall out places before it would break me, so to speak. But I do see myself traveling more throughout my life. I do have itchy feet as a chronic disease, but I also like ‘hominess’. Luckily I can feel at home anywhere and everywhere, as long as I want it. I guess the cliche is true; home is where the heart is. And I mostly carry my heart with me, so home is never far away.

      Where do you dream of traveling to?

      • Awesome to meet you Sooz! I have to admit I do not know what the Americanisedspeak (lol I love inventing words :) ) Zoe (no umlaut!) sounds like.. In Australia we pronounce it “Zo-eeeee”. I think it’s a pretty name :) I think Sooz DOES suit you. You sound cool and rebellious as much as I can make out knowing you only through words. It reminds me of LIsbeth Salander from The Girl Who series… one of my friends is very much like her in character. It sucks when people always mispronounce your name. I am one of the worst for doing it as I am deaf, so I pronounce things as I read them a lot of the time.
        Love that you said, home is where the heart is – it’s true. I used to move around a lot, so I prefer to be rock solid stable at the moment – perhaps the opposite to what you sound like. Moving house at the beginning of this year was scary as I’d lived in the previous place for a long time and finally felt I had a stable home, I put down roots there, so uprooting myself was a shaky feeling. I feel like I’ve settled here now. I’m a real homebody.
        But I would LOVE to travel. Never really been anywhere! France and Italy sound AWESOME. I read about France in several autobiography style books and fell in love with the author’s portrayal of it. Italy has always sounded lovely too, and another blogger went to Venice the other week which was exciting to read about.
        I want to go to poorer areas too as a volunteer. Perhaps work in children’s orphanages and in poor villages. I think travelling around a lot would give you a much wider knowledge of the world (well of course, duh me) and perhaps, understanding of people themselves?
        Another goal – France and Italy sound like food heavens – I can’t go visit them unless I’m able to EAT the food, what would be the point ;)
        Hope you are having an awesome day – thanks for reminding me of some of the dreams I have to keep going for :) xxx

      • I didn’t know you were deaf! Oh I so wished I learn SL as a kid. My cousin is deaf but she never ‘let me’ learn because she didn’t want to be ‘different’. Haha. I know a few signs (&the alphabet) but thats it. But when I was in China, and NO ONE spoke English, the best conversation in 2 weeks time was with a Chinese deaf 16 year old boy haha. At least we both TRIED to understand each other!!

        And yes, France and Italy are def countries one should visit when you’re ready to E-A-T. The word ‘diet’ does not exist in either language. And DIET PIZZA?! Get out! Even I have never even heard of such a thing!!

  3. Thank you for your comment! Awesome you wanna bring your mom with you. I travelled 5 weeks with my father too. Quite heavy, I might add, haha. But we tend to bump heads easily. But an awesome bonding experience nontheless.

    And Filipinos! Ofcourse! Haha so sorry about that! You’re still living in the Philippines? Would LOVE to go there too one day! I don’t think I’ll ever get enough Asia into my life. Can definately imagine myself moving there permanently at some point

  4. SOOOOZ! I haven’t had t’internet access but back now, love your traveling stories.and it’s interesting how you become free of routines and restrictions etc while you’re there. You know I’ve been thinking about getting away for a bit myself, and you’re exactly the girl I’m going to come to for advice!

    Oh, and I’m ALWAYS up for a London trip, get yourself over the sea m’dear xx

    • Yesyesyes!! London WILL happen!! My friend is going to be studying in Hull starting Jan, so early next year I have even MORE reason to get my ass over the sea. And we all should def meet up then!! Whooooa

  5. yay found your comment! :) You have mentioned a lot of places, but where are you from originally? Is it Holland? Yes, I am living in the Philippines, though I haven’t seen everything in here (visiting all 7,106 islands is physically exhausting). And I just can’t wait to travel abroad! Have to totally save up for that!
    And I read your conversation with Fiona and I love what you said: “Home is where the heart is. And I mostly carry my heart with me, so home is never far away.” That was just so honest!

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