Published: Oct 13, 2022
LONDON > MIAMI > QUITO
It can be simultaneously terrifying and exciting to embark on a journey you know will change you. Change is the natural state of what it means to be human, and yet, there’s something unnatural about the uprooting that change requires. The past few years of my life have been full of such change-filled journeys: my journey as an author, my journey as a therapist-in-training, my healing journey…and now, it’s an actual journey I’m going on. I’m spending the next 26 days travelling South America, journeying from the Amazon, to Quito, around the Galapagos Islands, back to mainland Ecuador — Guayaquil this time, into Panama, and finishing in Costa Rica.
As I write this, I’m sitting on the first of two planes we are due to take today. I’m thinking about the weight of the travel ahead. What does that weight consist of, I ask myself. Why isn’t this just exciting; why does the excitement have to co-exist with fear? For starters, change, by its very nature, is scary. Different types of change are scary for different reasons, and I think the change that accompanies extensive travel is scary partly because of its isolating quality. What my eyes will take in on this trip, to a large extent, will be for themselves only. What I share with my loved ones when I come back home will be a diluted version of my experiences, the full flavour of South America filtered through the dissecting lenses of language, time, and lack of immediacy. This kind of metaphysical loneliness that I anticipate I’ll feel upon my return is the main reason I decided to document my trip with this blog. If anything, whilst I can’t take everyone on my trip to experience it with me, perhaps the words I write whilst I’m out here can retain the essence of what I’m doing and feeling and seeing on a daily basis. Once more, I am relying on words to transcend the borders of existential isolation. And pictures, obviously. It is a blog after all.
But the fear isn’t purely existential. It’s also about the very real anxiety that many people feel, especially in Britain, at the mere thought of taking a break. Because the British attitude is that we must earn our breaks – we mustn’t, under any circumstances, take a break without breaking our backs to prove how much we deserve our break. I think there’s an element of that guilt in what I’m experiencing now – I feel guilty for taking so much time off, I feel guilty for not doing client work for the next month, I feel guilty for feeling guilty, because the very fact that I’m able to travel in this way is a huge privilege. And yet, I’m not even sure that this is a break. Sure, it’s a break from my routine in London, but I’ve seen the itinerary…and it looks more like ‘boot camp’ than ‘break’…
I am reminded of my clinical supervisor’s words. She called me out a few days ago when I told her I was taking time off. “I bet I know what you’re doing” she’d said. “Take your copy of Therapy Today out of your suitcase. I know it’s in there”. Yeah, busted. That’s exactly what I’d done. “When we take a break, we don’t think about therapy work, okay?”. Okay. Out with Therapy Today, and out with Internal Family Systems Therapy – Second Edition, and out with On Being a Therapist. I’m going to work on just being instead. And I’m going to document the real and authentic version of my just being.
So. In the name of realness and authenticity, this is probably a good time to mention that I’m not actually traveling solo. My entire immediate family is joining me, and that’s seven of us in total: my parents, and my four siblings. Now, family dynamics are complex, even in the most loving of families. Take, for example, the fact that my dad has packed half a suitcase full of medication, including the anti-bird-flu pill that probably went out of date 18 years ago. Then there’s me — I’ve got a cold, a headache, a temperature, no voice, and a sore throat. Luckily no dry, continuous cough. Yesterday morning, my brother discovered that he had nits. Twenty-four hours before that, we all discovered that we did actually need the Yellow Fever vaccine to travel around South America, and even if we didn’t need it, it’s a bloody good idea to get it. So Friday was filled with frantic same-day-appointment pit stops all over the city, for seven of us, for the vaccinations we forgot we needed. Too bad we don’t have the other vaccines that would also be a bloody good idea for us to get: that would be Rabies, Malaria, Zika, and Dengue fever. I’ve also discovered that the mosquito spray I’ve loaded my non-closable suitcase with is only effective for mosquitos residing in the UK and in Europe. Thus, despite our brightest hopes, my spray will not extinguish the Aedes Aegypti mosquito.
Oh, and this morning? We realised that it’s going to be cold and raining for the first leg of our trip. And we’ve got one hoodie. Currently circulating between the seven of us. So there’s some realness and authenticity for you. Perhaps I should title this blog: Muppets in South America.
Anyways, there’s one rule for our travels that we’ve all vowed to take very seriously: Whatever happens, don’t say Cocaine.