That Time I Almost Gave Up

Aug 05, 2013    /    philosophy

I’ve gotten a lot of emails lately asking me about challenges. On a scale of one to ten, how challenging has my year of traveling been? What’s the hardest thing about being abroad? Am I happy?

Of course, the easy answer is simply yes. I am the happiest, healthiest, and most alive I’ve ever been. And every challenge along the way has been one million percent worth it.

That said, there was one moment during my first year of travel that I thought about giving up.

It started about two weeks after my detention and ill treatment at the hands British Immigration.

I had just arrived back in the U.S. after my two allowed weeks in London and I was utterly exhausted. Not only was I still emotionally drained from my run-in with the world’s nastiest immigration officer, but I’d spent the following two weeks attending an important business conference and trying to keep up with my client work all while re-planning my accommodations, travel, transport, and dog paperwork for April and May.

By the time my plane touched down in Denver on April Fools Day (ha), I was so tired that all I could think about was…well, how tired I was.

During my time in Denver, I played catch-up on work, took a meeting with a prospective client, and visited with a few of my lovely girl friends. And all the while I was secretly questioning myself:

Maybe I should come back to Denver.

I had friends and clients in town. I’m sure the prospect I was talking to at the time (now a client) would have liked having me local. And it would just be easy to find a little rental room and slip back into a routine.

For that week, I stopped talking about full-time travel. I stopped talking about future plans. I didn’t tell anyone I was thinking about staying, but I stopped talking about leaving.

I didn’t actually want to stop traveling. I didn’t have any reason to come back, to settle down. I didn’t miss Denver or want to live there. But I was so completely exhausted. And all I wanted in the world was to feel better.

In my exhaustion, I was having trouble taking stock of the things that make me truly happy. Instead, I just kept thinking how easy it would be to be somewhere familiar and routine.

Maybe I should come back to Denver.

I already had tickets to Mexico. I’d already booked my apartment from mid-April to mid-May. And so I put those thoughts about staying put on the back burner.

I’d like to say I did this out of some deep wisdom about who I am and what brings me joy, that I did it because I know you should never make big life decisions from a place of anxiety, depression, or exhaustion.

But no.

I did it because the plans were already in place and sunshine and cheap tacos sounded pretty relaxing.

Over the next few weeks of my life, my emotional well-being slipped back into balance. Largely, I think, because I was intentional about not dwelling on my negative experiences. I wrote my story (which is always healing for me), I wrote (on the urging of you, my lovely readers) a complaint letter, and then I spent most of my time thinking about sunshine, tacos, kayaking, and the really amazing project I’d just landed.

By the time I left Sayulita, after a slow and restful two months in the sun, staying put wasn’t even a thought anymore. I was ready for new adventures. I was ready to see Mexico’s other coast. I was ready to visit old friends in Pennsylvania, see family in North Carolina, and then head back to the continent that has utterly captured my heart: Europe.

For some people, staying put is a healthy choice. They thrive on routine and familiarity. They feel empowered by familiar surroundings and people. They love coming home at the end of the day.

But I’m not that person. I thrive on changing landscapes, new stories, and big risks. I feel empowered when I face a fear, take a risk, or do something new and unexpected. And one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world for me is arriving at my new apartment in some new city.

And, so, for me, stopping in Denver would have been a setback. Chances are I would have started again, made another change, taken a month or two and then hit the road. I don’t think it would have been truly quitting or giving up. But, I’m still glad I didn’t stop. I’m still glad I spent the next two months in another country, with daily reminders of why I live like I do.

Thus will I leave you for today. Thoughtful. Happy. Still on the move. And determined to keep in mind in the future that the best time to make big decisions is when I am well-rested, emotionally stable, and content.

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10 Comments
  • Gary
    August 5, 2013

    I’m just glad you did determine to keep travelling and keep feeding stories. I found that after 4 months in India and Nepal I was truly ready for what could only be seen as a recalibration trip back home. Like you I am ready again to head out to new shores … sometimes you just need a breather in the hectic life.

    kind regards

    Gary
    Gary recently posted…Periyar Spice Gardens, Kerala, IndiaMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      August 5, 2013

      Thanks. Me too!

      Good luck with heading back out.

  • Dave
    August 5, 2013

    Negative experiences and challenges can overcome you, or you can overcome them. You obviously took the latter path and we are all glad that you did ;-)

    Deep down, I think we all know what makes us tick. Even if the allure of sunshine and tacos (which isn’t bad motivation, by the way) convinced you to carry on with your plans, you did carry on. And you learned valuable insights if and when this situation may arise in the future.

    It is evident that you enjoy the adventure of life and you are an inspiration for all those that long to follow in your footsteps. Thank you!
    Dave recently posted…Your four wordsMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      August 5, 2013

      Thank you!

  • Pam
    August 5, 2013

    Love this. Hearing about experiences that involve overcoming really hard things keep me going.

    • gigigriffis
      August 6, 2013

      I’m glad it helps. :)

  • Beverly Elaine
    August 5, 2013

    Bravo! Truly, B R A V O! Not just bravo for having kept going, but bravo for having the personal insight to know yourself well enough to know what you needed to do even when it may have felt like the very thing you did not want to do at the moment. Knowing ourselves is a wonderful thing. Good for you!
    Beverly Elaine recently posted…Bryan and Valerie – Inspirational ExpatsMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      August 6, 2013

      Thank you!

  • Rhonda
    August 5, 2013

    I love that story because I, too, have found I”m happiest experiencing new places, cultures, food, and the day to day of life here in the US, while not BAD, is just not what I want. Glad you kept on going!
    Rhonda recently posted…Cruising the Danube – A Tour in ReviewMy Profile

    • gigigriffis
      August 6, 2013

      Exactly!

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