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Just Keeping’ It Real

I’m just over here, in my Harry Potter shirt, keepin’ it real about being a sad traveler.

True Life: I can be a sad traveler: Anyone who understands me, or is familiar with my work, knows that I like to keep it real. Like really real. Sometimes maybe a little too real. I do this  because I strive to keep this blog as BS (don’t want to corrupt any virgin ears in the audience) free as possible. I mean otherwise, how could you trust a word I said?

I also don’t want to be some unknown entity that seamlessly churns out travel tips because let’s be
honest, a robot could probably do that. But I am not a bot, that’s for sure (Sometimes I feel like one when my vision fails me and I can’t see the letters and numbers I need to type to prove that I’m bot free when leaving a blog comment). If I was, there would be a lot less slang, coupled with the grammatical errors, strewn throughout the majority of my posts.

But I’m glad I’m not a robot because no one can relate to the soulless, technical precision of these instruments of modernization. Instead, people identify with the insane imperfections that coalesce to create the entire, human experience. So that’s why I am keepin’ it real and opening up about something we can all relate to… (unless you have no soul and really are a robot. If you are then that’s okay because I’m not a hater!) sadness.

Why No One Will Read this Post (and I’m totally okay with that)

This is one of those posts that only a handful of people will read because let’s be honest, this isn’t some awesome “how to” guide. This post is about being sad and come on, how depressing is that? Well, I am writing this because I pride myself in being as honest as humanly possible (minus giving out my address and social security number). That’s why I need to talk about sadness because guess what? I get sad, and traveling doesn’t always make it better. But I feel like people always cover up sadness and hide it away from the world.  It’s almost like this perfectly normal, human emotion is some dirty, nasty little secret that, if exposed, will instigate an apocalyptic meltdown of the entire human race.

The old “Happy” Me

This is basically what I used to do. I’d slap on a smile that was so sweet that it would induce diabetic coma. This was when I tried to a NOT sad traveler.

I used to feel the same way about sadness, like it was an emotion that I wasn’t supposed to have… EVER. I mean, in my family, you just weren’t allowed to be sad. It was considered weak and if you let your guard down for even a minute, you would get a lecture that went like this, “if you think you have it bad then you should have grown up with your grandmother and grandfather. They would have given you something to cry about. You’re living in a 5 star resort compared to what I went through. You should just be grateful for what you have because I only wish I had your problems.” I could go on but you get the idea (I”m sure we’ve all heard similar lectures, with a full eye roll from the recipient, for good measure).

Comments like this made me feel like I had a great life and like I had absolutely nothing to complain about. So I didn’t. Ever. I never complained. I shut my tears off and replaced the sadness with jokes, smiles, and a totally positive attitude. This all worked for awhile. I had good grades, a good smile, I was polite and considerate, always there with a joke, but I was miserable. I hated myself and everything about me, and you know what? The sadness didn’t go away. This emotion morphed into an overwhelming sense of anger and resentment that I directed at myself because I wasn’t perfect and I wasn’t exactly what everyone wanted me to be. So I started to self-destruct in ways that helped me hide my pain away from the prying eyes of the world.

The Change

Sometimes you just need to be a sad traveler.

But then something happened. My thinking changed. People helped me look at myself and I started to wonder, “What would happen if I cried in front of people?” Well, the world didn’t come to an end, but it made a lot of my friends and family visibly uncomfortable. Seriously, they see a tear and almost recoil in fright, like they might actually catch my horrendous plague of emotion (the horror!).

To be fair, not all people are terrified of sadness. Other people want to fix it and make it go away immediately, so they start asking you all these questions about why you’re sad and where it came from and how they can help fix it.

They continue on and eventually, create a list of things you NEED to do in order to feel better. Now, I get that this action comes from a place of love, but are they trying to help me or make themselves less uncomfortable? I don’t know the answer but I have a suspicion that like most things in life, it’s a complicated mess of both.

It’s Okay to be Sad

To both types of people, I just want to say, “It’s okay to be sad!” It’s part of the human experience and an emotion that everyone goes through because let’s keep it real; life is hard and totally unfair. That means that you’re gonna be sad and guess what? It’s allowed. People think sadness is bad because it feels icky, which is not exactly super fun. But sadness is good. It helps you let go of all the potentially harmful emotions that can build up in your heart, seep into your soul, and poison you from within (bitterness, anger, resentment, fear, etc.). Therefore, tears are beneficial because they cleanse your soul  and allow you to move on completely from the pain of the past.

It took me forever to learn this lesson, but I am okay with being sad now. I just accept it as part of life and I hope that others can do the same. However, this doesn’t mean that I need sympathy or that I need to figure out why I’m feeling melancholy. Maybe I’m sad because I’m just having a sad day. Maybe it’s perfectly okay to not have to try and “fix it” all the time (I tried eating/not eating my emotions and it sucked). Maybe it’s okay to just be me, and maybe I just need a friend to hug me and whisper, “everything is gonna be okay”.

Where does Travel come in?

See, me and this Peruvian Llama are totally different but we accept those differences.

So if you have even stuck around this far, without falling asleep then you’re probably like, “Hello? Umm, this is a travel blog. Where is the reference to travel? Where is my list of top ten things to do in Iceland? (I HAD to put that in here because I feel like everyone talks about Iceland.LOL. I can’t wait to go so I’m not hating on Iceland.)”

Well, you can’t get a refund because this site is free, but travel totally factors into this emotional equation. Because of travel, I learned to accept cultures that were different from my own. Now, I hate to admit it, but some of these world cultures appeared “bad” to me. I felt like these people did horrible things that failed to reflect the set of moral values that were given to me by my nation of birth.

However, the more I traveled, the more I realized that there are no good or bad cultures. They are all just different and representative of the sociological landscape that people are born into. So, I slowly began to understand and appreciate the beautiful people and social norms that I encountered all across the globe.

Total Self-Acceptance (okay maybe most days)

But if I could do this with other societies, why couldn’t I apply this way of thinking to myself? Weren’t
my sad emotions just different from the set of emotions I was used to? I mean, if I could accept the beautiful differences of foreign cultures, couldn’t I also accept all of my emotions as the necessary parts of a totally complete and authentic person?

Yes, yes I could. I no longer torture myself when I am sad. It just is a part of my life that I have accepted. I’m just glad that I can open up enough to share this with people and let them know that sadness isn’t as scary as it seems. It’s actually pretty normal. However, the craziest part of all is that travel doesn’t make me happy all the time.  This happens because life doesn’t stop when I change  my geographic location. Rather, life continues on, no matter where I am in the world. The difference now though is that I don’t fight the sadness. I don’t need to pretend to be something that I’m not. I just let the sadness move through me, and that has made all the difference.