When I first started this blog I wasn’t really sure what purpose it was going to serve. It just felt like something natural to want to have while traveling and I knew I’d want an outlet and a motivation to write down some thoughts. But originally I wanted to provide a resource for other digital nomads and digital backpackers, and I even considered monetizing it eventually. I’ve given up on that, though I still hope some nomads and backpackers will find some of these posts useful. But as I’ve come to realize over time, this blog is really just for me. It’s a way of immortalizing my experiences, my observations; a supplement to a less than perfect memory and a means for me to both purge certain emotions as well as process them. If people find some comfort or some insight in any of these posts, that’s even better but it’s no longer a main consideration for me.
You see, when you’re on the road like this, whether you want it or not, life begins to change a bit. I wasn’t as aware of that at the beginning as I am now, which is completely normal, but over time you start to gain new perspectives on what it means to be alive when your environment has so drastically changed and is constantly changing. I’ve always been fiercely independent. This is both a positive and a negative. The positive is clear: self-sufficiency and the ability to manage your life and handle what’s thrown at you are important characteristics to have. But with that comes some drawbacks, at least in my case. A hesitation and indeed even an inability to rely on others, ask for help, share certain thoughts and needs. I worked on that a lot with my ex-girlfriend V before starting my journey because it was important to both of us, but once I started traveling, that became harder and less natural and I started reverting back to my innate tendency to process and manage my emotions myself. As you can imagine, that was the beginning of our downfall. But the truth is, I liked being in a space where I had to really problem-solve, ask myself questions and have the silence of my inner-self volunteer the answers all on its own. I realized how tiring it had been to have someone constantly ask me how I was doing, then question or doubt my answer. I had grown tired of being made to feel broken and oblivious of my true feelings, and being on my own, with only my doubts, has been liberating in a way I haven’t known in a very long time. I didn’t really know that’s what I was feeling at the time, but things have become clearer to me over the past few months. But the problem is, all this fierce independence, this silence, this need and tendency to solve your own problems also becomes the source of a very special kind of alone-ness. I won’t say loneliness because that paints a slightly different picture than intended, but alone-ness feels right to say. The truth is, I’ve been craving this alone-ness for almost 10 years now, ever since preparing for my India trip. I wanted to experience it, go through it, and come out the other side and see what the landscape was like there, where I’d be, who I’d be. India didn’t give me enough time to do that. And this trip is only now starting to get to that stage because it was interrupted in many ways by the fact that having a girlfriend simply doesn’t allow you to explore that. It’s simply impossible in a conventional relationship to reconcile those 2. A relationship requires a sharing of the goals, responsibilities and experiences of both parties, while alone-ness completely negates that. You simply can’t do both.
But now it’s been a few months since I’ve been completely alone and that alone-ness is becoming much more acute and it’s shaping my behavior in unexpected ways. It’s having the effect of making me much more solitary rather than social. Instead of seeking out others to try and replace the lack of interaction, sharing, and love in my life, I’m digging down into myself. I don’t know what I expected but this has been an interesting turn of events. I’m turning into my thoughts, my work and my planning. I’m not unhappy but I definitely feel something different. I have no outlets but this one, writing; no one to really call, no neighbors, no emotional safety net, no stability in my environment. I act and react in the purest form of me, and I’m remembering that this was precisely what I had been wanting ever since India. But while it’s what I feel I need in my life, it’s also a bit dark. I still find beauty in the people I meet, a local smile, a helpful piece of advice, a mountain range, an aqua blue beach, but now it’s different, harder to find. The glow of novelty has worn off and the realization that this isn’t a trip but a life, has set in, and with that, much of the beauty of my everyday existence has chosen to be more camouflaged. I have to make more of an effort. And that feels right.
And now, to the point
This post is of a much more personal nature than most. While I have shared some of my experiences and thoughts over the past year, most are expressed rather intellectually, generally, conceptually. But I need to take some time to put down a part of the trip and my life I’ve spoken less about because it’s not a very natural topic for me to cover. You see, I’m a decent writer at times. I have the ability to do on paper what I rarely can in person, and that’s organize my thoughts, find ways of relatively clearly expressing what I feel or think. Live, things are rarely that clear. It’s partly why I’m generally a quiet person, but on paper, things tend to change and I become much more relaxed, contemplative, and communicative. It’s always been my medium. But there’s always been one element I’ve had a hard time sharing, and it’s my personal and intimate life. My need for privacy has always trumped my ability to share things of this nature. But today, things are different.
I’ve been dealing with the consequences of certain actions for a few months now. At no point has it been an easy ride, but I’ve always been a positive person, some have said annoyingly so, and it’s something I’ve always appreciated about myself. And when I share my life on these pages, while I might occasionally find something to gripe about, in general it’s not what I focus on, partly because it’s not how I think and partly because I don’t find it particularly interesting. So, I’ve always tended to share the things that are right and let the things that are wrong fall by the wayside. It’s not as easy though when the things that are wrong are actually me. That tends to change the dynamics a bit and while I knew this post would be coming at one point, I didn’t know when I’d be ready to put it together. But I think the time might just be right.
I’ve been asking myself a lot of questions, some I’ve answered, some I’m still working on, others I am pretty sure are lifelong and will likely never be answered. I’m ok with that for the most part. It’s been hard to accept some of the mistakes I’ve made over the past year and indeed even longer. I’m coming to terms with them, trying to forgive myself, trying to understand what the lessons are that I should be taking away from them. Some mistakes I could clearly see as they were objectively obvious, others were much smaller and much more subjective. I’m sure I’ll continue finding a good number more over time, but it’s particularly the small ones which are the hardest because those are the ones that aren’t necessarily even perceived as mistakes when you make them. They’re just extensions of yourself, your views, your thoughts, your expressions. The big ones, might be more rare and outside of your character and in a way easier to mark off as a really bad decision, or a kind of one-off. A bit like accidentally killing someone in the heat of passion, you don’t necessarily think of yourself as a murderer for the rest of your life, though you can’t deny either that you’re capable of horrible things. But in a way it’s easier to come to terms with that and forgive it as a mistake (well, aside from the whole jail and gravity of a murder thing) than it is to come to terms with the small but way more regular mistakes which seem to come from a more fundamental place and hint at your core flaws. Those you have to stand up and count and really can’t ignore if you stand any chance of transcending them. And truth is, it may be something that you’ll fight all your life with the recognition that they may always be there even if you have them under a lid most of the time. But none of us are perfect and you have to remind yourself of that or you’ll never forgive yourself and you’ll never find any form of peace, or the strength to keep fighting.
When I left Montreal I had been with my girlfriend V for over a year and a half. It was an intense year and a half. Things moved insanely quickly and we had to deal with a number of pretty intense life events but we felt strong, we believed in each other, we always tried our best to be supportive, understanding, fair. We had something insanely beautiful. I had never had such a healthy relationship and had never been with someone I felt I understood and who understood me as well. We weren’t perfect but we were damn near. There were some fundamental differences which we knew we’d have to deal with in time, but we both had faith we’d find ways to do so. In the end, a combination of those differences being forced into the open in addition to some of the significant mistakes I made, broke us. But if that weren’t enough, I continued making small mistakes even after our breakup that I couldn’t see until a while later. Again, it’s the small ones that are often most important. But it’s also those small ones that don’t feel like mistakes because they come from a place of honesty. As we all know, honesty isn’t always helpful. In some contexts it’s better to say nothing than to be overtly honesty. Lies never help but on occasion truths can hurt even more. And worst, in the death throes of a relationship, with sensitivities at a peak, things are easily and quickly misunderstood, twisted and used as fuel to justify behaviors, points of views and conclusions. It’s a bit sad that we have these tendencies, but these are the reflections of the richness of the human character, both a source of strength and weakness. I have a tendency to speak conceptually, intellectually and leave some of the emotion out of my expressions. Likely you’ve already noticed that from posts and certainly in this one. While I’m talking about the depths of my emotions, I’m doing so analytically. Ya, you guessed it, not a particular hit with the ladies in certain contexts, but it’s who I am, it’s how I work and I have no idea how to change that and I am not convinced I have any desire to. It’s not inherently wrong but it’s not necessarily easy to handle either. It can be a huge asset during calm face-to-face discussions, but it can be a huge detriment when feelings are already hurt and there are no visual cues to accompany the words or tone. No smiles to lessen a blow, no body language to imply sympathy or compassion, or even love. It’s simply too easy to read whatever you want into words that come packaged in that format. I know because I’ve been on the other side, in pain, reading words that I know now were never directed at me or hinted at anything concerning me, but which caused a good deal of pain anyway because they felt targeted at me. It’s just almost impossible for a raw nerve not to cringe when a breeze passes by and rustles a leaf near an open wound. And for the breeze, it’s also almost impossible to know how much just its existence and regular activities can affect raw nerves. For months I’ve been both the breeze and the nerve. Neither feels good. Today, I’m trying to break the pattern of feeling like either.
The truth is, I’ve always been better at being the nerve than the breeze. I’m much better at managing my pain and finding beauty in it, than I am in being in part responsible for others’. My relationship with pain started with physical pain and soon got transferred to emotional pain but my relationship has always felt healthy. I’ve always been fortunate to have a positive outlook which has helped me heal rather quickly and pick out the thorns and leaves so I could better see the flowers. So I’ve always been more comfortable being on that side, though it’s not necessarily my favorite place to be. Pain has also always spurred massive productivity and creativity even in the midst of confusion and anger. It’s been so the past few months as well. But knowing that I’m also the breeze has been much less easy to deal with. I tend to get nervous, say the wrong things in an attempt to say the right things, and end up coming off both aloof and inconsiderate with a tendency to have my words be seen as condescending. I think any of my ex-girlfriends will rightfully attest to that. Undoubtedly part of that is my fault, but I also recognize that as a nerve the breeze’s actions always seem targeted to you, whether they are or not, and cringing is a natural reaction to any form of movement in the vicinity. But for both the nerve and the breeze, life is exhausting. I’m exhausted and I need to be able to move on without being either of those 2 things. This is my attempt to do so.
In many ways, I haven’t wanted to move on before. I wanted to keep my mistakes close, I wanted to wallow in my guilt, I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t forget how flawed I’ve been. It’s part of my process, and it serves its purpose but it must also have an end. Maybe this is the beginning of that end and the start of a next stage. I think in order to close one chapter of this book and begin the other I also need to admit a few things officially and remember where this all came from.
V and I had a pretty unique relationship. It happened much more quickly than I expected and in reality I wasn’t particularly ready to jump into a new relationship so soon after my previous one. Something I had been honest about but which didn’t stop me from seeing how incredibly special this woman was, is, and I’m sure always will be. When I was faced with the first real choice; commit or walk away, I had neither the strength nor desire to do the latter. Whether I was in a good place or not, I knew I likely would never find a woman who was as complete, strong, healthy, smart, fun, open, honest, silly, political, and generous as V is. That was undeniable. I believed in her and I wanted badly to believe I could be the kind of person who would fulfill her needs. I tried, and I felt good doing so. I tried to give my best and she certainly gave hers. She was supportive, communicative, passionate, warm, and fair. My respect for her was infinite, and despite how things ended, that hasn’t changed. I can see more clearly many of the things that really didn’t jive with me now, but those pale in comparison to all the beauty she infused into my daily life, and all the moments we shared that filled me up and taught me what kind of love and connection I both want and need in my life. We were beautiful in ways I had never known. I don’t know if I’ll find that kind of beauty again from another, but I can at least try to find it within me. Part of the problem was that I started off the relationship already torn between 2 worlds. I just lacked any sort of clarity to be able to really see it for myself, let alone describe it. It was just a blurry deep-seated feeling that I hardly even knew was there. I’ve never been one of those people who walks around with a clear sense of purpose, and I never want to be. It’s just not who I am, and I’m not interested in becoming that kind of person. Had I been more in-touch with what I needed in my life however, I might have made a different decision at that first ultimatum. Not because I regret the past almost 3 years, because nothing is further from the truth, but because I might have spared us a great deal of pain and allowed her the time to seek out what she really needed, rather than what she actually got. But, I wasn’t aware then of how the future would pan out and what I needed in my life. I didn’t know then that I would be walking away from Montreal and the life I knew there, with no intention to return. I didn’t know I would find missing pieces of myself strewn throughout different countries, waiting for me to pick them up and fill in the gaps, I certainly didn’t know that all of these factors would cause me to lose myself, lose her, and end up hurting the person who was most important to me. I am ashamed of some of the things I’ve done, but I cannot change those. I know what my intentions were and what my subsequent actions had as goals, but I cannot convince anyone of where they came from and I will not try. Sometimes a wound just needs to breathe fresh air to create a scab and then turn into a beautiful scar. For both myself and V, I’m going to go from being a nerve and a breeze, to just being air. Ever present, innocuous, always changing, picking things up, dropping them, roaming both aimlessly and with purpose, and healing to all things alive. I will drop my responsibility and my attempts to justify myself, I will shed my guilt, I will accept where I’ve come from and allow that to lead me to where I am to be next. It’s time to say farewell to beauty, with both a tear and a smile, and simply start walking.