Oh look who’s actually popped up again! Yes, it’s me. I know I dropped off the face of the Earth somewhere in the middle of May. Well I guess I’m back again with a little round up of my 2017. It was a… turbulent year with a lot of highs but definitely a lot of lows. It’s been absolutely full of life lessons so here I’m going to set out some of the things I’ve learned and give everyone a little bit of an update into what I’ve actually been doing since I disappeared off the face of the blog-sphere.
Depression is still there, even when you’re travelling
Well maybe this seems a little obvious but lets be honest I really did think that travel would help pull me out of my ‘funk’ to put it nicely. And it did for a while, but what some people don’t realise is that travel is super stressful. What goes up must go down and the lowest lows just couldn’t always outweigh the highest highs.
The stress of travel was enough, but the stress of keeping up with a blog that was growing a little faster than I had anticipated was enough to start pushing me over the edge. Something had to give so I chose to shut my laptop on my blog and just try to enjoy travel again. We spent a week in Bangkok relaxing and recuperating, sorting out my medication and just generally getting my head back in gear. It worked and I hoped that I would pick up my laptop again and continue to blog but that was not destined to happen.
Life, with all its twists and turns will still go on while you’re in happy travelling land
In June of 2017 I got a phone call that would really kick-start the whole life changing process of 2017. We were staying on Koh Tao, one of my favourite parts of the trip, and had just finished our 3 day open water diving course. Our accommodation didn’t benefit from Wifi so we went to get a celebratory bite to eat in a cafe with internet. Then the messages came through from my mum. ‘Call me as soon as you get this’. Then a similar message came through on Ben’s phone too. Panic started to set in. The last time I had a message like this was when my dad went into hospital. I assumed it would be him again, or my 94 year old grandmother. When I finally got through to her she told me “It’s not them, they’re fine. It’s me.”
It turned out that my mum had found a lump and had been diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. She went into hospital that same day to start treatment. Although the prognosis was good I still battled with whether I should come home immediately or wait and just carry on a little longer. My mum was adamant I should carry on travelling at least for a while but it took me a while to come to terms with everything going on at home while I was meant to be having a good time. I did end up going back earlier than planned but Ben and I still had over 4 weeks of travel. We had an amazing few weeks in Borneo and most importantly we got to Australia for a short 2 weeks to see my family until our departure date finally arrived.
Adjusting to normal life again is not easy
By the time we did arrive back home I felt ready to be there. My mum was in hospital and I wanted to be around to help her. It was nice being home and getting back into a routine for a while. I got straight back into the gym and eating well. I made sure I got up early and I tried to be tidier and more organised. But of course nothing really felt like it had before I’d left. I was living at home alone, rushing around taking care of her, and visiting my dad and gran in the nursing home. After a few weeks I started to really feel the weight of all the responsibility, I felt lonely and downtrodden.
Life can, and will, throw everything at you, when it wants to
It all culminated in a weekend. I had volunteered to take on a couple of shifts at my old job just to earn a little money but while I was there I just felt terrible. When I checked my phone at the end of my shift I had missed a lot of messages from my poor auntie who had been frantically trying to get hold of me.
This time it was my dad. In the few days I hadn’t visited him while I was in my funk he had got a chest infection and hadn’t been able to take antibiotics. I rushed straight over to the nursing home where I was met with one of the nurses. They sat me down and told me gently that it wasn’t looking good. The decision had already been made a few years ago not to take him into hospital. The only thing that they could do, give him antibiotics, wasn’t working because he wasn’t swallowing them.
It took a few days for the chest infection to do its job. Although my poor mum was out of action, in a particularly bad phase of chemo, I was lucky that my family all stepped up to come and support me and be with my dad in his last few days. He passed away on the 21st of August. I could say a lot more here but I feel that grief is personal and for now I want to keep it to myself.
You need to give yourself space to grieve
From that point on until fairly recently I haven’t felt like I’ve had a chance to breathe properly. On the 3rd of September, not even a week after my Dad’s funeral I had to move to Cardiff to start a teacher training course. This had been arranged months in advance in January and when my mum was diagnosed she was adamant I should still do it. So I did. But the grief was still fresh and my mum was still in hospital. And Life, apparently was not done with the hits yet.
On the 4th of September, the first day of my course, I got a phone call from my mum. My nain (gran) wasn’t looking well. She had some kind of chest infection and it didn’t look good, I was told to be prepared. An hour later I got another phone call to tell me she’d passed away. I felt like it had to be a joke. It just felt too ridiculous. But it wasn’t a joke at all. It was Life again. I flew back home for the funeral which was the second week of my course, then the next day I flew back and tried to throw myself into work.
There’s no shame in quitting
I was lucky that I had such supportive peers, tutors and mentors but it was still very strange. Here I was in the most stressful course possible getting over three huge life events, never mind the readjustment from travel. It all culminated in a mini breakdown at the end of November. I had had enough. I was far away from home where my mum was now out of hospital recovering and coming to terms with her new life without my dad and her mum, I needed to be home. In December I officially left the course and returned home.
Part of me felt a bit gutted that I’d had to give up. I knew I’d pretty much decided teaching wasn’t for me but there was still that voice inside that hated that I couldn’t just push through it and finish the year. But then I’d like to have seen anyone else experience the same amount of crap from Life finish one of the most stressful courses possible as well.
Ultimately I knew I had to take some time to rebuild myself. I wanted to focus on my health, my wellbeing and my future. I want to spend time with the people that matter most to me and appreciate life in its everyday glory.
You are stronger than you think, there are positives in everything.
With everything Life has thrown at me it feels like it hasn’t been real. In some ways I feel disconnected from it all. Perhaps because in the past few months I’ve had to recite the big 3 life events like a list to people I haven’t seen for months or people I’ve just met. They look at me in stunned shock with no idea what to say. I forget that to other people it sounds like the worst year possible, but 2017 has been far from it. As I said, it has had its highs as well as its lows. It’s all part of this adventure that is Life.
- Visited the beautiful state of Kerala as an introduction to India and fell in love with the country.
- Looked for snakes in the jungles of India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Borneo.
- Stayed with an incredible Indian family near Kolkata.
- Fell for the sprawling metropolis of Bangkok.
- Visited Angkor Wat by bike and fell in love with the dusty, dirty Siem Reap.
- Stayed in an incredible Mountain Lodge in Cambodia.
- Hiked 28km in the Vietnamese jungle to a Crocodile Lake to find venomous snakes.
- Scuba dived for the first time in Thailand.
- Saw a Sea Turtle while snorkelling.
- Came face to face with wild Orangutans in Borneo.
- Drank a lot of coffee in a lot of awesome coffee shops round the world.
- Escaped the UK during half term for a cheap as chips break to Bulgaria.`z.