It’s been about seven months since I went backpacking. Ok, I did go on a few week-long trips since moving to Bangkok, but that’s different. For one, I got to travel with a small day bag as opposed to my 40L backpack. Anyways, I’m writing this as I am sitting on the plane to Da Nang and a few things just dawned on me which has resulted in a mix of emotions. I’m not going to be back in Bangkok; a place I now call home; for a month! I get to go home to Canada to see my friends and family after nine months of being away. And lastly, I’ll have to face my social anxiety again because; let’s be honest; I got comfortable in Bangkok.
To say I’m excited is obvious. I always look forward to travelling, exploring new destinations and visiting old. I have a few places I want to see and a few things I want to do here in Vietnam, during my stopover in Taipei, as well as back home in Canada. However, amidst all this excitement my anxiety has popped up to say, “What’s up, Candice?”
It really baffles me still how the mind can control a person like this. I’ve had so many amazing experiences. Been the happiest I ever thought I would be. Felt the most secure in my being both physically and mentally. Yet still, I am feeling so incredibly nervous.
Honestly, I have been feeling quite anxious for the past two days. I mentioned that “I got comfortable in Bangkok” and what I mean by that in a social sense can be explained by the fact that I am an introverted person. I prefer to have a small group of friends and like to have a lot of solo time. I met so many amazing people when I worked at The Oasis Hostel in Chinatown, but it honestly really drained me. I was around people all the time. I now have some great friends that I met through school and mutual friends, and that’s how I like it. I got comfortable and haven’t felt a huge need to go out and meet people. However, now that I’m travelling; I need to get back into the social mindset a little bit. Which of course stresses me out.
Ok so this originally started as a post just to write about how anxiety still follows me around wherever I go, but I know I write a lot about that. Instead, I’m going to compile some things I do to combat those anxious thoughts and what has been helping me. Some of them have been mentioned in past posts, but I think it’s nice to see how I still do these things and how they work in my current situation.
1. Challenge yourself. It’s my top advice and honestly, the hardest thing to do. The more often you face small challenges, the easier it will get to do the things you want to as well as learn to manage your mind when things don’t go as planned. I’m someone who really likes to have a plan. Where am I going to go? When am I going to get there? What hostel am I sleeping at? I tend to buy my tickets days in advance, even earlier if I can. Hostels are also typically all booked at least a week before I arrive at my destination. This trip, I want to do something a bit different.
I got really inspired for this trip by a traveller I met while working at the hostel. He is very adventurous and very handsome and he just finished travelling from Germany to Nepal all by land. His name is Georg and he makes Youtube videos that I highly recommend checking out if you need any travel inspiration. Anyways, he is one of those travellers that doesn’t book things in advance, he just shows up at the hostels and transit stations when he needs their services. If the hostel is full or there are no buses/trains he just figures out something else to do, which looks like part of the fun of it. Ok, there is a point to all the gushing. This is something that I want to try to do to gain more flexibility in my travels and it doesn’t look that difficult (most of the time). However, this does lead me to my second piece of advice….
2. Don’t be afraid to compromise with yourself. Sometimes you just have to accept that doing something would cause more damage but it doesn’t need to stop what you want to accomplish. No matter how much I want to have completely loose plans, not planning where I’m going to sleep terrifies me. As a solo female traveller, I like to be able to read reviews online about the safeness of the hostel and the surrounding area as well as of the staff that work there and then know that I can get a bed at the hostel of my choosing. So in my head, I had to agree that I will still try to book my hostels last minute (like on the train/bus to the desired location) and show up at the transit stations when I feel like leaving, to give me that new sense of adventure that I’ve been inspired to have. The next point, as cliche as it sounds….
3. Get a hobby. Find something that you enjoy doing. I like to consider myself a creative person. I notice that I am the happiest when I am working with my hands and making something. Clothing, jewellery, heck, even Ikea furniture. It was something that I was missing a lot while travelling previously through Japan and Thailand and took a while for me to find something like that again even within my first couple months of living in Bangkok. This time around, I’m lugging a huge bag of beads with me in my backpack because I’ve been hooked on crafting these bracelets. I know that if I am having a moment where I am feeling super anxious about something, I have something that I can focus on doing that will help me relax. Reading, writing, running, meditating, anything that can help you put yourself into a different mindset so that you can go back to whatever that was stressing you out with a clearer perspective.
4. Don’t forget to recharge. Different personalities have different needs. I am an introverted person so I really need to take some time for myself in some way to “recharge my batteries.” It’s really easy to get distracted when you are having such a great time and meeting so many amazing people on your travels. Whatever helps you, just don’t forget to take care of yourself.
My last point I guess wraps all this up. Don’t ever be ashamed of your boundaries. It doesn’t matter what people may say, not doing something doesn’t make you an unadventurous or boring person. I have a story kind of related to mental boundaries.
If any of you live or have been in Bangkok within the last week, you will know that the BTS system has been really acting up. It’s been so bad and at peak hours in the morning, where it will take you at least an hour and a half to two hours to get to a destination that is normally only 30 minutes away. Monday morning, I was early to go to school for once. We only had two classes left and since I had missed a class last week due to falling ill, I didn’t want to miss anything else. Anyways, I make it to the BTS station earlier than usual and notice that the line to get onto the train is much, much longer than usual. No worries. I, in Thai fashion, squeeze myself onto the train and contort my body in order to stabilize myself without shoving my armpit in someone’s face. The train waited there. And waited. And waited…
About 15 minutes go by and the doors close. Phew! We are going. We get to the next station and more people try to pile onto the train. Once again we waited. Another 15 minutes go by and we are off again. This continued to happen. Each station had longer and longer lines. More and more people tried to squeeze themselves into every space they could find. Oh yeah! It is summer in Bangkok which meant that it was a warm morning. Enhanced by the close proximity that I shared with the 11 other people in my direct eye line, it was boiling in that train. I made it merely halfway to school in the same amount of time it would usually take me to get all the way to school and I couldn’t do it. I’ve never felt severely claustrophobic before and I never want to again after this experience.
It felt like I was having a panic attack. I was having difficulty breathing. I felt like I was going to pass out. I felt like I was going to throw up. I wanted to scream. It took me a while to actually get the nerves to push myself out of that train because that’s what I ended up having to do. I couldn’t do it. I wanted to go to school so bad but I needed to get out of that train. It was quite embarrassing. I imagine them thinking how the foreigner couldn’t cut it in Thailand because I so desperately needed to get off that train but at the same time, I also knew those thoughts were just in my head. I had to message my classmates and let them know I wouldn’t be attending that day because I couldn’t handle the train malfunctions. There were only two days left. Even though my friend Yuna met up with me later to give me the notes, learning a language is difficult and every ounce of class time with the Teacher is precious. I felt a little guilty and as if I failed someone.
The point of this story is to say that it’s ok to feel overwhelmed sometimes. Just take a step back. Do the things that make you happy and continue on your way. If you need a day to sit back and do nothing but chill out, do it!
I say this often. I am grateful to have the opportunities that I have to travel. Although travelling is amazing and a dream for a lot of people, I always want to show the not so great things since that’s a side that most people don’t see. I want to show people who have the same difficulties I have (or had) that they can do it too. Once upon a time, I was an extremely anxiety driven person. I was consumed and controlled by it. However, steadily doing the things I’ve spoken about in this post has really given me the ability to change my whole life. I don’t think that the anxiety will ever go away completely, but I forever look forward to seeing where this journey takes me.
Thanks for reading!