Last week I wrote about how depression fuels my wanderlust. Today I want to touch on the other side of the coin.
When you travel as much as I do, you are constantly living in extreme scenarios. Just last night I was at a bonfire on the beach until 1am and this morning I was up again at 5am to teach sunrise yoga. You never know what you are going to get thrown into and you generally just go with the flow.
There is very little stability in my life and it is extremely hard for me to maintain meaningful relationships (of any sort) when I refuse to stay in one place.
So while traveling is a major tool for me when it comes to coping with depression, sometimes I wonder how much of my depression was born out of travel in the first place.
When you are constantly changing environments, your identity is always in question. Everywhere you go you are surrounded by new people with different values. We all know how we act different depending on who you are around. This gets heightened when you are around drastically different people every few weeks.
Every time I go somewhere, I learn something about myself. I take those lessons with me to the next place I go. All of this change can be great. It has helped me discover which parts of myself are my true self and which parts are a product of my environment.
But all this change can also cause one hell of an identity crisis. Especially when I go home and everyone expects me to be the person I was before I left.
I don't often end up in my darkest places when I am traveling. All of the newness keeps me distracted and leaves me with little time to think myself to death.
However, when I get home for a trip, I feel the consequences of my insatiable wanderlust in full force. Back in my room, where nothing is different, my own changes become blaringly obvious.
My parents still live in the town I was born in, and I am grateful to have that stable home, but at times that stability can be suffocating. The familiar air feels stagnant after breathing new air every day. The very stability that I appreciate in Danville can feel threatening to my flighty lifestyle.
Every time I come home I take stock: what friends did I lose touch with? What values have I lost or gained? How is Sarah 2016 different than Sarah 2015?
With every trip I grow further away from the little Californian girl I once was. And with every return I feel a lost in my own skin.
Inevitably this back-and-forth game of identity limbo leads to depression, which (as I mentioned last week) leads to more travel. Thus, the cycle continues...
Depression is a tricky game that your brain plays on itself. When you are high, you fell as though you have finally won. You believe you will never be low again. And when you are low, coming out of that place feels impossible and no matter how many times you have been through it, you don't believe you will ever experience the high again.
When I started this series I thought about lying; I thought about saying I have all the answers and travel only does good things for my mental health. But what good does it do to fool myself? And how can I help those who share my experiences if I cannot be honest about those experiences?
Not only do I not have all the answers, but I don't really have any answers at all. I am still figuring things out and mostly making it up as I go along. But if there is anything travel has taught me it is that there is no black and white. There is no good and bad. There is only my life and my attempt to live it as best I can. And, seeming as I too am only human, that attempt is guaranteed to be messy.