Updated: Sep 23, 2018
Summer in Europe. The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, France and Italy. Once again I will tell the actual experiences behind the beautiful pictures. My goal for this years travel was to concentrate more on making connections and visiting old friends. What I didn’t foresee was the deep connections that I needed to make with myself.
July 7th, 2017. I am sitting in my friends apartment in Amsterdam. After trying to live like a local and sustaining a mild concussion, cycling over a canal bridge one late Saturday night after to many vinos , I find myself house bound, emerged in various personal development documentaries. This was the start of a summer of self- discovery and realisations.
So here are some reflections and learnings that I have had this summer:
While watching the self help documentaries and the conversations I had with my friend in Amsterdam I realised that the choices that I’ve made in recent years have tested my emotionally stability. Living abroad, relocating from Perth to Sydney. Leaving and changing jobs so I could travel. Numerous house shares, taking few holidays to save money to travel left me exhausted, homesick and burnt out. In future I need to try and live a more balanced life. Maybe if I stayed in the same job, lived in the one place for a while my mental health would benefit. Maybe I’d be a bit more sane if I didn’t go out side my comfort zone so much.
Solo travel for me has always brought up uncomfortable feelings due to being outside of my comfort zone. I experienced this when I travelled in 2015 but this time it’s bringing about a different type of anxiety .I’ve changed since 2015. I feel like I’m moving into a different phase of my life . I no longer want to blow all my savings on travel. Part of me is craving a base to feel settled. As much as I loved Sydney, I failed to ever really settle there. I became very home sick and made a rash decision to leave Australia for good as I hadn’t been home in nearly two years. So now here I am traveling through Europe while mourning my life in Australia and still home sick for Ireland. I need to stop. I need to go home and settle for a while.
I have also learned that my desire to travel long term is gone. I saved up enough money to travel for six months but a few months in and I have had enough. Long term travel for me is now exhausting and is impacting on my health and well being. Healthy diet, exercise and sleep is a struggle when you are travelling long term. From here on it will be shorter periods of travel.
I have also learned that sometimes a picture tells lies. A glamorous photo of me in Venice for example. The reality behind the picture. Behind the shades I’m tired, really tired. I didn’t sleep in the hostel at all last night. The lovely Italian girl snored all night. Behind the sucked in stomach I am very bloated from too much pizza. Its 35 degrees and I wish I had wore something more practical than this long chic dress. Don’t get me wrong I had a lovely time in Venice with my brother but like life itself there are ups and down and a picture only shows 10 per cent of one’s life.
In mid July an emotional journey begun after recieving a rather alarming text message from my close friend in Australia about three police men turning up on her doorstep in Sydney looking for me in relation to a suicide in Australia. I was sitting in Amsterdam airport on route to Barcelona. Not an ideal situation to be in with the news that was to come. As the days followed I eventually discovered that a barrister in Western Australia was looking for me in relation to a young aboriginal girl that I worked with in Perth in 2013. I was hoping it wouldn’t be her. Not Arianna. This young girl was someone who had a special place in my heart. Sometimes it’s the most traumatised, vulnerable children that we connect with most. When I first met her she was so traumatised she didn’t speak. It took me weeks, months even, for her to trust me and to feel safe in my company. She was a child who I knew had been through so many horrific things that I had an overwhelming want to make some small impact in her life.
This young girl took her own life in 2016. A coronial inquest into her death was occuring and the court were requesting my records of interaction with Arianna. In 2013 I had concerns for this child and unfortunately these concerns weren’t acted on. As a result this young girl was left in a situation where she felt the only option was to take her own life. Anger, rage, sadness and guilt were feelings that I experienced when I heard the news of her death. This experience made me question whether this is the career for me. Am I fit for this. Working with vulnerable children is so rewarding but also the most difficult work I have ever done. This is an example of how the system fails the most vulnerable people and unfortunately this happens all the time. Do I want to be apart of this system? I’m not sure I do. Arianna you are an angel now and I will always remember you.
After this experience travel was hard. I felt guilty for my privileged life. A white person with freedom, money and greed. Greed to see every scenic site in the world. I knew then that I would no longer need to travel to every country in the world. The experience of Arianna’s death has changed my perspective. My goal now is to leave this life a little better, and not to try and get caught up in chasing money and power and travel goals. The most profound thing I can do is impact another’s person life. I already have enough and for now have seen enough. I feel very grateful for what I do have. After visiting the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam and hearing of Arianna’s death I realised that these girls missed opportunities and their ‘would haves’ are now my opportunities.
A few days later I find myself in Switzerland. I am now staying with two Swiss friends that I met while travelling through South Africa in 2015. After spending a week with them and also my Dutch friend in Amsterdam, I have learned so many things. The way these three people went out of their way to accomodate me, make me feel welcome, introduce me to their families and teach me their values has made me want to a better friend, daughter and person. They reminded me how to be kind, positive and how to show love. They also reminded me of far I have come in the last decade. I have not always had such an amazing network of people around me. Let me take you back to the year 2010. I was working in St. James in hospital in Dublin conducting a research study. One afternoon I found myself interviewing an elderly man. An oversized rugged man in his sitting room surrounded by lots of clutter and odours from his little german shepard. Little did he or I realise but what he said to me that day would have a profound impact on me and plant seeds for me that would eventually help me leave a very toxic relationship that I was in at the time. He told me a story about when he was a young boy and how his father would always say to him ‘show me your friends and I will tell you who you are’. He said that this thought him to always surround himself with positive people who he would be proud to be associated with. When those words came out of his mouth, I knew I had made some poor choices. I knew I had people in my life who should not be there. People who were negative, unhealthy and emotionally abusive. People who were threatening my confidence, life and chance of happiness. This was the start of me changing my life at that time.
And here I am in Switzerland with some of the kindest people I have ever met. I have come so far in the last decade and being around these friends and thinking of my friends all over the world makes me proud of how far I have come. When I finally left that toxic relationship I knew things could only get better but I never envisaged that I would be this lucky to have so many amazing people in my life. Sometimes I forget the person I used to be. The person who found it hard to be a friend or found it hard to keep friends or be surrounded by good people. Isn’t life great where you can make choices and change and evolve who you are and constantly become a better version of yourself. Hallelujah.
I have had a summer filled with romance, fun, friendship, sun, sea, hiking, sunsets and sadness but most importantly self discovery. Now it’s time to go home and start a new phase of my life and to continue to learn and grow.