My 15-Month Travel Ended on a Therapy Sofa

Between June 2016 (when I published my last blog post) until today, shitload of things happened in my life: I became a cook at a bar & grill in the middle of Western Australian desert, kissed a stranger in Adelaide, did a tent-less camping in Ayers Rock, hiked on an ice mountain in New Zealand, ate bagels for breakfast in New York City, munched on Philly cheese steak sandwich in Philadelphia, saw Beyoncé’s original Superbowl dress in Cleveland, enjoyed Midwestern deep dish pizza in Chicago, hitchhiked all the way from Minnesota to North Dakota, froze in the wilderness of Wyoming & Idaho, had a Thanksgiving lunch at an old man’s house in Montana, went sleepless in Seattle, cleaned up a crappy hostel in Alaska, overslept in Qatar and almost missed my flight, said “fuck you” to a white trash in Sri Lanka, and returned to my office desk I had left for 15 months. In a country I am most uncomfortable with: Indonesia.

The long list above is what I told most people and acquaintances when they asked how my trip was. Only a few people received different kind of list: that I felt so lonely in such a vibrant city like Melbourne, almost booked my flight home when a guy in Brisbane broke my heart, got completely broke in world’s most expensive city (read: Sydney), had a severe fever & diarrhea (at the same time) in Queenstown and had no one taking care of me, wept tears at a diner in Wisconsin while thinking about my shitty love life, regretted the fact that my father is nowhere like that gentle & loving old man in Montana, went sleepless in Seattle cause I was disturbed by a scenery of a little boy getting kisses from his dad (cause I didn’t know how that really felt), and finally broke down on a New York’s subway train realizing the city was just one more dream I couldn’t make true.

Those travels ruined my life. I gained so many thing, but I lost many too.

Many people say, “Travel the world and you’ll find yourself,” and I thought that sentence was a total bullshit. I thought, how can a trip help you find yourself? And what the fuck is “find yourself” anyway? But now I realize my travels made me discover something real big about myself, opened something inside my heart I thought had died so long ago.

I was completely aware that my childhood wasn’t perfect: parents separated when I was two, as one of them turned to be a stinky cheater. And instead of redeeming his mistakes he chose to remarry and reproduce again, which later became his excuse not to feed me. I thought I was fine with all of that, cause my mom is pretty awesome and my life turned okay: I had good jobs, enough money, great friends, travelled to all continents and did not turn to be a vegetarian.

However when I was in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, it all became so different. I spent so much times sitting at a city park, chilling out by the beach, and hiking the mountains. I was free from stress and my old busy life. Little did I know, that gave an extra space in my brain to think about all those pains from the past. Unluckily, that space is enormous. It really bothered me to think how frustrating it is to be bullied by my schoolmates cause I couldn’t play soccer… then I blamed my father for never being around and teaching me how to do that. And every time I got dumped by a guy, that reminds me to my father again cause he was the first one to make me feel worthless and unwanted and undeserving of love. I know it sounds so dramatic, but whatever.

I was overwhelmed by anger, disappointment and every negative emotion you could mention.

Long story short, I spent countless night crying in my bed and some public toilets. I had a separation issue when I was completely terrified to be on my own. And it all happened on my fifth week in New York, the city of dream. Then something else happened that made me leave that awesome place, as if all depression I had ain’t enough. I came to New York to live there, not just to visit, and as my plane soared up in the air that night my already-broken heart scattered into pieces.

I hated it when people said “Welcome home!” to me as I arrived in Indonesia. The country isn’t my home. Smiling was not only hard; it was almost impossible. I couldn’t afford to be alone, so I stayed at a friend’s house for three weeks last January. I cried in my office restrooms. I literally experienced the worst time of my life, but I tried so hard to look strong and tough. I said to myself, “You’re good, nothing’s wrong.”

Nevertheless I’m lucky that I’ve got good people around me. Someone made me open and honest about my thoughts and the feelings I had. She said if I lie about things to make myself look stronger and tougher, it’s pointless. Mental health matters to everyone, and the first step I should take is admitting. Admitting that I’m wounded. That I should ask for help. She told me not be afraid to ask for help; so in February I hired a shrink.

I’ve met her three times; I’ve opened up to her about my feeling toward my father and how that affects my relationship with men, and everything else about my sadness. I’m glad that I did. She gave me some therapy and assigned me with some exercises to improve my mood. My problems have not been solved, however I’m no longer a sad man now. Not happy yet, but certainly happier.

At first I was reluctant to write everything up publicly like this, but I also want to speak up about mental health. I realize some people around me experience so many shits in their lives. I can tell they’re sad, some of them even depressed, and I hope they are not afraid to admit it too. It’s okay to say you’re not okay.

Maybe some of my readers experience the same, and it’s also okay to say we need help.

From all results I’ve gained by fixing my mental health, my most favorite part is that I don’t regret traveling at all. It didn’t traumatize me. In fact, I’m glad that those travels opened up my wounds… so that I can learn something precious about myself before making many more important decisions, like getting married or having kids.

I’m also happy that I don’t have to spend so many time in Jakarta (God I hate that city). My work gets me stationed far far away from the city, about 7 hours flight and a chopper ride, with beautiful scenery of green mountains, river and fresh air. It helps me heal faster.

And while doing those efforts to be a happy person, I’m currently planning another travel that would be the biggest one in my life. It will literally change my life, and I’m up for every challenge coming along the way.

ZF

Once a wanderer, always a wanderer

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