Why am I not having the BEST TIME EVER?

Richard and I spent 10 weeks traveling in Southeast Asia over the summer and I haven't written or shared much about it. It was a good trip, but... it wasn't necessarily the right trip for me to be on in that moment. It's hard to admit that, because people expect to always hear that travel is amazing and wonderful and joyful and that you're having the BEST TIME EVER. But sometimes that's not the case. Not because of anything wrong with the destination, or the trip, or the travel partner - but because of what's going on inside your head. You don't escape what's in your head by traveling - sometimes you feel it more acutely.

The year leading up to the trip was busy and frequently chaotic, starting with a move to Ghana for 5 months. I came home after layoffs at work and was given more responsibility, which was great but also meant more things to juggle and more travel. Then Richard got into a masters program at UCLA, hooray! So we started planning our cross-country move, while also trying to spend as much time with east coast friends and family as we could before we left.

On my fourth and final spring in DC, I finally made it to see the cherry blossoms.

On June 7, we quit our jobs.

June 8 we packed our home into two plywood cubes.

Half of everything we own, ready for storage

June 9 we drove to North Carolina.

And on June 12, we flew to Bali.

This is the point where it sounds like everything slows down and vacation begins and my mind can finally rest - Bali is paradise, right? But it didn't feel that way to me. There was always the next leg of the trip to be planned, lodging to be booked, finances to be sorted out, plus I was starting to apply for jobs in LA. Traveling can be a lot of work, and on this trip more than others, that work really felt burdensome. I was just too exhausted to enjoy the planning the way I normally do, too worn down to roll with the punches, too worried about what was coming next to fully relax into the time off.

That's not to say the trip was without joy. We chased waterfalls in Bali, hiked through fields surrounded by volcanoes in Java, and stood just few feet away from orangutans in the jungle of Sumatra.

Mom and baby orangutan hang from trees in Sumatra, Indonesia
Orangutans! Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia

In Singapore we marveled at the Gardens by the Bay (and the potable water) and were spoiled by a stay with my old boss and her husband.

The Cloud Forest Dome at Gardens by the Bay

We hiked through tea plantations and sampled delicious food with Indian, Chinese, Malay, and Indonesian influences in Malaysia.

Hiking through tea plantations in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

We motorbiked around tropical islands and got caught in downpours on the beach and ate our weight in Thai curries.

Khao soi in Chiang Mai

We made lots of kitten friends.

All of that was lovely and I'm so grateful for the experience, but the underlying current running through me was anxiety, not the joy and ease that I wanted to be feeling.

It's taken me a couple of months to accept and admit that it's okay that this trip filled my cup in some ways, but drained me in others. And since my cup was already so drained from the time leading up to it, I felt that very acutely. I don't regret the trip for a second, and I'm ridiculously grateful for the opportunity and aware of the privilege I have in being able to quit my job and travel with the person I love. All of that can be true, and it can still not have been the perfect trip for me right then.

And now that I've got that all out in the open, I am actually eager to start writing about the trip! Funny how that works.


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