In this blog, I’ve written about tips for solo travelling and the many reasons why I love it. But there isn’t yang without yin. I want to tell you the other side of the story, reflecting on a particular episode that happened to me. And no, it wasn’t about being robbed, or harassed or anything like that. In this episode, I was my one and only enemy. I’m no victim, only the villain.
We all have bad days. And as unlikely as it may seem, sometimes those bad days can happen when you’re travelling. Whether because you’re going through something, or because something happened that really put you off. There is this misconception that travelling will resolve your issues. Leave problems at home. A terrible, terrible misconception. Believe me. That is not what happens. Whatever demons live within you, you’ll carry them around. Whether you want it or not.
The thing is, when you have company and you’re going through something, conversation can help you to not obsess over those negative thoughts. Your demons may give you some slack. But if you’re alone, it doesn’t matter how amazing the place you’re in is, if you haven’t found a way to tackle those little bastards, they’ll take over you.
This little episode takes place in Rome. The idyllic Italian capital. A place I need to go back to.
The trip was ruined by an incident that triggered in me something I wasn’t able to stop for a few months. I happened to have a job interview scheduled for the morning of the second day of my trip. It wasn’t ideal, but I made it work.
I was all set with my computer in my hotel room and was pretty confident about it. The first interview had gone really well, and it was a great opportunity I hadn’t even sought out. And these things never happen to me. I always had to work really hard for anything to come my way. So this was a first, and while I was exploring the old Roman ruins the day before, I kept practising answers in my head to the potential questions I may be asked. Oh I was prepared. So prepared.
But the next day, what I was asked in my interview was “What angle do the clock pointers do at 3:15” and “How many red cars there are in London”. I work in digital marketing. I don’t think these test my ability of putting together a complete strategy for a client in any way. No questions on my experience, on my real knowledge of the job. Nothing. This completely threw me off. I guess they wanted to see how I would handle it. But they were expecting correct answers. The person interviewing was rude. She just seemed exasperated, while I could see my chances for the job completely blowing up in front of my eyes, after hours of preparation. It simply wasn’t fair. After 10 minutes the interview was over and I wanted to go back to bed and cry. Cry of anger. And humiliation.
Still, I was in Rome. I gave a deep breath. I’m in Rome. Just swallow it and let’s go and explore. I hadn’t realised that event had been the ultimate trigger of some real s**** going on in my head at the time. It wasn’t the interview that destroyed my self-confidence, made me go down a spiral of depression once again. It had been happening. But that episode was the cherry on top of the cake if I’m allowed to use such a cheery image to illustrate this horror scene. No matter how much I tried to climb up the hole that episode had thrown me in, I couldn’t. I kept obsessing over it. Replaying it over and over in my head. It didn’t matter the amazing sights, the walks in that lovely, old town. Even the food was tasteless. Can you imagine? Food being tasteless in Italy?
I sat down for a while somewhere. I was so lost in my own thoughts, I don’t even remember exactly where in Rome I was. My head was starting to hurt. I was really feeling bad. And then a thought, a new one, came over me. “I wish I was not here alone”.
That was a first. And of course it made me feel even worse.
I don’t think having someone with me on that trip would have saved me from the stuff I was going through, but it would have been nice to be able to talk about other stuff, even to rant if needed, to distract me.
While I walked in those streets, my only companions were my demons. And I kept feeding them with this anger, these dark, negative thoughts. They were joyfully biting me, tangled in these sentiments. Making sure I knew how shit I really was.
Don’t believe what Hollywood is telling you. It is true that travelling, especially solo, will make you grow, see things through a different lens, and educate you. But it won’t solve your problems. That is something you need to work through yourself. Visiting the Coliseum, enjoying some gelato while sitting in front of the Pantheon, or admiring the beautiful sculptures of Bernini… it’s all great stuff. A distraction, perhaps. Yet, if you’re not well, all it takes is for the wind to blow a little stronger for you to fall apart.
What I know is that I wished I had someone with me at that time. I wish I could have been distracted by some random and completely fruitless conversation. Hearing a familiar voice, an understandable voice. Without it, it was just me and the demons, for four days, alone, in Rome.
I’ve been coming to peace with my mental health challenges and I’ve learned that the best wait to fight against any existing prejudice is by talking about it. While travelling has helped me massively to strengthen me and grow as a person, just make sure you are mentally fit to endure the solicitude that travelling solo might be.
Hope you managed to read the whole thing and understand where I’m coming from with this story. Don’t use travelling as an excuse to run away from your problems. Use it instead to challenge yourself to get outside of your comfort zone, to truly learn and open your mind to the beautiful and diverse world outside.
If you do want to check out my Rome posts, check down below 😎 (I hope the random GIFs helped to light up the mood).