Where Have I Been? (Life Update)

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Girl in Oaxaca Mexico

I’m interrupting my usual frivolous, flippant travel content today to talk about something a bit more serious. Errrr… me. 

This post is about why I’ve not really been travelling much recently. Because whenever I catch up with a friend I haven’t seen for a while, the inevitable question is always: where have you been lately? I used to like it, because I usually had an interesting answer, because it was fun being the traveller, the girl with all the stories.

Lately, though, the answer to that question has been nowhere. I’ve been giving vague, glossed-over answers like “oh, I’m staying in England because I want to enjoy summer here” and “oh I’m just trying to travel a bit less at the moment”. Which are part truths but also huge lies. I want to travel. I wish I was travelling. But for the last few months, I’ve not really been able to – and it felt like someone cut off an air supply. 

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid. Not particularly serious, but also not that un-serious. To quote my doctor last week, it’s “very serious, but not urgent”. Next week I have to have an MRI scan, and once they have the results I’ll probably have to have surgery. Minor surgery, but still scary.

That’s the real problem, I’m scared. I know it will probably all be ok, but I still feel really scared. It’s not a pleasant thing to deal with anyway, the meds make me paranoid and anxious and extremely emotional, and I just feel a bit… shitty. 

Travel stories that don't get told

Now, I’m well aware that it could be much worse. When I’ve told any of my friends or family, they’ve brushed it off as a “well that’s not too bad then” and focused on the positive. I wish I could be that blasé about my own health – but finding out I was sick really knocked me for six. 

I stopped travelling after the diagnosis because I was waiting for my referral to a specialist. And because I wasn’t even sure if I could travel, when I kind of needed to stay near the NHS (who, by the way, have been amazing). Then, I was waiting for the medication to stop making me feel like utter crap (which it hasn’t). Mostly, it was because I was just really bloody miserable and didn’t feel like doing anything. But not travelling made me feel even more miserable, because travelling seems to be the only time that I actually feel like I like myself. I might actually be addicted. 

Not travelling made me feel like a fraud – a travel blogger with no travels to talk about. I kept feeling like I needed to justify it, saying I was staying in the UK by choice, trying to convince myself it was true. For some reason, I always feel this need to put a positive spin on things. As though I am continually doing PR for my own life. Taking the things I don’t like and re-branding them as a blessing in disguise, or something I actually wanted, or simply hiding them behind a gag and moving on. I even managed to put an almost-positive spin on my mother’s death – despite the fact that it has fucked me up so stupendously that I will probably never feel like a complete human.

Not travelling also made me way more miserable than I ever expected it would. At the start of last year, I moved back to England full time because I wanted to travel less. Or, to travel more sensibly, to find a balance. But not being able to travel, or even plan or book anything, made me realise just how much I need it. That in itself is a worrying thought – because maybe I’ll never have the stable, settled life a huge part of me craves. Maybe I’ll always be fighting an unending battle between the two halves of myself. 

Finally, because I couldn’t wait any more, I booked a trip to Mexico for Dia de Muertos. I still feel like it was the wrong, reckless decision – running away for three weeks when, at the time I booked it, I hadn’t even spoken to the specialist yet. Now I know I’m almost definitely going to need surgery. Now, I have an MRI scan on the day before I fly. Hopefully, running away to Mexico for three weeks will give me exactly what I need to come home and face this. Hopefully, it will turn out that this wasn’t a foolish, reckless decision. 

Isla Holbox Mexico
On my first trip to Mexico

But that’s where I’m at at the moment. Reckless decisions and a whole lot of self-indulgent wallowing. It’s not been the best year! But since it really is ok not to be ok, I thought I should just yell into the void of the internet that I’m not completely ok.

Speaking of the internet – that probably feeds my need to be positive all the time. I mean, it mostly comes from being British, and reserved, and scared of being vulnerable, and my parents’ daughter… but the online world definitely doesn’t help. Everything on social media can seem so perfect, and it’s a horrible feeling like the only person in the world having a bad day. Maybe I’m part of the problem, only posting the “nice” photos on social media, mostly sticking to the good stories because I prefer to remember the good over the bad. So here’s a post about the bad. A lot of this year has sucked for me! Not all of it, but life’s a spectrum, right? There are ups and downs. Right now the downs are winning, but that won’t be forever.

I can’t let myself wallow anymore, so here’s me opening up about how things are a bit shit right now, in the hopes that I can stop internalising everything and start making things a bit less shit.

Starting with running away to Mexico.

6 thoughts on “Where Have I Been? (Life Update)”

  1. I’m a travelholic. I have learnt that if I don’t have trips booked I feel depressed and trapped. It’s not just being away though: the planning, the research, the anticipation of a trip are just as fun. If you need the trip to Mexico to provide you with equilibrium and to show you that you can still travel on your meds etc, then that’s not a rash decision. You’ve picked a familiar destination, a safe choice. As long as you have decent travel insurance (and have declared your diagnosis to your insurers) and take the usual sensible precautions to avoid picking up some tropical lurgy just like normal, all you are doing is effectively going to work, just like every other poor sod. That’s not rash or irresponsible, just practical.

    You may find that you have to make some adjustments to the way you travel to cope with the effects of your meds. It will be trial and error. Adjustments and compromise don’t make you a failure. They just make you pragmatic. Evolving requires adapting. If you have to slow down for a bit after your op, it doesn’t mean you can’t plan future trips. Use the planning as a surrogate for the actual travelling. Revel in the detail.

    Also, be clear that your need to travel doesn’t prevent you having a relationship or “settling down”. They aren’t mutually exclusive. Lots of people travel a lot as part of their work yet maintain relationships and homelife. Don’t use your travel as an excuse if it is what you want. Conversely, if it’s not what you want, don’t feel the need to conform to societal expectations. Just be honest to yourself about your choices.

    Enjoy Mexico. I had a trip booked 22 years ago which I had to cancel because a job offer came up and I’ve still never been. Still on the list though…

    1. Thank you so much for such a lovely, thoughtful comment :) It’s definitely ALL about the planning and anticipation – not having anything booked at all, or even knowing if I could/should book something, was killing me. But you’re right. I rang my insurance as soon as I’d spoken the specialist, as I was waiting until I had some more detail. Had to pay a premium but at least I’m all covered if anything goes wrong. And I added people I trust to speak on my behalf if I need them to. So I think I’ve done everything right, and Mexico is somewhere I’ve been twice before and know very well, so it does feel safe.

      And when I get back, hopefully I’ll have a date for my surgery and will know exactly when I’ll be able to start travelling more again. Then I can start saving and planning. I have an idea for January so I’m really hoping the surgery is all over and done with this year!

      Also – I know that travelling and being settled aren’t mutually exclusive. I just worry that I personally can’t do both. I really crave stability and a nice settled life, but as soon as I have one I feel trapped and a miserable. This year I was supposed to be finding a balance but one hasn’t come along yet – so maybe next year?!

      Thank you again for such a lovely comment!

  2. Just found your site because Nathan tagged you on FB for your current taco tour and Day of the Dead trip. I’ve been dealing with thyroid issues myself now for about four years…I went in to see an endocrinologist in the US because my hair was falling out and they did a thousand blood tests and figured out something was wrong with my thyroid. Turns out I had four tumors (one was the size of the egg they said). It wasn’t until after removing my thyroid a year later that they discovered all the tumors were benign thankfully. The surgery was terrifying (my first and only “big surgery”). But it wreaked havoc on my ability to do much of anything, let alone travel. I’m now dealing with two years of trying to regulate my synthetic hormones, which is a constant battle. Some months I test under, and then I test over. I’m still exhausted much of the time, but it’s getting better and I am starting to travel again a little more often – other health problems have grounded me again since summer so still no real travel or blogging until I can catch up on client work I missed while not able to work for two months. I don’t think coming to Mexico was a reckless decisions…Mexico has some fantastic healthcare (better than what I am getting in the Netherlands for sure). Not sure if you are headed back to Merida with Nathan after this during your trip, but part of why I relocated here part time was for the health care and the access to good endocrinologists and specialists if need be. I wish I had been able to do what you are before my surgery – the three weeks before mine were hellish with my father in the hospital for emergency heart surgery and flying between Los Angeles and the Netherlands twice as the landlord there decided to not extend the lease until after my surgery. Argh. In any case, the mental release before surgery will do you good I think…I’m not sure what the treatment plan is for after, but don’t get discouraged if you feel even more off for a bit if you’re on synthetic hormones. It’s not uncommon to take time to find the right levels. If you truly feel off, ask if they can experiment with different brands. Some have less side effects. Feel free to drop me a line if you ever want to talk…I certainly can relate to what you’re dealing with and the battle of wanting/needing to travel, but feeling like crap. I had some great support from people who had been through it before my own surgery which helped immensely. Enjoy your trip and all the tacos! 🙂 Good luck!

    1. Hi Erin, thank you so much for your comment. I’ve been so surprised how much better I’ve felt physically and mentally since getting here. The meds were giving me a ton of problems, but I think a huge part of my problem was physiological, and just getting out here doing what I love has made me feel a whole lot more like myself already. Still dealing with a lot of issues obviously, and I have to adjust my normal travel style a lot – plus I’m discovering that the heat sensitivity side effect is VERY real 😂 But I’m glad I’m in a place where I can really take my mind off the results. Had the CT scan just before I left and I should get the results just after. I’m hoping that once I’ve had my surgery I can start travelling again, but slow it down a bit or maybe just try living abroad. I just need to see when I get my appointments scheduled in etc. Sounds like you really went through it all so I’m sorry for that – I’m hoping I don’t have too much of a painful experience as I’d really like it to be all over with soon. But we’ll have to wait for my results etc before I know more. Do you live in Merida? Maybe I’ll see you there next year!

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