Traveling taught me how to be independent – but there is a problem with too much independence
Independence is good but like many things, too much can also be bad. We always talk about traveling as a way of learning how to be independent. But we don’t pay equal attention to its negative effects. In a normal day of travel, I had a first-hand experience of not feeling good about being too independent.
I am writing this today because I found myself in a very humbling situation yesterday. You see, I am already in Tbilisi for 3 weeks and this is the first day that the hostel was occupied. People don’t travel to Georgia during winter and in a certain period, I was the only one who braved the cold.
People came to celebrate New Year in Tbilisi and I was very shocked with the abrupt change. Suddenly, all the beds in the dorm were taken. In a matter of hours, the hostel garden where full of Russians drinking vodka at 10:00. I woke up on the 31st and someone was saluting me with a morning greeting. I had this vast space to myself for 20+ days and it was strange to be around people. I felt really weird.
I am a very friendly person but after the 20-day solitude, I had to undergo a slight adjustment period. I would usually return the “good morning” but for some reasons, I didn’t feel like it. I still feel I am alone in a hostel and is not obliged to rub elbows with my bunkmates.
One thing that bothered me the most was when after cooking dinner, I put the food on my plate and sat down the dining table where 8 other ‘hostelmates’ were playing a board game. I didn’t even say “hi,” nor asked if the seat was taken. Neither did I invite them to share my food.
“That was impolite of me,” I told myself. What the feck is wrong with me? Where did your values go, Ana Patricia?
Acknowledging mistakes to myself is one of the good skills I am proud to have honed in the years I am traveling. I am glad to be sharing to you my deep realisations about your admiration for my so-called independence.
I forgot how to ask for help. Or just ask.
My mom always told me it is okay to ask for help aka no man is an island. Humans need to co-exist. This is the reason why we should somehow be dependent on our fellow humans because that is the circle of life. A few examples include asking for directions. When I moved to Tel Aviv, my head would explode before I find certain locations. I never ask because I think it’s too much of a bother. You’re in a city that is facing the sea from North to South. You will never get lost. That was my reasoning. From not asking, I was late in meetings for hours and even ended up spending more money by taking the taxi.
I really believe it’s good to travel like that. Challenging ourselves when we are out here is a traveler’s hobby. The idea of being lost before finding something is normal most days but only if you are not in a hurry. I asked myself a few questions: what if I made that turn and didn’t know it was a neighbourhood of robots on meth? I would’ve been killed!
I traveled with an ex-friend of mine (yes, I have ex-friends) and I remember her to be one of the most efficient travelers I know. I look at her when we were traveling as 20-year olds and I have so much respect for her. She holds the map, walks without knowing where we are going (in reality she does) and asks for directions to every person we come across. It always saved us time, money and energy. This girl is amazing we did a lot in a day because of her tenacity! From rekindling our travel experiences, I realised that asking is also a form of independence.
When I first moved to Tel Aviv, I had a hard time asking people (even neighbours) for a favour. I was even in a minor bicycle accident and didn’t call anyone because I did not feel the need to. One of my Tel Avivi friends told me it is not fecking normal to be in a situation like that and call for help. He said I should’ve informed someone. I asked the ER guy if I was dying and he said no that’s why I didn’t call anyone.
But what if I was dying? What if I was dying and still thought that calling someone will only alarm/bother my friends? What if I was dying and nobody knew?
Which brings me to a good transition to my next point: relationships.
I was too self-reliant to maintain a relationship
Okay, we are down to your favourite part but I want to talk about friendship first. It counts as a relationship, okay! I used to be the girl who comes and go. Aside from the people I grew up with, I wasn’t good at keeping up with friends because there is a common understanding for all of us: we are all traveling. Nobody can maintain a very strong relationship when traveling. I mean, I had friends whom I lived in Peru for 6 months but where are we now? What are we doing? Surely, we are still ‘updated’ with each other’s lives (maybe say “happy birthday” in the Whatsapp group every 4 months) but it is very different when you are on different times of your lives.
The time of my life when I decided to move to Tel Aviv means I have to attend Saturday barbecue, Shabbat dinners and surprise birthday parties that I always chose to skip. It’s not that I was doing it intentionally but I don’t know? Maybe I was still in the ‘coming and go’ zone so I felt it was perfectly normal. I was telling myself this story but the truth is, I was afraid I’d make deeper friendships.
As part of our social activities, the normal thing to do when you are trying to live somewhere is to build friendships — which leads me to my next point, the part you like the most: I keep finding something wrong with dating Israeli men but I had an epiphany about a few seconds ago while writing this — maybe I am the one at fault? Maybe I am really not normal?
Okay, I am being too hard on myself with saying that. When it comes to dating, the only thing men complain about me is the constant move. Some do understand the need to move (because of my job) but still complains how I am awful at communicating while I am away. I must admit, I am really bad at Skype-ing aka long distance relationship but come on, they have to give it to me — I am very good when I am physically present. I really do my best. Still, more often, it doesn’t work out. But my hopes never went low because I also go with the flow.
I have the “there is nothing you can do to make me feel bad about myself” mantra so I have to believe that nothing is wrong with me. Whenever I am caught up with these relationship situations, I make them answer the question: “Do you want a girlfriend or do you want ME? There is a big difference between those two.” I think if you really want to be with someone, even if it’s in the most irrational, unconventional and abnormal ways, you will always find a better direction to make it work. The thing about romantic relationships is that it’s a 2-way street. It will always take two to tango. I think I should learn to tango. I am slowly learning, to be fair.
I said “I have nothing to fear” and it broke my family’s heart
I was just talking to a friend today about going to India for my girls’ education advocacy (which is one of the most exciting events of my 2017!) when we had an argument about India. The usual stereotypes surfaced and she finally asked me a question: “If you have a daughter, will you allow them to go to India?”
The answer is I don’t know because I am not a mother yet. I never met my child. I need to know her humanity first. I need to know if she can defend herself or is smart enough to take care of herself. You might think I am very careless about going places but let me tell you that I am not. With India, the feeling is right. There was never a single doubt.
Last year, I had a huge fight with my mom because I wanted to go to Pakistan and Afghanistan for the same advocacy. Of course, the media is always feeding our minds with negative things but most of news about these two countries are true: there is no place for women out there. That did not make me feel good and I also came to a journey of learning that even if I am very independent, I need to be responsible about how my family and friends will feel.
“Trisha, I know you want to be Christiane Amanpour and I will support you. But if you are doing this for the adrenaline rush, for the excitement, please, always remember, you have a family and friends who love you.”
My mother has always been there when my fear container is empty. She always makes me open my mind to bigger pictures, not just close my decisions basing on what I want. Above all, the greatest learning experience from this is that fear is essential. Fearing means you still know how to feel. You have are human. You have a heart.
I am really surprised on how much we can learn about ourselves while we see the world. This thing about growing up doesn’t end! Its such a strange topic, independence and ‘adulting.’
What are your experiences in being independent? Did you also discover some negative effects? It doesn’t have to be major but what did you observe about having too much independence?