In recent weeks both of us has felt a slight unease about what to do with our blog. It might seem odd that we would feel this way. Looking back over the past 15 months of entries on this blog of course brings back many happy memories, even a fleeting sense of pride at times at some of the things we have done and seen. But recently there is an increasing amount of discomfort and a decreased motivation to post. We want to try and explain why we are feeling this and so try and rediscover the passion we had to record and share our activities during our journey.
Since setting off from the UK in May (2015) for a second round of adventures something definitely didn't feel the same and however much we tried to recreate the same feelings we had had on last year's trip, the worse it seemed to get. We were unknowingly and gradually starting to change our way of thinking and in recent weeks several crisis points forced us to recognise this and since then the speed and magnitude of these changes has been immense. So much so that we feel slightly uncomfortable about the blog and how it represents us and our journey now. This has been the motivation to sit down and write this post. It would be impossible to capture everything that has gone on in recent weeks as the issues have been complex and changing constantly. But as this blog was started as a diary for us, we do want to reflect and record (as briefly as possible) some of the realisations we've had and some of the changes in our way of thinking over the past few months. In doing so we hope it will also explain how and why we want to shift the focus of our blog slightly to more accurately represent our journey.
Following several years of (most probably self-induced) stresses with employments and home life we were already feeling pretty unhappy in our lives in Durham. We'd both suffered from several periods of depression but just convinced ourselves that we were just a bit tired and 'needed to pick ourselves up and put our best foot forward'. We had somehow convinced ourselves that planning a wedding would bring us back together and that an extended and active honeymoon would revitalise us. Life had other plans for us. When Dan was finally starting to recover from his critical post-surgical infection last year, we both were overcome with a 'life's too short' mentality and a deep sense of urgency for, what we thought at the time, just getting away and starting 'living'. And we were very fortunate that things came together so quickly in our personal affairs to allow us to get away within weeks of Dan being cleared for travel (as described in our2014 review post). Wedding cancelled but even though we'd not got married, the difficult and dark times over those several weeks had at least brought us somewhat closer and when we did finally set sail from Harwich in May 2014 it was with nervous excitement, not knowing at all what was to come.
So this year when we were fortunate again with our personal affairs to get away once more and set sail from Harwich, why did it feel so different? Where had the excitement gone?
Over the past few weeks we have realised that last year, whilst we had some amazing times, we were essentially running away. Running away not just from the current stresses that were in our life at the time we left but also from a considerable amount of historic emotional baggage, shared and individual.
Last year it was all new and there was lots to distract us as we learned how to live on the road in a motorhome. We set off with no plans but with our new found 'life's too short mentality' that was OK. We also weren't that sure of what the future would hold for us after our trip but we figured we'd have 10 months to sort things out. But that's the point we didn't sort it out.
Having been so unhappy in our old lives in Durham, when we experienced a new found 'happiness' on the road we convinced ourselves that it had just been the circumstances of our old lives that were wrong. Yes there were a few times, particularly over winter when we more stationary in Spain, that some troubles surfaced but we just put it down to the fact we weren't moving around as much and also that we were already making our plans to return to the UK.
But it had taken less than a month in Britain to get angry, frustrated and unhappy again. Although it had been really nice to see friends and family (as this was one of the hardest parts of being away for so long), we'd had health problems and other stresses surface as well as rediscovering less helpful habits like staying up late etc. We quickly became anxious to get away as quickly as possible, believing that being on the road again would solve all the negative feelings we were experiencing. Also, since unlike the year before, our affairs were not set up for us to be away for a fixed length of time, we didn't know how long we might have.
But when we did finally set off again our illusion that motorhome touring would fix everything was very quickly gone. No matter what we planned to do or where we planned to go we couldn't shake the feeling that something more fundamental was wrong. Distractions provided by the novelty of motorhome touring had worn off and we weren't feeling a lot happier than we had in our old lives. This might seem crazy or maybe ungrateful to our situation but it was a really strong feeling that both of us had. However much we tried to run, we couldn't shift these feelings and in addition we were starting to see a very real link between the stressful feelings and the health problems that were surfacing. It reached a point where we found it very hard, impossible in fact, to put our heads in the sand anymore. This was the motivation for our U-turn at Bodensee, deciding not to go onwards into Austria but instead to go back to somewhere more familiar where we hoped to have the space and a bit more stability to work out what we really wanted, what we were doing and where these feelings were coming from.
A couple of other things along the way came up an acted as catalysts, but since then, in almost two months of talking, reflection, arguing at times and also some time apart, we've come to realise that the things that were making us unhappy were things that we'd been carrying with us all the time in the forms of emotional baggage. Both our own - specifically related to childhood health issues and the different coping mechanisms we had developed which unknowingly had affected our personality and behaviour far more than we had ever accepted - and shared - 13 years worth of good but also many bad memories, some of which had never been talked and had led to built up resentment and taboos that we just didn't speak of. Basically we couldn't communicate anymore, except on a handful of safe, mundane topics. Luckily we still shared the same interests, so the alternative if we couldn't talk about something was to pretend everything was OK and just go hiking or biking instead, which we'd spent a year doing. A lot of the hikes and rides we did last year, although we did them together physically, emotionally we can see now that we experienced them very much in isolation from each other. We were often lost in our own worlds, happy to be reconnected with our passion for the outdoors and thankful for the time not working which was allowing us to recover and take some mental downtime.
Last year had been critical in providing a foundation to build upon. We'd both been able to recover physically and build up our energy reserves. We'd been able to see many places and talk to many different people. We'd found time to read and learn again and started to think and consider what things actually fired us up and we could maybe get passionate about. But mostly the experience of our journey last year had, on reflection, revealed the cracks and where the real problems lay.
So setting off this year in pursuit of happiness, believing it was just around the corner and could be achieved if we just changed our surroundings and recreated the same things we did last year, we were soon disappointed. We just reached a point where we both knew that if we suppressed these feelings one more time we might as well give up because it was never going to get any better. In our relationship we'd also reached a point where for both of us the benefits of staying together no longer stacked up favourably with the downsides. We knew there was a core of something there - something that must have drawn us together in the first place and kept us together through some very difficult times - but we didn't know if it was that or just history and convenience that was keeping us together.
So why are we sharing this and what does this mean for our blog?
We started this blog primarily as a personal diary, to record our 'adventures' as we were “hiking and cycling on our way back to health and happiness” and also so that family and friends could dip in and out and see where we were and what we'd been up to. We feel very privileged to have recorded many amazing and wonderful activities that we were fortunate to be able to do. During the course of last year, we also became very passionate about some of the places we'd visited and things that we'd learned whilst on the road from others or through trial and error and we wanted the blog to be a platform where we could record and share the little things we'd have liked to have known of beforehand. And it's been really quite nice to hear from people that some of what we've written about has been interesting, helpful and maybe even inspired others.
Our motivations to keep our blog hasn't changed. But we've realised that in recent weeks we've become uncomfortable and less motivated to keep up with the blog. We have started to become concerned that in recent weeks the way we are keeping our blog isn't representing the truthful nature of the very different type of journey we have found ourselves on this year. This is for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it's difficult to know what exactly to post about for the days spent 'talking', whether it be addressing relationship baggage or time spent on self-enquiry. Mainly because its all so complicated, interwoven, changing constantly and personal to us. And we're not quite sure of the reaction to a post about a day spent arguing and walking off for some time apart. Do people really want our negative news when their own day throws up enough challenges of their own? Some of what we are reflecting on, learning about ourselves and the ways our perspectives are changing might be interesting to others to read, but not every day and also not until we've made heads or tails of it ourselves. Many issues we know still need to be addressed in more detail, reflected upon and maybe also require us to gain a bit more confidence before we'd consider whether to share it. And we're sure some issues are still yet to identify themselves. So some posts for the blog in the future maybe but not now whilst we're in the thick of it. But at the very least we want to feel we can honestly record what we are actually getting up to between the activities we highlight along the way.
But of course, there is only so much self-enquiry and talking you can do without going completely crazy. And this is where we truly realise how lucky we are to have the time and space to go through this process without rushing it and also when we need some down time find ourselves in some very beautiful surroundings. Sometimes we just need to get out, clear our minds and blow off some steam (and after many years of practice we are also both very good and getting on and pretending). So on the days where we go for a bike ride or a hike or explore a town or a market, it's easier to share that experience succinctly in a post on our blog. Plus its easier to take photos of activities like this than take pictures to capture sitting around 'talking', thinking, reading, writing etc!
We think that's why we've become slightly concerned and uncomfortable that the blog as it is at the moment is no longer representing our journey and that doing 'fun stuff' is all our trip this year is about. It may well have been capturing our adventures last year, when we were constantly seeking the next distraction, doing anything and everything to actively avoid talking or thinking about the issues we had individually and as a couple in any real depth. As long as we were away from the circumstances of our old lives we thought things would automatically be better and at the slightest hint that any of these issues were resurfacing we'd move on or lace up our boots.
In addition we haven't had great internet access. As we've stayed put more, focusing on giving ourselves a stable base from which to talk and think, finding internet access hasn't been as much of a priority recently. So on the occasions when we have had internet and also had the motivation to post up, for our own record, some words and pictures about the days on which we have been out and about before we forgot about the experience and feelings the day gave us, we've had to schedule the posts to publish one after the other, even if they actually happened several days if not weeks in between. Therefore to someone visiting the blog or even our Facebook page, it might seem as if the story of our journey so far was once again one of seemingly continuous highlights, flitting from one high cycle to lofty hiking expedition after another and all captured in colourful pictures and words. Yet this hasn't been the case and there is a whole other story that hasn't been told because we didn't really know how to capture it or even if we wanted to share what was actually going on. Maybe at first there was a small part of us also which, by continuing the blog in the format of last year and just focusing on the activities, we were also able to pretend by looking back over the weeks and once again just focusing on the good times.
But even if we don't want to share the specifics and the details just yet, we do want to share and record the full extent of what's been going on. We've always wanted this blog to be a diary of our journey. It's just that now more than ever we've come to realise that we are on a very different kind of journey. Since realising this, starting to talk about and work through some of our baggage, we are now feeling much more settled and peaceful on the road than we ever have. We no longer need to distract ourselves by moving around or hiking. Although hard at times, we can accept that we were running and that actually what we need to do is stop and face up to the fact that we needed to do all along was some serious growing up and (emotional) clearing up! We're learning not to blame any lack of happiness on our situation or circumstances, on each other or anyone else and instead look inwards to see what might be at the root of or truly generating those feelings.
If we weren't distracting ourselves, we were making ourselves unhappy by burying ourselves in stories of the past which we'd told ourselves about why things weren't as we wanted them to be or otherwise spending our time worrying about the future, basing our predictions of that the future on the stories of the past. Doesn't sound very healthy does it? Time to change.....
So writing this post hopefully should have recorded a little about what's being going on in the times in between the activities that we've shared since leaving the UK. Writing it has certainly made us feel better, being honest to ourselves about our somewhat confusing and at times very painful experiences in recent weeks. And we feel it will allow us to start to making changes in the future so that the blog can represent us and our journey more fully as we continue. We want to start sharing not just the activities we are doing and things we are learning about motorhoming but also other areas of our lives which we are becoming increasingly passionate about and feel could be of benefit to others as well.
From being people who always had something of a plan in the past, writing this today we can honestly say that we really, really do not have a plan any more, but we're increasingly OK with that and look forward to seeing what life has in store for us, both in terms of our emotional and physical journey. A good friend once reminded that “every cloud has a silver lining” and although we last year we thought we'd found our silver lining, we now think we only glimpsed it and at the moment it just keep getting brighter every day. Whether things feel rough or smooth in the moment, we still feel very fortunate to be on this journey together.
For those who do enjoy reading about our adventures, we also hope you might enjoy reading some of these reflections as much as the activities we find along the way.
Written on 13 August 2015
|Behind the dark clouds the Sun is always shinning. |
You just need to find an opening.