I am struggling again.
Not loneliness this time, since Craig is with me. Just that sort of general malaise one gets from time to time.
Work kind of sucks. I have two book projects in the works, but I’m struggling to get words on paper. Writer’s block, ugh. Meanwhile, money has become a huge problem, and my plantar fascitis (foot pain) is acting up. What this means, in essence, is that I’m trapped inside the apartment most of the time, where I stare at an empty computer screen for hours.
I know what you’re thinking: How dare I be grumpy. I’m in Istanbul, fer crapsake! I should suck it up and get back to enjoying my life, for the sake of everyone who is sitting home dreaming of being where I am. I hear you. But I’m not a cartoon. I have moods (and hormones) like anyone else, anywhere else.
Istanbul is full of fabulous sights, flavors, shows, and experiences, but those things cost money, and I don’t have any. Craig took me to the Hodjapasha show last week to see Turkish folk dancing and bellydance, and it was wonderful. He takes me out for meals or coffee sometimes. But I won’t let him subsidize all my recreation. That’s just not who I am.
Our apartment isn’t close to anything. This is a problem. Unlike Cadiz, or Leuven, this area is not full of lovely plazas lined with outdoor cafes, or pretty places to go for walks. I can get to the coast for a walk, but it’s several miles away and my feet hurt for days after I’ve trekked there and back. Getting to the tourist sites or the coast on the metro involves multiple transfers and takes time and money. In my current frame of mind, it’s overwhelming.
This is the thing: I’m not on vacation. When you’re on vacation, you throw caution to the wind. Run up your credit cards or dip into your retirement savings if you have to, pump yourself full of painkillers and keep going until you collapse, because you’ll recuperate when you get home. But this is home for me, and this is my daily life.
I’m learning that big cities are great places to visit for a week, to take in museums and sites and shows, but if I’m going to live in one for a month or more, I need to be very certain of my neighborhood. I’m learning that the daily quality of my life depends on what’s within walking distance from my apartment, not what glories might await across town.
And, although I can live happily on very little when I’m alone, it’s much more of a struggle when I’m traveling with someone else. I don’t feel like Craig should have to live in one room, or skip meals, or eat lentil soup for days on end, just because I’m broke. But I don’t feel like he should have to subsidize me, either. It’s a catch-22 that leaves me paralyzed.
So, the question is what to do about it? Complaining doesn’t help. I’ve been sulking and stewing for a couple of days, but it’s time to pull myself out of it. Our emotions are created by our thoughts, and no one can control our thoughts except ourselves. It’s time to take charge of myself.
I’m looking for more writing gigs, and I’ve switched to non-writing tasks, like marketing this blog and laying out the covers for my upcoming books, to make myself feel productive again. That’s helping. My money problems should be temporary, if I can get myself moving again. I really don’t need much.
Having something to look forward to always lifts me up. Looking at photos of the places I’m going next is wonderful for my spirit. Like Antalya, I’m heading there next week!
I’m super excited about Croatia. I’ll be staying in a tiny apartment in the beautiful coastal village of Sibenik, which is very historic and small enough to easily walk end to end, with markets and a lovely waterfront to walk, and nearby there’s a national park with hiking and waterfalls!
After Croatia comes Italy (Florence, then Venice) and visits with friends and family. Then Africa. I’m having loads of fun looking at “voluntourism” opportunities in Africa. Like THIS!
It’s working. I can feel the fog lifting. I’m looking into some hiking options outside Istanbul for this weekend. I’m beginning to feel better, and ready to leave the apartment again. Poor Craig will be so pleased.
I’m sharing all this with you for a couple of reasons.
- Everyone should know that mood swings happen to the best of us, even in the best of circumstances. Feeling guilty or bad about it doesn’t help at all.
- I want to give you a complete picture of what life on the road is like, not just the highlights. There are down times. Anyone who is considering making the sacrifices to do what I do deserves to know that.
- They say that everywhere you go, there you are. At home or on the road, I’m mostly a happy person but have low times. Everyone has an emotional ‘set point’ that they tend to come back to over and over. I believe it can be shifted (I’ve certainly shifted mine over the years) but it takes effort and vigilance.
- I’m having some success, so I thought I’d share my techniques in case they help anyone. You may not be in a position to go to Africa this winter. But could you go in, say, three years? That’s how I started my travel life. Making long term plans. Setting up a bank account and squeaking away a little cash each payday, watching it build. Researching destinations (that’s the fun part!), studying possibilities. Or maybe travel isn’t your thing, but you can set up some other distraction to look forward to. Sign up for a class, schedule a party, buy tickets to a theater or sporting event that’s a month or more away… anything you can look forward to and anticipate.
That’s how I’m coping. And now I’m going to try to write, even if it’s only one paragraph. See you soon!