Thursday, January 17, 2013

I need to run away.

I have had a horrible awful week. That is no exaggeration. It has been in the top 5 worst that I can even recall. If I wanted to recall the others in detail (and I don’t) it might even be higher than that.

I was at an all day work meeting yesterday, making small talk with work colleagues I don’t often see, or don’t often have the time to make small talk with. Many of them know I travel. And so one was asking me “Where to next?” And I said Burma. And she raised her eyebrows a bit and said, "Huh... Now, if you’d said an ashram in India or something, now THAT I might be able to get on board with, but Burma?"

And so I started thinking.

While I am not at all religious, and I don’t meditate, or do yoga or any of the things I imagine go on at an ashram (does it make me a loser to say my only knowledge of an ashram is from reading Eat Pray Love?), I immediately thought about the feeling I get walking down a small side street somewhere in the middle of nowhere Asia. How it must be similar to the feeling, I would think, of sitting on the floor somewhere saying Ohm.

There is nothing like walking around a small unfamiliar Asian town, not being able to read the signs, or overhear the conversations. It is the closest I will get to meditation. Smelling the unusual smells, hearing the scooters racing past, not knowing which way to turn, it transports me out of my body. Feeling the sun beating hot on my head, feet hurting, shoulder aching from carrying my camera, guidebook, water bottle and who knows what other necessities. I am in a zone. Looking, hearing, feeling, smelling, wondering.

My “pal” Andrew McCarthy talks about how he travels alone, how the experience of traveling is an individual one, one that should be done alone. I absolutely agree. What I just described would be entirely different if I was sharing it with someone else. Complaining to someone else that I was tired, or hungry. Or wondering aloud to a companion what the conversation in some foreign language might be about. Knowing that the person I am with might know the way back to the hotel would make it different. Less of a full, complete experience.

And so back to the awful week. My first instinct is to run away, to get on a plane, find a city, a town, a far away place where I can lose myself, get lost from the anxiety that has been all encompassing this week.

But I can’t. I can’t always run away. It’s simply not always possible.

It’s a behavior I learned in recent years. And it wasn’t always to Asia. Right after my divorce it was simply to get in the car. Angst would set in, I would find my keys and leave. Just drive. Get out of the house and drive. There was no destination in mind. Then after a while, after many times of getting in the car going nowhere, there was a thought that I needed to find some place to go. So I ran away to Paris once, on a day’s notice. Thailand, 36 hours from the time I first considered it to wheels up. Now, thank god, these days it’s not nearly as often that I need to run. In fact, maybe that’s why I am having such a hard time this week, because it’s been such a long time.

It can’t be a completely healthy behavior. But I have to admit, it’s one I am not sure I want to fix.


  1. Great piece Amy! Very honest and thought provoking. I agree about the wandering alone. I have done that in Paris a few times and I never thought of it as meditative, but it kind of is. Hope you have a great time on your next journey, wherever that may lead.

  2. I can understand how this quiet wandering is meditative. But I recommend yoga, too, even if it's not meditative yoga.