The Four Month Slump
In April of 2013, I was subsisting almost entirely off of pastries and spending my days frequenting every museum and monument in Paris. I was near the end of my semester abroad and was loving every minute of it. Even in the tiniest corners of Paris, each detail is vibrant, romantic, beautiful, historic, and carefully considered. I felt so alive and each day was my heart was filled with wonder as I experienced life traipsing through the winding, cobbled streets of the most gorgeous city on Earth.
I remember one day at Gare du Nord especially well. I'd packed my black Cal backpack for a three-day weekend in Amsterdam with friends I'd met during my classes. Waiting for the train doors to open, I wasn't even excited to travel through the pastoral French countryside, covered in wildflowers, and arrive in one of the most fantastic and envy-inducing cities for a weekend of art museums and cafe lounging. My attitude was one giant eye-roll. As I boarded the train and found my seat next to the window, I stared out and wished that I was getting on a plane home instead. I was living out a dream I'd had since I was in middle school French class struggling to copy the perfect accent as I recited the months of the year, but I was kind of... over it. Simultaneously I was savoring each moment and wishing desperately that I wasn't there. Right at the four-month mark, I was burnt out on foreign experiences. I was slumped, draped over the Champs-Elysee like a chaise-lounge, popping rose Laduree macarons into my mouth and counting down the days until the end of the semester.
Two weeks ago, I caught myself mid-groan as I disembarked from a train in Bandung, Indonesia. I was caught in the cross-fire of a bout of strep throat and the onslaught of the flu, under which Dain was currently suffering, and perfectly miserable. We were exhausted from lack of sleep and months of travel catching up to us and we could feel all those miles traversed right in our bones. As we exited the station to a city I'd been dying to visit when we were planning our time in Indonesia, I caught myself thinking, "I really don't want to be here."
It was a moment of deja-vu, except my backpack was much larger this time. Taking a mental step back, I realized we were right on the cusp of the four-month mark since we'd first arrived in Asia and all those memories of Gare du Nord came flooding back to me. In a way, it was comforting to have that experience in France because it helped me through this moment of total fatigue. It's a perfectly normal feeling to have, and it should pass. Just a few weeks after my Amsterdam trip, I was in the south of France unwilling to accept that I had to return to my flat in Paris and pack up. I was wondering if this time would be different or if I could get back to enjoying myself.
As much as I wanted to validate these feelings, I didn't want to ever take this incredible opportunity to see the world for granted. One of the unintended consequences of long-term travel, especially on a trip with as big a scope as the one I'm on, is there's a possibility of habituation. Each day I'm literally seeing the world's best and each experience is so closely packed together that you barely have time to process how awe-inspiring something is before moving on to the next great thing. I make sure to adequately reflect on every little aspect of this special time in my life so I can appreciate everything in its own right. This blog definitely helps with that process and I enjoy reliving each moment over and over again, as well as sharing it with you.
In Bandung, the four-month slump had slithered around and squeezed Dain until he felt burnt out too. As frustrating as it was to be really sick when you're trying to stick to a travel schedule, I'm glad Dain and I had each other for comfort and support during a time when we could have very easily had wanted to pump the brakes. There's a saying, cliche but true: if you want to travel fast, go alone; if you want to travel far, go together. The slump is just another reason why I'm so glad to be voyaging with Dain by my side: his enthusiasm helped put the zest of wanderlust back in us, and he's the best part of being home. When I was slumped over in Amsterdam, it was because I'd had enough independent time and was yearning to share these experiences with Dain.
After just a few weeks time, we've both shaken off the flu and soaked in Indonesia until our hearts and eyes have burst. I'm happy to officially report that at the end of our fourth month of travel, right at the halfway point in the trip and near the end of our time in Southeast Asia, we've shaken off the slump too.