Travel Life & Death

During the first month of my trip to Asia, I received some very sad news.

A friend of mine from college had passed away.

I won’t profess that we were the best of friends, but we got on well. We didn’t speak daily but we stayed in touch and I had fond memories of him.

It hadn’t really occurred to me when I embarked on this trip about the things I would miss, and the things I would have to deal with in a completely foreign environment by myself.

All I wanted was a little time alone, to grieve for my friend. To have a little cry and let the emotions out, because I was sad and I felt that was the only way I could move forward rather than bottle it up.

Instead, I was surrounded by people I didn’t know, there was no corner to go and hide in. I was surrounded by happy people that wanted to party and laugh and I was struggling at all times just to maintain face and not let the tears come out in front of people.

“What’s wrong with you?”
“Why are you so sad?”
“Cheer up!”
“Why won’t you come out?”

It was all starting to grind on me and I did start to snap at people “My friend has just fucking died ok?!”

Then they would retreat and carry on drinking beer by the pool and laughing.

They weren’t my friends. They didn’t know me, they didn’t know him, they didn’t care.

I’ve been used to living on my own for the last few years and having my own space when I needed it, but also good friends close enough to come over and share my sorrows.

I couldn’t expect utter strangers to care about my problems and the time difference made it difficult to speak to people back home.

Unfortunately, I’ve lost quite a few friends at a young age. Each time it happens, it cuts a little deeper, your mortality is more profound.

There is something so much worse when you lose someone young, when so much potential and so many years ahead just suddenly vanish like a puff of smoke in a magician’s trick and you’re struggling to believe it’s real.

When we travel, it’s easy to live in a bubble. It’s easy to forget that life at home goes on without us. We miss weddings and babies and funerals and you can’t help but feel guilty.

In this case, I was struggling with not only the normal train of thought in such a situation (along the lines of “life is fucked up and unfair”) but also looking around me, at my surroundings and thinking…

What am I doing in most people’s perception of paradise when things like this are happening?
Moreover how ungrateful must I seem to people if I’m not finding enjoyment in it at the moment?

Travelling solo definitely gives you a lot of time alone with your own thoughts to the point that it can sometimes become uncomfortable.

Eventually, the only solution for me to get this off my chest was to go and find a quiet corner and just have a cry.

Unfortunately for my unsuspecting dorm mate, it also happened to be his quiet corner to have a cheeky cigarette away from his girlfriend.

This guy, who I’d barely spoken to, sat with me a while and chatted the way a close friend would have done. He shared his experiences with me, he asked me about mine, we talked a little of life and he placed a comforting hand on my knee.

I appreciated this gesture so much. I don’t even know his name and we didn’t stay in contact but it definitely restored my faith in a lot of things and helped me move through a bit of a difficult process.

I felt much more relieved after having a cry and a chat. Such simple gestures that ease the situation and help you to move forward.

Have you had a similar experience? How did you cope?

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Freelance writer who loves reading, cooking & travelling. Rarely spotted without red lipstick. Penchant for whiskey on the rocks.

6 thoughts on “Travel Life & Death

  1. Hey there…it’s definitely one of those things that you aren’t prepared for when it happens while you’re traveling and alone surrounded by strangers. I had the same thing happen and I actually ended up changing my plans completely and ended up in Jordan and the Middle East. It ended up being the most emotionally and intellectually trying time of my travels partly due to the shock of my friend’s death. But it also helped put a lot into perspective for me…

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    1. Yes I can certainly say I have gained a lot of perspective. I feel my goals and dreams shifting in a different direction to what I had expected and I feel there is a lot to draw from the experience.

      What was your original plan if you don’t mind me asking? And why to Jordan?

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      1. Life is strange and beautiful in how we can learn so much especially from tragic times. And no of course not ~ I was in Southeast Asia at the time and was going to have two weeks in the Philippines island hopping then partying with friends in KL and Singapore for a week. And it felt frivolous… My friend died tragically and I wanted meaning? And Petra has always been in my travel dreams…I’m still not sure but the universe pulled me there. I’m actually writing about Jordan and it’s interesting that I came across your post because I’ve been thinking a lot about that time period….

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  2. Yeah that totally makes sense, I can see why you did that instead. I’ve been pulled into a night of drinking once or twice and have regretted it for multiple reasons. I want to focus more on my health and wellbeing more on the remainder of this trip!

    I look forward to reading it 🙂

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  3. The same thing recently happened to me. I was in London, surrounded by new people and like you, I searched for a corner to grieve, to take it all in.. but I couldn’t find one. With the noise in the hostel and my friends wanting to go non-stop, I got swept in the excitement and pushed the sadness away. We weren’t best friends but all the memories I had of her were good ones, you know? I definitely gained perspective from this- it drove me to stay in contact more with my family and ask about their health, but really listen. Hang in there, it’ll pass but don’t be afraid to take the time to grieve. The fun and partying will always be there. Love your blog! Keep doing what you do.

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    1. Yes I know what you mean. I found out a week or so before but I was in the middle of a trek and had to push it back which probably made it worse in the long run. I’m not so bothered on missing out ont he partying, if anything it’s made me want to do it less and focus on my health and wellbeing and to try and take better care of my body and appreciate my youth and health! Thanks for sharing your experience with me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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