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?”
“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?