I’ve always felt out of place in the world. Not in some significant, life-altering way, but in a way that left me anxious in every day situations, often feeling like there wasn’t any hope.
It wasn’t that I was particularly unlucky. I have a wonderful family who has supported me my entire life, and while I’ve never been a social butterfly, I have always had friends who were willing to support me. I went to school for a degree that put me right into an opportune job market, and have barely ever struggled financially (keeping a budget on the other hand is a very different story).
But despite all of these fantastic things, I have always been uncomfortable around others. I would go to a party and just “try to act normal”. I felt that I couldn’t be myself, and that people wouldn’t like me. I was afraid that something bad would always happen.
So, I took a trip…
The thing is, when you’re in a familiar place, it becomes easy to blame feelings on situations, or on the people around you. When you’re in a place that’s comfortable, you can easily point out that one annoying thing that is the cause of all your problems.
So, I decided to put myself in the most uncomfortable situation I could imagine. I sold most of my belongings, packed a single bag, bought a plane ticket to Thailand, and started to travel the world on my own. I have no plan, and tend to figure out where I will be the night before.
And when I was on my own, in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, what happened to those feelings I’d always had? They were still there. I still feel anxious on occasions, and sometimes I wake up and don’t feel like doing anything.
Maybe that sounds depressing, but to me, it’s wonderful. I can’t point my blame-laser on anything anymore. I can’t pretend that something, or someone, out there is making me feel bad. Instead, I am forced to recognize that it’s all internal. I can work with these feelings, and I don’t have to worry about being rejected.
It doesn’t matter if I’m on a sketchy night bus travelling across one of the biggest scam borders in the world (looking at you Thai-Cambodian border) or on a tropical island with a view of the beach out my window. My mood, anxiety level, and energy levels are totally independent of the situation I’m in.
When I end up at a new hostel, in a new city, or even a new country, I will always have that fear that I won’t make friends. But now I have the awareness to recognize that it will all work out. It might take a few minutes, but all it takes is a single conversation to quiet all of these emotions that I’ve always cowered from. I have to ability to sculpt my own experience how I choose.
This article is a bit different from what I will normally write, but I felt that this was something important enough to me that I should at least write a bit about it. I will also be writing a small post about the techniques that I use to combat social anxiety (Hint, they’re all easy and portable enough to do literally anywhere in the world.)
If you have any thoughts on how I can improve my writing style, or if you notice a typo, *please* comment below, or shoot me a message! I’m getting started on this, so I’m always looking to improve.