I know that technically, you can’t outrun your problems. I learned that the hard way when I landed in Malaysia last February and my grief over losing my dad didn’t miraculously disappear, and I still had no idea what I was doing with my life or why I felt so lost. Because, as they say, wherever you go, there you are… right?
After last month, I’m not so sure. Because even though problems are location independent, a change of scenery can really make a difference.
I spent November living in Córdoba, and — spoiler alert — I fucking hated it.
In case you haven’t heard of Córdoba (which, let’s be honest, you definitely haven’t), it’s a small college town in Argentina that’s approximately 10 hours by bus from Buenos Aires. That’s about all you need to know.
I had a bad feeling about the city from the moment I arrived — my apartment smelled like mold and garbage and could tell from day one that it was going to be a snooze-fest — and things only went downhill from there. Aside from buying overpriced crop tops that looked like knockoff Limited Too and going for runs in a park littered with condoms, there was literally nothing to do. Coming out of New York (and the other 9 cities I’ve lived since in since I left), I was bored out of my mind. I walked the same four blocks from my apartment to my office and back again (stopping occasionally for an Asado chicken, which was the only highlight of the city), and that was it. I spent almost every Saturday and Sunday working as a means of killing time. I also watched the first two and a half seasons of the OC, in case you were wondering.
After the first week (and a few too many “will they or won’t they’s” between Ryan and Marissa and Seth and Summer), my boredom turned into full blown depression. I didn’t want to work, I didn’t want to go out, and I spent most of my time obsessing about all of the hard shit I was going through. I composed a dozen texts to my ex-boyfriend, cried to my mom once a day about the fact that I had no idea what I was doing with my life and listened to a playlist called “SAD SAD SAD” on repeat (Side note: You should follow me on Spotify. My music is #dope.).
All in all, it was just a really, really shitty time. I know it’s unfair to blame the city — because obviously, a lot of what I was dealing with was completely unrelated — but being stuck in a place that I couldn’t stand turned a bad situation into a much, much worse one. On top of it all, I felt guilty for feeling so shitty the whole time, because I’m traveling the world! And I only have two months left! And I should be having the time of my life!
…. This feels like a good time to reiterate that digital nomad-ing is not, in fact, a “permanent vacation” and that bad days do happen, they just don’t necessarily make it onto anyone’s Instagram feeds. But anyway.
When I arrived in Santiago on December 4th, it was like a switch had been flipped inside of me. On the first morning here, I was so happy I literally started dancing in the street (… and then I got chased and bitten by a pack of stray dogs, but that’s a story for another time). I’ve now been here for two weeks, fallen completely in love with the city, and haven’t cried (or listened to Blink 182) a single time. The energy here is palpable, and after a month of being legit “down in the dumps,” I finally feel like myself again.
While I’m so, so happy that life is good (@mom: That’s why you haven’t heard from me in a few days) and I’m no longer spending the majority of my days sobbing into my pillow, it’s not lost on me how easily things changed the minute I fled Córdoba.
I’ve learned that there’s something about waking up in a new place with a whole new set of distractions that makes it a lot easier to brush whatever it is that’s bothering me under the rug, and that’s a dangerous habit to get into.
I hate to admit it, but this year has given me the luxury of literally running from my problems. When I broke up with my boyfriend, I booked the first ticket I could find back to the US and stayed there until I felt better. When I needed space from my #tramily, I booked a solo trip to a waterfall and turned my phone off for three days. When I wanted to avoid a guy I’d hooked up with in Buenos Aires, I literally moved to another city.
When everything in your life is temporary, the way mine has been for the last 11 months, it’s almost too easy to flit from one thing to the next without ever really dealing with what’s bothering you. Because all you have to do is just get to the next city and everything will be ok. But the problem is, by the end of the year, or whenever it is I decide to be *done* with this lifestyle, there’s going to be a lot of fucking stuff under that rug (… is anyone else at least picturing a zebra print one like the one I had in my room from ages 11-16, or is that just me?).
Because no matter how hard you avoid it, wherever you go — whether it’s shitty Córdoba or Santiago or Lima or Tokyo or Bali, where I’m planning on moving when all of this is done — there you literally are… and eventually, there your problems are, too.
So I guess the next thing to figure out is: What, exactly, am I running toward?