Travel, Burnout, A Brain Tumour Scare, A Suicidal Attempt & PTSD: Two Painful and Bizarre Years of Non-Stop Travel.

Hi, thanks for being here. This post means a lot and you’re about to find out why.

Before you get started, I need to make a few points about this piece of writing:

  • This story is about a two-year experience of nomadic travel I went through in 2015-2016. My first long-term travel experience ever in such nomadic way.
  • No, it wasn’t fun, and awesome, and great, and perfect, and dreamy. It was all the opposite for me, for whatever reasons life had for me, as you’re about to read. I’m not bitter about it either. It had just taken me a while to recover, and this writing is my way to wrap it all up in my head after stopping the journey 7 months ago.
  • This post is a must in my heart so that I can continue my writing journey which means everything to me, so please, bear with me.
  • This won’t be a short read. You might feel tricked at the end of it, but please don’t be. This is my way to heal as I know best: by writing while bringing some kind of value to others.
  • This is my story, my experience, my journey as it happened. I’m not complaining or bragging, depending where you see it from. Your story will be different than mine. That’s how life is. We all live and learn. Sharing, to me, is a wonderful tool to learn from each other, not criticising each other.
  • This is not a parody, a subliminal message or a critic/support to other travel blog posts that have been eaten to death when sharing personal travel stories – as if we were suffering about something most people dream about. It’s just different realities for everyone.

I’m simply opening up so I can pour out and heal myself, and hopefully leave you a few good lessons that you can take with you by the end.

Yes, my nomadic long-term travel was long, painful and traumatising.

It’s been exactly one year, two months and twelve days since I last posted something here. A long time indeed and yet I’m not going to apologise for it as I’ve done in the past. Instead, I’m going to write as my soul is calling me to do. To share openly, whole-heartedly and honestly this journey as it has happened, so I can catch up with myself and my readers, while hopefully giving you value to take for your own journey.

Yes, it’s been exactly 14 months and 12 days since I last posted something. And it’s been 22 two months since I left my home city to embrace a nomadic sabbatical with the intention to focus full time on my business-to-be-built. And finally, 26 months (2 years 4 months) since I left all that I knew I loved in my steady life, my flat, my privacy, my everything. Blimey, 26 months…

I had an idea in my head (of course) of what a year of travelling would be like. Except that I added the working factor, biz-building mode too, while living on savings. It was my dream and I was sure it’d pay off. I don’t regret a thing but man, these last 2 years of my life have been the most challenging ever, making me grow in ways beyond expected, and around things I had no idea where a must when creating your own business, most of all.

It basically became the deepest inner journey I’ve done, with the major slaps on the face  and butt, and with the most growth I’ve encountered.

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April 2015: I left my flat to go rent a room for 4 months so I could save more money for my sabbatical.

September 2015: off I go! Best first week ever with good friends in Costa Brava, Spain. Dreamy start indeed. Uk went next for 2 weeks. Somehow weird, clouded two weeks trying to feel the new life.

October 2015: Off to Greece on a solo trip. First stop: Chania. Something about that place was gorgeous but lonely and scary at the same time. Even though it’s far from unsafe, I felt pretty unsafe if going out at night on my own. Alleys were too lonely as summer was just gone, and fall came through, leaving the whole place empty and with few places open to visit around. Older men would gather up every afternoon and night to do their usual: play a table game and share a drink. It somehow reminded me of my Latin American macho culture, making me feel unsafe and a bit threatened. Sadly, I left the place a bit stressed and unhappy, but definitely wanting to try it again another time in the future.

Second stop: Athens. Aaaaah, such a vibe. Can’t explain why but I simply loved that city. So beautifully messy, so full of history and energy, vibrant and lovely. Ironically safe despite all the protests going on back then.

To this point, I had only been on the road for 2 months and I was already starting to feel pretty tense around planning moves, looking for transport and accommodation, always searching for the most budget options to play it smart with my savings. I managed to rest, and enjoy my way to Santorini and back.

Right afterwards I found out about the Paris attacks…exactly where I was going to go in a week’s time.

“Don’t cancel your travels! It’s non sense”, most people would say. I wanted to believe it and to go through with it. Everything was booked and it was exciting but fear would kick in, on top of my mild travel anxiety that seemed to be getting too comfy inside my head.

I just couldn’t.

It felt too risky and I felt too vulnerable already.

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November 2015: I went from Greece to Italy, now visiting a friend when a massive need to just go home to my family kicked in strongly and desperately. I’d be landing home in two weeks time for christmas and yet my feelings became so mixed, crazy and fearful that I couldn’t ignore my gut.

Flights were rebooked in a blink of an eye (3 days) and off I went. From a small town in the Italian coastline up north, towards Milan on the train, towards the airport by bus, towards the hotel to get a decent sleep before my long-haul to Costa Rica. Paris was still recovering from the attacks and Belgium was on the look as well, while I was wanting to desperately fly over the whole continent not even looking down.

I couldn’t quite explain what happened there, but I know now that I went through a medium case of PTSD.

To the point where the guy sitting next to me on the flight seemed quite suspicious on his phone, anxious way before take-off, looking all over the place, too focused and nervous to be something you can ignore. Just to find out later that he worked for the US army in the Middle East and was called to his army home base in the U.S for a special mission. From that point onwards my mind wandered through non sense paths, yet paths I couldn’t ignore.

My PTSD was on the works and I didn’t know.

Yes, I avoided the guy next to me for the next 9 hours because I grew convinced he was on a mission to bring the plane down on the way to the U.S.

November 26th: I landed in my home country. It was the first time in 7 years where I’d be spending christmas and a full 3 months of family time. I was so looking forward to it.

A few days went by. I found myself taking small road trips and running errands with my dad as usual, when suddenly feeling scared in my head of the possibility of a side road tree falling and crashing on us. I saw myself constantly imagining worst case scenarios every time we were out the house, or thinking of everything that could go wrong every single second: falling off a bridge, crashing against a truck, being robbed and shot on a random day.

I realised after a week that this wasn’t normal and that it was rapidly increasing.

PTSD it was indeed, now fully diagnosed.

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Stress had accumulated in such twisted, silent ways making me highly sensitive, vulnerable and fearful of the world around me. Thankfully, I was home, surrounded by my family and slowly becoming reassured on love, support and warmth. Being able to open up, even in tears, so I could understand myself again.

“Yep, travel-related stress for sure”, a good friend said as we chatted on Skype one morning.

“Oh, sorry to hear but just so normal to this freelancer life of uncertainty”, another friend told me from Bangkok after 4 years of struggling with these issues herself.

(Sigh) – And I’m only 3.5 months in. Maybe after feeling recovered from these first lap, I’d go in a better state of understanding.

February 2016: I leave home again to continue my sabbatical. Exciting again! On the move. Flat was booked for a month, a little ebook was on the way to be released and this time I’d be meeting my partner after long months apart.

The goal was to avoid the harsh winter so we’d go to Southern Spain for a start and see where next from there. All good, but colder than expected. Surprise me more, Spain!

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Four weeks went by and we went off the road again, no fixed plans, just a bit on the go. Man, that’s tough when you’re trying to build something, at least for me. Not easy for sure. Now I know.

March took us to more Southern Spain, then Northern Morocco, then back to Spain for a quick family visit in Barcelona. A quick visit that meant checking on my cousin who had been diagnosed with cancer a little while back. Even though I’ve been from Barcelona for the last 7 years, I found it utterly difficult to plan this short visit. I ended up sick of having to be there again, as my original plan was following an inner need to leave. But I kept coming.

UK was next, for another short family visit before finally heading to the big next leg of the trip: Thailand.

Except something larger changed every plan: A suicide attempt by someone I know, while I was on a visit.

There’s no easy way to put this. It was the most bizarre and saddening experience I’ve been through. I am a doctor, so I naturally tried to help. I took control so that things could be done, ambulance called and paramedics on the know. Until it hit me the day after. I kept it all inside me. I didn’t share the experience with my family right away and for a couple of months. I didn’t want them to worry or worse. I felt in control, but little did I know how this would unfold after a few days in my emotions. I’d only start to barely understand all this after months of healing all that sadness, shock and beyond that took my body and my mind so strongly and blindly.

Everything changed since.

An ear buzz took over my head all of a sudden one night.

I became sleepless, tired and irritable. No doctors would find the cause as four more weeks went by. Things became calmer and more manageable, which was a good time to plan the next move somewhere warm where I could just breathe and release, one day at a time. And somewhere where I could checked by a specialist ear doctor.

Asia couldn’t happen this time around  but Portugal opened its arms to us in the most stressful time. From the airport to the doctor, to a head scan. A brain tumour needed to be ruled out…she said, with the kindest words possible.

“What you need is to go to the beach, take the sun and relax!”, the doctor said to me 3 weeks later, and after taking a daily dose of anxiety pills to help me sleep and recover from everything that had shaken me to the core. My ear buzz was severe stress manifesting itself in my body.

Another case of PTSD on the road had hit me without me knowing.

It’s July 2016 already. I’ve been 2 months in Portugal, taking fresh air, enjoying the summer in a mountain cottage where nature itself was our full garden all around us. It was the perfect spot to slow down.

During this time I encountered an online coaching experience by two amazing entrepreneur ladies that would become my first business coaches, giving me the first hint of massive healing and hope to my journey. Thanks to Infinite Receiving – an outstandingly beautiful and simple life philosophy, I began to slowly shift into something else. A never-ending mindset work that little did I know would be with me every day, still today. The support, the hope, the sisterhood and the love have been a key stone in my life, biz, and travel journey.

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Eleven months into my nomadic-work-sabbatical, and all I knew was that feeling tense, clouded, in absolute uncertainty, while savings were running out and while learning to understand it all, had became my normal.

The overall feeling was that it had been mostly a crappy year to be honest. I’ve denied it, hidden it, because so many people dream to travel like this, and yet, it was mostly terrible for me up to that point. How could I even mention this without sounding like the most ungrateful, unaware twat there is, I thought to myself. So I kept hiding my true feelings as if they were not valid, swallowing the pain and certain that my skills would get me out of there at some point.

August arrived and with it came the time to go back to Barcelona to announce my decision: definitely not go back to my former job. I chose to take the plunge into continuing because I had blind and absolute faith in what I was doing. It felt the most right so I went with my gut once again. Had never regret this decision, still today.

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September, October and November 2016 went through. And so did my savings.

No major income had been accomplished from my small business yet, no more savings to move around and nowhere to stay after that time. For the first time ever, I found myself living on a friend’s living room during a transition week, desperately looking for options, feeling at my lowest (again), and still trying to figure stuff out because there was no other option. Life had to keep going.

A recently-made friend from Luxembourg whom I hadn’t met yet, offered a small studio at her home so I could live there until I could figure things out. This is the first time I’m talking openly about this, so please, bear with me. The hope I felt through her offer was so immense and positive that I took it. We arrived in Luxembourg and I just felt my entire soul uplifted as I walked in. This friend hugged me and opened her entire life and family to me in ways I had no idea someone could do.

She saved me by welcoming me to her home.

The smell of chocolate in the little studio, the scented candle, the welcoming dogs and the loveliest baby in the house made me feel suddenly assured and safe, knowing myself in a safe place where I’d be able to relax, unwind and plan the next big thing.

November 2016: It was here in Luxembourg, by the end of the month and after 1 year and 4 months of non-stop travelling, no clients and no savings that I knew one thing in my heart: I wanted to go home to my family (again) but for a longer period of time. 2017 would be it. I can perfectly remember my painful tears of relief, joy and somehow guilt as I cried to the thought of having arrived to that resolution. And so it was.

My long-term travel was about to end, and had arrived to the point where it was draining and hurting me more than allowing me to grow and enjoy deeply as usual.

My nomadic year became a time where I’d be living in “fight or flight” mode almost since I began.

It’s my most personal experience, so please, don’t ever think it’ll happen to you too, but I need to be honest here. With myself first and with the world next. I love the world. I love travelling.

Despite this rough, weird time of growth, travel continues to be my fuel and my reason. I’ve just learned that long-term, nomadic travel is not for me. You only know until you go.

December 2016 came along with my family coming to Europe as we were going to make a Christmas trip, followed by the flight that’d take me home: my final stop for now. Flight I had no money to pay for at this point. My hopelessness went to the roof while in staying with my Catalan family in Barcelona, as I waited for my Costa Rican family.

When I thought there was no lowest point to reach, I had to ask for money…for the first time ever.

It was the only way I’d get home and sustain myself for the first months while feeling confident on my work as it had evolved during the last 16 months. I’m grateful that while savings and energy drained out of me, faith in my work grew inside me. That’d become my only tool. That, along with my creativity and my ability to make it all work. I felt determined and hopeful for the first time in months.

Yes, travel was utterly tricky and gut-punching for me during this entire time. I was truly surprised at the time. I couldn’t understand why. I had read it could be tricky but never like this, not to this level. Of course, it was just life as it is. No one’s fault at all, not even mine.

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January 5th, 2017: I landed in my home country, Costa Rica, where a rental house with a big green garden and trees, close to my family, was waiting for me so I could settle for at least 6 months (or more) depending on how things would work. Above all, the uncertainty.

It’s now July 2017, and I’m writing this from my bed at night, in this same house I’ve been sharing with my partner, who by the way is new to this all. To the Central American mess, to the Latin American culture, to the massive rainfalls, to the greenery on steroids so characteristic from the tropics, and to giant, juicy, weird, colourful fruits.

It’s been fun, and also filled with perks of other kinds. Those perks that happen when you haven’t been around for a long while, when you encounter the past just to realise that it’s a different past now. That you’ve got a different power in you, one that you’ve just realised.

Perks of healing from a triple-PTSD long year of traveling. Of understanding a new you – a you that seems to be peeling layers every week even after you’ve been settled for a while.

That’s life. There’s always something to heal, to understand, to come to terms with, to let go, to live for. But there’s also that time when there’s nothing else to heal as before. It’s just easier, lighter and more enjoyable. Because you have faith and trust in yourself, in the universe.

There’s a time when healing is not an excuse anymore to stay holding yourself back somehow.

I’ve had endless moments where I needed to come to terms with my life and I’ve discovered many of them only after I came back.

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Life is a constant cycle of changes.

Today, and after this long post, I feel like I want to truly pass the page and never look back.

I feel like I’ve done so much towards my better self and here I am. Like I’m the only one pending to recognise my reality now, to accept it fully and embrace it unapologetically. To recognise the power in me again, like it used to be, my old normal. I missed it and I’m finally meeting with her again.

A somehow long (and short) journey that has worked as my life-n-business accelerator to this point.

We all end up learning the same lessons, just through different routes.

And as for me right now, another big shift or layer to be peeled is about to happen. I’ve grown into my intuition, into my business, into my uncertainty and my creativity in ways I had no idea existed in me until now, after this 2-year journey.

Awareness. Awareness is everything.

Still managing and learning to live on an edge, just a different kind of edge, while enjoying my family, and feeling more certain than before on how this work that I’m doing is a worldly legacy on the works. Enjoying my current home base, and allowing myself to fully embrace the quirky, unconventional, awesome person that I am.

If I’ve come to learn some lessons after all this journey, that I can put in just a few words, are these:

  • Have faith.
  • Choose hope.
  • Trust.
  • Believe in something, but mostly in yourself.
  • Take daily action.
  • Have a plan.
  • Release any fears of judgement and more.
  • Choose love.
  • Let yourself be loved, be helped, be supported.
  • Be open to receive what you need.
  • Meditate and/or journal. Be grateful every night. Make a list.
  • Remember your why. Your why is unchangeable, no matter what happens in the journey.

Thank you for reading so far to the end of this long journal entry! Time to wake up this blog again. Thanks for being part of my journey.

Mariana Calleja Skydive

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