Friday, November 11, 2011

Traveling while bipolar - the importance of a plan

This was the biggest concern some people had about me going into my trip. I've been off my meds since July. And I know more than one person was concerned that I planned my trip while manic and just wasn't thinking straight with regards to safety, money, security, and all the other stuff you should probably have solidly set before disappearing for a while.

I'll admit, the original idea of "hey, I'm unemployed let's take off and go adventuring while I have the time!" did occur to me while manic. But I love to plan. And for me, planning is a very serious thing. I may not have every detail in place, but I am going to make sure I've covered every situation and ensured that I am at least aware of the potential difficulties and dangers before I make the leap. I'm just not going to let difficulties or dangers stop me from jumping!

One of the reasons I am less concerned about the overall general worries of traveling while bipolar is because I am so obsessed with detail. So obsessed with lists. I overthink everything. And I am perfectly aware that dude, I was in a good size city. It's not like I was far from civilization and the basics of medical care in case something did happen!

However, it's the little things that do worry me. The anxiety. The need for routine. The being far far from home and everything I know in case something happens. But I needed to not let even those things stop me from doing what matters to me. So I went anyway.

Here are some things that I learned:
  • Creating a schedule that had me returning back to a central location between my adventures allowed me to form a bond with a place and the people there. It gave me a sense of "home away from home" that is very reassuring.

  • Similarly, a slow and relaxed schedule allowed me the chance to go at my own pace. If something unexpected came up, I was able to go with the flow and not feel pressured. It also allowed me to form a routine of sorts. So when something unexpected came up, it wasn't a shock because I had the time to slide it into my schedule.

  • Discovery that I can call the States for free from Google Chat. I was able to call my parents when I needed my mom and dad. I was able to clear up finances when hiccup occurred. I never felt completely isolated. Now, sometimes the internet connection totally sucked and calls wouldn't go through. But it was okay. Because I knew that they were there and if I did absolutely need them I could just go find an internet cafe or move to a better location and call them back. Or in most cases, just send them an e-mail and things were fine.

  • Bring with me something that is comforting. In the case of my trip to Ecuador, it was my favorite shawl. There was just something very reassuring to wrap myself up in the shawl and feel warm and cozy. After my tumble down the stairs I admit that I became somewhat depressed for a few days. But I didn't let that stop me completely in my tracks. I allowed myself a few days to recover, then I stepped forward and shook it off.

  • I have a good amount of Ativan that I'd been hoarding since I ran out of everything else. Just for emergencies. And guess what? I didn't need any during my trip. Not once.

  • I realized I have never been happier in my life. And that feeling was intoxicating.

I met a lot of people during my trip who were all like, "We don't even know what we're doing tomorrow, let alone where we're staying tonight." I know me, I wouldn't be able to fully enjoy travel like that. I like having a plan in place. It's necessary. Now, that doesn't mean I am going to follow the plan. But having a plan gives me an outline of what my options are. And it gives me a fallback if something unexpected happens and then falls through.

A plan gives me a direction. It helps me build structure around me.

Being bipolar, structure is the most important thing. And traveling all willy nilly is simply not something I'll ever do. Jumping off the deep end is fun. But I like to know whether the deep end is relatively clear of hidden rocks or undercurrent, first.

Last year I went to Europe for 9 days. Half of which I spent with Bine and Cathy, adjusting to being in a foreign country before I jumped into exploring a different city all on my own. That was like dipping my toe into the water. Wading in was this most recent trip to Ecuador. 3 weeks to determine how I'd handle things.

I'm ready to throw myself in now.

The plan is starting to come together. I've got the support of my parents and the people I've talked to so far. I feel that life is pointing to a road in front of me and telling me to start walking. You'll get another post with more details, but for now... here's the idea:

February 1 I take off and go to Florida for a few months. Stay with my parents for a little while and save money. Return to Boston in May (flying out is cheaper from here than from Florida) and in June I take off to India. Be there for up to 6 months. Then take off across SE Asia for a while. Til I am ready to come home or til the money runs out.


Am I crazy? Of course I am! But it feels right, so I'm going to do it.

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