This morning I woke up feeling a little tender around the sinuses, and felt a tad concerned an infection could be on the way. I find myself really hesitant to go to the doctor though, and am more inclined to just wait it out, just in case. It may not be a good idea, but we’ll soon see, and I know I’ll handle it because I’ve learned:
“What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.”
Whenever I’m faced with a challenge in my life, I welcome it with this saying. My motto in life, gives me strength to see the benefits that come with life’s problems. I know that on the other end of the problem, comes a stronger me.
I never used to be a strong person. A clairvoyant once spoke those words to me, on a summer’s evening, in her Romanian gypsy caravan on Brighton Beach, England. She looked through my palm, to the world of my life, past and present, and with directness stated “You are not a strong person.” She was dead right, I wasn’t at all. I was at the start of my travels and was scared, very insecure, in a bad relationship, and yada, yada, yada. Basically I was a total screw up. The gypsy lady, however, went on to reassure me that I would find my strength and again she was right. I did. I blame it all on travel.
Travel is not always the easy and free life that we make it out to be. Like everything, there has to be a bit of yin with the yang. Travel brings challenges, lots of them. But get excited by them, because if you survive (which you will) it only makes you stronger. Here are a few of the ways travel has helped to make me stronger.
Tick bite fever, Bali belly, food poisoning, infected sores and coral cuts, swollen feet, and hangovers are just some of the maladies I have experienced on my global journey. I’ve been poked and prodded by strange doctors in hospitals in Europe, Africa, and Asia. You are going to get sick when you are traveling, it’s just
a part of life. Travel can present you with some unusual and sometimes severe sicknesses. Trying to deal with this in a foreign land, sometimes on your own, adds to the trauma. At home you can go to your family doctor and spend the day in bed, recovering, pumped up on antibiotics. It’s not like this on the road, you may be stuck on a bus traveling over the equator, trying to keep down the insides of your stomach, or forced to explain to a Vietnamese doctor, in universal sign language, just how you got that rash. It’s never easy.
The most horrendous experience I had was tick bite fever in South Africa. I was in Cape Town, the most beautiful city in the world, and I was lying dying in my tent at the hostel. My head pounded with every move I made, the vice of pain tightening with each breath. My joints swelled, hindering my ability to walk. I had only my feet to get me around, and a sweaty tent for a bed. It took a week of misdiagnoses and scrutinizing pain, before I began healing with the right medicine. Tick bite fever didn’t kill me, and now a sinus infection, otherwise pretty painful, seems so minute and manageable.
Craig and I always take the local transport wherever we are, and there have been many times we thought it would kill us. Seriously. Jam packed into a matutu (mini van) in Africa or on the back of a pick up with the whole village does nothing else but make you stronger. Third world country transportation is extremely uncomfortable and very dangerous. You often find yourself shoved on a wooden bench, made for children, with 20 other people, your knees up around your ears and a rooster with its head in your lap, threatening to peck your eyes out if you dare move. Not that you could anyway. If you can withstand that discomfort and fear, you can overcome anything.
My breath always left me on road travel in Africa, only returning once I made it safely to my destination. My most frightening experience however, was in Indonesia. Trapped on the back of a motorbike in the hills of Lake Toba, with a psychopath for a driver, who sings songs to you about killing you, stealing your passport, and then disposing of your body so no one can find you, does wonders for your strength. I survived it and I’m a lot stronger for it. Not much scares me now.
Craig and I have been living and working around the world for 8 years- the length of our marriage. It hasn’t killed us yet, so the only other result would be that we have a really strong marriage. We have our good and bad moments like every relationship, but we have a bond that is founded upon joyful memories and challenging times. It’s the memories of what we’ve been through together, that reminds us in the tough times, that we are an incredibly strong team that can make it through anything.
Traveling with others can be very challenging. You have to learn how to occupy a small space together, plan together, negotiate, compromise, have fun together, be tolerant of each others quirks, and to get over it when the disputes undoubtedly arrive. Traveling teaches you very quickly how to get along with people. Most travelers will spend some time on the road with other people; the results are always the same, either it kills your friendship, or it builds a strong foundation for a healthy relationship that will last forever. If your relationship survives the challenges, your bond will become unbreakable.
Alone on the streets of Dublin, no money, no job, and certainly no friends. I’d lost all of them. It was the lowest point in my life, but soon became the turning point to a stronger me and a better life. I was literally at the crossroads of ‘survive or die.’ Dublin took my hand and forcefully guided me out of the darkness. It brought people into my life who showed me how worthy I really was, encouraging me to find my feet and walk on. I would not have the strength I do now, if it wasn’t for this experience alone in Dublin. The vibrancy of the city and my challenges here, lit a flame of confidence in me that has burned a little brighter every day since. I survived that period in my life. I know that I can survive anything.
I can never say the individual experiences that each traveler will go through. But I know that travel forces you to look deep inside yourself. If you are brave enough to face the darkness, the light of your strength will be revealed.
While at the time of the challenges or terrors travel presented me with, I wished they were not happening, in hindsight I am grateful for the gift of strength each gave to me, to be more and do more. I hate to think what the gypsy woman may have seen in my future otherwise.