Tag Archives: music

Staring At The Ceiling: Navigating Depression On The Road

My first couple weeks in India, I spent an inordinate amount of time in bed, door locked. Sometimes I had power, sometimes the fan would slowly revolve to a stop and the heat of the day would wrap itself around me like a thick, stifling blanket. I slept a lot. Went out only long enough to get food. Ignored well-meaning people knocking on my door.
When I got to Peru, a similar thing happened.
The same thing happened when I lived in Washington.
It wasn’t the travel that assaulted me, though being in a new place, with strange customs and a painful distance from friends and family, did contribute to my feelings. What is unchanged in all of these scenarios is me. Sometimes, the only viable option is to stay in bed, shades drawn, quietly pretending like I don’t exist. Not even to myself. Because the reality of existence weighs too much, and I’m not always strong.

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It reminds me of physical exercise, in a way. Some days I work out hard, really pushing myself, for a few days stretch. By day four or five my arms are shaking, my legs feel like bruised rubber, and the thought of a push-up is enough to start the waterworks. Emotions are like that, too. Carry around that heavy stuff for too long, and fatigue sets in.
Except, it’s harder to put down emotions than a free weight, and, when travelling, taking that day (or three) to sit in the dark and recharge doesn’t seem like an option. There are places to go! Food to eat! Adventures to be had!
All of which can be loosely translated as: If I’m not out there DOING, I’m wasting my time, wasting my opportunities.
It’s a hard balance to strike. I knew I didn’t want to go home and say, yeah, I spent all my time looking at the ceiling. However, I knew that pushing myself too hard would just whip around and smack me in the face. So I figured out some things that helped, even a little, and started from there. Maybe they can help you, too. Whether you’re darting around SE Asia, or studying at university, or moving through daily life in your hometown, taking care of yourself is always a priority.

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Music
The single most important factor in feeling okay with the world has been music. When I was in Rishikesh, I could not stand walking through the bustling streets with all the people and the noise and the vendors shouting at me. I told myself I had to do it that way, or else I wasn’t really experiencing the city. Which, I had a point, but it was making it so I didn’t go out at all. Then, I plugged in my headphones. Instantly, the world became a whole lot easier to tackle. Find something that feeds your positive emotions. As tempting as a good Bright Eyes marathon might be, see if you can resonate with an artist who sings about beauty, truth, and love. Not just heartache.

Movement
Yoga has served as a major sustaining practice in my life. Through a divorce, being fired for the first time, losing one of my cats, and on and on, yoga has been a place I can turn to when the noise of the world gets too loud. It is a home that I can take everywhere with me. Developing some kind of mindful movement practice can help you settle more deeply into your body, and in this present moment. I’ve found that when I am truly focused on right now, the fact that I am alive and breathing and in no imminent danger, helps to make those clamouring sirens of oh-my-god-I-can’t-do-this fade away a bit.collagefriends (1).png

 

Asking For Help
I’ve never been great at making friends, and keeping them has been challenging, too. At least, that’s what I’ve told myself. My first night in Delhi, I had a meltdown. When I took to Facebook and posted a plea for help, I was surprised at the response I got. Not my boyfriend, not my family, not the friends I thought I’d grown close to before I left. Almost immediately I received a message from a guy I’d met at a festival, weeks earlier. He became my lifeline that night, and many more times in the following months. Reach out. Keep reaching out, especially when it hurts. Love comes from directions you may never expect.

Take excellent care of yourselves. Be kind. Be soft. Be love.

 

Written by Sarah Hirsch

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No- Name Hostel

India opened its arms to me as if I were a lost child. I arrived an interesting mix of wide-eyed and broken, yearning for answers to questions I didn’t even know how to ask. The months leading up to my trip rocked my world, changing what I thought I knew about art and community and perception. I sought courage in my decision to flee to the complete opposite side of the planet as an emotional refugee, a blank canvas, and an eager explorer without a plan.

The weeks went on and I slowly recovered my sense of self with just enough missing pieces to be filled in with the love of others. I longed for the tribal support that fuels the first chakra and roots the soul, and that longing was what opened up my heart. By living with an open heart you attract the right people into your life and that couldn’t have been demonstrated more beautifully than it was by the people of No Name Free Hostel in Goa.

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It began the night of the cancelled jam session. I was walking the Arambol beach with my tap shoes in hand, searching for a place to feed my belly with food and my soul with music. Each spot was blasting trance, but I persisted, determined to find the right destination. It wasn’t until I reached the end of the beach at the last little bar that I could rest.

The music coming out of Seahorse was quirky, to say the least, but it was live. That was all that mattered to me. I sat there eating my chana masala and watched the crowd dance like whizzing electrons as the guitar/drummer duo sang about nonsensical things. They made me laugh, and they energised something deep in me, shouting, “DANCE, dance!”

I inhaled my food and stormed the dance floor equipped with my instrument of choice — my feet. It was love at first jam! The crew had never played with a tap dancer and I was beyond thrilled to fill another pocket of my soul with this tribal oneness.

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At the end of the gig, the guitarist, a tall Danish guy with circular glasses, made the announcement about No Name Free Hostel. I learned that the whole crew that night were from this same tribe. They built this place together in Keri, a quiet piece of paradise on the sea, located just north of Arambol. I knew right then and there that I would be joining the circle in some capacity when the timing was right.

The following week brought the end of my stay in Mandrem. Heartfelt goodbyes and soft tears accompanied me as I packed my belongings and fueled my scooty. With the sun waking up in the Goan sky, I dropped my shades, turned the key, and drove north. I knew my destination but the dull scratching of nerves and anxiety persisted in my guts. Would this group remember me, embrace me, welcome me, love me? Would I feel the same oneness I felt at Seahorse? Am I fun, cool, worthy, happy? All of the things that had bothered me in my past had still been there. All of the questions and fears and shortcomings that had always tortured me have never gone away. But this time, for the first time, I didn’t let my fears influence my decision to live and to be loved. I kept my shaking hand on the gas.

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My arrival was a flood of warmth and instant comfort. I was greeted by a tall, skinny Indian man who I’d met at the bar. He had wild, young dreadlocks and all the qualities of an old friend. The next two faces were that of a beautifully ethereal French woman who co-founded the hostel, and a spritely girl from Italy with a buzzing smile.

The little pixie gave me a tour of the grounds with heart-warming pride and enthusiasm. She walked me through what would soon be the cafe, a means of potential income for the hostel  which would allow it to remain free for drifters like myself. We talked about the vision of the hostel, about how they want to create a space for people from every corner of the world to come together and express, share, create, learn, and build. The small, eclectic group of founders are pioneers of this new type of hostel and they are currently relying on crowd-funding and generous donations to stay afloat. As we walked through the rest of the land (and they have a large chunk of it) I was greeted by volunteers fixing bunk beds for the shared bedroom, an adorable gang of kittens who sleep in their garden, and artists decorating the walls with colourful depictions of their imagination. The whole place seemed to be alive and everyone could feel it. From that moment on, I knew I belonged.

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The rest of my time at No Name is a blur of music, food, and art, complemented by its diverse crew. Some I would see again at the end of my trip only to be greeted as if I had never left, a privilege reserved for the best of friends. Faces come and go and love may blossom in this community by default, but the remarkable thing about them is their ability to embrace each person who walks through the door. When you step on this land you do not feel like a guest in someone else’s home, you feel like family. The knot in your stomach loosens its grip and you feel safe. You feel love.

 

Written by Allie Pizzo, and edited by Sarah Hirsch.

If you are interested in No-name Hostel, please watch this video to find out more about what they do. They also run a crowdfunding page, if you would like to donate.  If Allie’s story about Arambol has inspired you, you can also check out one of Sarah Hirsch’s articles on the town, or about her Christmas spent there.

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The Sun rises in the East

Evenings spent by a lake by Port Leucate, South East France

You wake up at first light, back aching from weeks of sleeping a centimetre off the hard and rocky ground. Your feet are bruised and bloody from hundreds of kilometres crossed in shoes you’ve had no time to break in. There have been times when you felt like giving up. But when you take your first step out into the cool, sharp dawn, none of it matters. The sun is in the long, slow process of breaking over the horizon, and the only sounds are the gentle rise and fall of the waves lapping at the shoreline ten feet away from where you stand in your boyfriend’s old shirt and the bikini you haven’t taken off for a week. There are no time limits, there are no goals. There is just one simple plan – live. You are free.

 

Define freedom in one photo or less
Define freedom in one photo or less

 

The two months I spent hitch-hiking over 1000km between Barcelona and La Rochelle, was the most rewarding, exciting, and challenging experience of my life, one which changed my entire perspective and even my personality more than anything else I have ever experienced. Waking up to sunrise on the beaches of the east coast, and watching the sunset from the beaches of the west give you a profound respect for nature. Walking through the lower peaks of the Pyrenees, almost hallucinating from lack of food, water, and sleep, give you great fear. At this point, I had to ignore everything I’d ever been told, climbing into the back seat of the first truck to go past. I was driven away to safety, and that I will never forget.

I was given food by strangers, driven for hours by families who had no reason to trust me, and given worldly advice by people generations ahead of me. I was even given forty euros, breakfast and a tour of Toulouse by a 70-year-old German man, who the previous day had driven me to a canal to camp. Before this dramatic yet stabilising period of my life, I was questioning my faith in human kindness. Some of my experiences on the road had left me drained, exhausted of all feelings of empathy. The generosity and understanding that I experienced in those weeks on the road proved to me that I have much left to discover about human nature.

 

A canal near Villefranche, half-way between Carcassone and Toulouse
A canal near Villefranche, half-way between Carcassone and Toulouse

 

At this point in my life, there is nothing I long for more than the freedom and hope that comes from exploring this planet, not as an enemy  but as a friend of beauty. In this day and age, so many see nature as simple statistics – a percentage of rainforest destroyed or a disappearing coastline – and they cannot fathom this loss. To sit by a silent lake, kept warm by the fire you made yourself from the kindling you found in a nearby forest, listening to crickets and the birds singing their evening chorus, is an experience without which humans would never have developed to what we are today. Settled atop an old wall of an abandoned monastery, at the peak of what had seemed like an insurmountable climb only that morning, staring across at the patchwork of forests and farmland, the town you left only days before  invisible in the evening haze. Only there, when you have abandoned all that made you who you were, when you have ignored and dismissed all of society’s rules and regulations, can you appreciate the truth. We are a part of nature, we are simple animals, living in a world that we share with many others, a world full of beauty and experiences, if only you go out and seek them.

Written and edited by Beth Naylor

Originally posted on the Wayfaring Student

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