Why I'm Choosing a Filler Chapter Over Travelling
After weeks of my boyfriend urging me to make a decision about our summer vacation, I was struggling to put my finger on why I wasn’t excited by the prospect of a getaway. Feeling perplexed, I began to unmask my own thought process: Was I having a depressive episode? Had becoming an adult with actual bills, made me more sceptical about spending money? Or simply, did I not want to miss any of the Love Island series over summer?
Then one run-of-the-mill midweek afternoon, I found myself in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s car. Driving through the countryside, we had just been for a meal with his parents after I had had a productive day at work. Staring out of the window admiring the idyllic setting, it finally hit me: I was too content with life for a holiday.
Thailand, aged 19.
Reflecting on my previous holidays, I realised I often booked them in the hope of escaping my reality. At the ripe age of 19, I booked myself onto a summer-long trip around Thailand. Subconsciously I hoped I would gain the typical ‘wild’ experiences I had missed out on my teenage years due to having cancer. I went to Thailand with the intentions of having fun and nothing less, whilst hopefully finding my identity before I moved away for university. Like most 19-year olds, I just wanted to fit in. And I did – I had the best summer of my life, I drank more buckets than I had hot dinners, I made so many funny (and some embarrassing) memories and I even got a cliché traveller tattoo whilst at my worst state. I also just happened to make some friends for life (hello Doris, Katie and Gibbs if you’re reading this!)
Europe, aged 20.
As Thailand was everything I had wanted it to be and more, I moved away to university with bright eyes, a bushy tail and several stories ready to share with the other freshers. The first few months of university were just a prolonged period of Thailand – a lot of drinking, all night-ers spent giggling and gossiping with my new gal pals, and constantly getting up to mischief. But once the university work started kicking in, and the unstableness of university life became less fun and more lonely, my mental health started to suffer. I started working full time (alongside university) as my everyday form of escapism, and then I would spend my entire income, student loan and student overdraft booking holidays with different friends. That year I visited 22 cities outside of the UK. If that isn’t trying to run away from reality, I’m not quite sure what is.
Vietnam, aged 23.
In more recent times, I visited Vietnam for two-weeks in March. The trip was booked whilst working at a job that I detested so much that I would cry on the way to work. I hoped that revisiting Asia – this time with my boyfriend - would help me rediscover my love for the continent and unleash my wild side. I had high expectations for the holiday and was determined to make it an even better holiday than Thailand, especially as this time I’d be doing it alongside the boy. My trip to Vietnam was extremely memorable but for very different reasons: I was finally forced to confront my mental health, as well as my unhealthy obsession with using travelling as a form therapy.
Fast-forward to present day, and the thought of booking a holiday leaves me feeling nothingness. After finally confronting my mental health and learning how to deal with it rather than run away, I feel more content than ever. For the first time in my adult life, I no longer have a bottomless void that feeds off the ‘idea’ of travelling. Instead, I’m extremely happy (and grateful) to be working a Monday – Friday job that I not only love but don’t mind getting up at 6 am for.
Instead of splurging my wages on booking flights, accommodation and tourist excursions, I’ve been spending it on learning to drive, starting a side-business and also buying high-quality bits for the house I plan on moving into, with the boy, by the end of the year. The weeks I’d spend out of the country every year, have instead been spent building a stronger bond with my family and spending quality time with the people who are part of my everyday life.
If my post-Thailand teenager self could see me right now, she’d be shocked by my current situation. She’d most likely see it as settling and be extremely disappointed that I wasn’t using my full-time wage to book worldwide adventures. However, this unrealistic outlook would be outweighed by her sense of pride and longing for a stable reality – she’d find comfort in the fact that I am finally content with my everyday life.