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Seeking thoughts, insights, and ideas to deal with travel/transition feelings and frustrations.
July 17, 2010 10:13 AM   Subscribe

For the last two+ months, and until October, I've been living out of a suitcase as I make a move overseas. There are aspects of this transition that are starting to wear on me and I'm looking for cheap/free ways to cope.

Some of the sources of frustration/exhaustion:
  • Constant logistics...where am I going next, what do I need to bring, what's the weather like, how will I get back to my things, where will I stay. Planning is becoming a thorn in my side.
  • Being in other people's spaces. For 2+ months I've been on people's couches, at restaurants, asking for their internet passwords/coffee/shower, etc. Everybody is great, but I feel like I'm forever chasing a few hours of uninterrupted peace. And when I'm not, it feels like I'm up in people's business, making requests or taking their time (even though I'm not, really). I don't want to seem rude/antisocial to my friends and family, especially considering how my time with them is so limited. Also, since I truly enjoy their company and don't want our time to end, I feel like I'm often torn between staying and saying, "Sorry to cut this short but I need to go and...(lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling for a bit?)"
  • Saying goodbye. It's an emotional constant everywhere I go. I'm getting better at it, but I show up somewhere and instinctively brace myself for the eventual hugs and tears.
  • My luggage...it's everything I own right now, which is fun and liberating and all, but I long to put things away, to buy (large!) things, and to not have to account for a huge suitcase, a big backpacker's pack and a ginormous purse everywhere I go.
How can I continue to cultivate peace, sanity and a sense of (my) place in the world? What sorts of things can I tell myself to deal with these frustrations? I've pretty much daydreamed the hell out of what my new life will be like, and I need something to bring me back down to earth, or preferably towards some idea of home in my head.

Thanks.
posted by iamkimiam to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I take it you don't have a car... how about finding a super-cheap motel to stay at for a week or just a few days, so you can have a place to yourself? Or to go even cheaper: borrow a tent (or an RV if you know anyone who has one) and spend a few days at a campsite or on someone's back lawn.

Good luck on the move, I hope you aren't going somewhere that's also extremely space-limited like Tokyo!
posted by XMLicious at 10:26 AM on July 17, 2010


Wow, I did this for a week once, between giving up my apt/putting everything into storage and leaving for a year and it was weird, I can't imagine enduring it for months on end which is why I ask, why? Why can't you find temporary accommodation? a place to housesit? Work at a hostel (don't know where you are) in exchange for accommodation? (Sometimes all it takes is 2-4 hours a day) Is this move permanent?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:30 AM on July 17, 2010


Constant logistics...where am I going next, what do I need to bring, what's the weather like, how will I get back to my things, where will I stay. Planning is becoming a thorn in my side.

Rent or buy an iPhone or, for much less, an iPod Touch (can use it mostly like an iPhone in wireless areas and just like one if you add a $2.99 mic). Note: You should feel comfortable with the cable/technology needed to get the apps that will give you a life control center-like feeling in your purse. If you're really adept you can do this all without even using a cable.

Being in other people's spaces. For 2+ months I've been on people's couches, at restaurants, asking for their internet passwords/coffee/shower, etc. Everybody is great, but I feel like I'm forever chasing a few hours of uninterrupted peace. And when I'm not, it feels like I'm up in people's business, making requests or taking their time (even though I'm not, really). I don't want to seem rude/antisocial to my friends and family, especially considering how my time with them is so limited. Also, since I truly enjoy their company and don't want our time to end, I feel like I'm often torn between staying and saying, "Sorry to cut this short but I need to go and...(lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling for a bit?)"

When I had a great space in Oregon friends would come through and some communicated with their eyes and a simple note afterward how much it meant to them to share it. I still cherish those notes, and even more the memories of their eyes and have no memory of any sacrifice or giving anything up for it. Just embody the deepest level of your "mission" in this travel and they'll be honored to share in it. The rest is just material stuff. The sincerity of your need for solitude carries equal weight. When you believe and embody it others will feel like they're supporting it, like the ground crew when we go on retreat. They'll feel they're actively participating in something great while not having to entertain you and being able to get on with their own routines.

Saying goodbye. It's an emotional constant everywhere I go. I'm getting better at it, but I show up somewhere and instinctively brace myself for the eventual hugs and tears.

I have no advice here. Saying goodbye is hard, period. Maybe its hardness is a measure of its goodness. Somehow those tears are transmuted to the thing you will remember most fondly of all.

My luggage...it's everything I own right now, which is fun and liberating and all, but I long to put things away, to buy (large!) things, and to not have to account for a huge suitcase, a big backpacker's pack and a ginormous purse everywhere I go.


Embrace the One Bag ideal NOW, before you hurt your back or worse. Leave the things you've pruned out in storage, with those who can send them to you if you need that security. What you're lugging around can really weigh-down a trip psychologically as well as physically. Most who learn this say they learned it too late. Think how liberating it would be to arrive at your next pit-stop standing tall and smiling genuinely, not forcing one while thinking only of the moment when you can set your load down.
posted by tangram1 at 10:40 AM on July 17, 2010


"I can't imagine enduring it for months on end which is why I ask, why?"

The last two months are a long story...but these next two months in the US are necessary so that I can receive my renewed passport (should be another week or so), then apply for my VISA, work out remaining logistics, say goodbye, and kill time...my housing accommodation doesn't open up in York until October 2nd. I'm flying to the east coast soon because I had a US flight voucher I needed to use, which gets me physically closer to England = cheaper. Even if I go to England as early as I can (probably ~ August 20th), I have the same roaming problem on that side until October.

I do like the idea of finding a place to house-sit in London or York (or hell, wherever)! ...when I get closer to that end, and knock down some of the pegs in between, I'll start looking into the possibility. Thanks for the great suggestion...it didn't even occur to me.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:56 AM on July 17, 2010


This essay has always helped me. It may not be your background or childhood but it touches the areas of living in liminality as you are doing now, on the threshold between what was and what will be and feeling the stress of it.

It is harder for you because this may be your first time being in this stage/state. Write me if you want talk this through. I just got my 6th address in 16 months but its my own rental now (not homeless ;p but guest of a uni being shuffled around their many residences) and its in my 12 major global city :) Living this way is hard and it sucks but I've learnt to live in the middle stage since that's where I've been at for the past 40 years. It was worse before I discovered all of this knowledge.

Here's a snippet from the liminality link:

Living in Liminality

As we have seen, global nomads make up a population whose developmental years are marked by frequent geographic transitions and multiple cultural influences. At the heart of this experience is the social-psychological construct of "liminality." From the Greek limnos, meaning "threshold," liminality describes an in-between time when what was, is no longer, and what will be, is not yet. It is a time rich with ambiguity, uncertainty, and the possibility of creative fomentation. How does liminality serve as a connecting thread in the global nomad experience, weaving its way through each of the four central themes? And what particular advantages does living in liminality offer?

Remember first that one of the defining themes of the internationally mobile childhood is frequent change. Consider, then, that for every experience of change— by their own mobility or another's— nomads experience a parallel process of psychological transition.

William Bridges has written extensively on the three developmental phases that compose this internal process: the ending, the neutral zone, and the new beginning. Movement through each varies from individual to individual. Different members of the same family, engaged in the same change process, may have different transition experiences. It is influenced by the individual personality, the kind of change precipitating the transition, and the broader environmental support (or lack thereof) offered the individual in terms of both the change process and the transition experience.

What Bridges called the "neutral zone" is what we are calling liminality. When a person is in liminal space, he or she is on the threshold, no longer part of the past and not yet part of the new beginning. For many global nomads and their families, in particular for multi-movers, the experience of liminal space becomes the most constant, lived experience.

As with change and transition, liminality also is intertwined closely with the global nomad themes of relationships, world view, and cultural identity. For many internationally mobile children and adolescents, relationships exist primarily in liminal space. They and their friends are forever on the threshold, simultaneously saying goodbye and hello, finding their own precarious balance between getting close quickly while not getting too close. At the same time, as members of multinational expatriate communities, global nomads make friends across race, ethnicity, and language. Their developing world views become balanced in liminality as they learn through daily interaction that truth is contextually relative. Liminality also weaves its way through the global nomad experience of marginal identity. Indeed, cultural marginality is a quintessentially liminal reality. Exposed to multiple cultural traditions during their developmental years, global nomads have the opportunity to achieve identities informed by all, constricted by none, balanced on the thresholds of each. Liminality, then, is a construct powerfully resonant for global nomads. Understanding it encourages them to celebrate their marginality: It is not necessary to choose between the United States or Kenya, between Japan or the United Kingdom. Living in liminality encourages complex, multiplistic perspectives. Their daily experiences persuade them to think in terms of "both/and" rather than "either/or." Liminality reinforces that it is a blessing to be able to "dance in-between," with a foot planted gently in each reality.

Liminality is the byword of a self-reflexive human being. We all contain within ourselves multiple intersecting identities— example, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and race, physicality, native tongue, profession. In any given moment, one of those identities may be more relevant to us than others. At the same time, the identities in our backgrounds continue to make up the whole of who we are. Liminality reminds us to stand tall at the intersection of our multiple identities, aware of our contradictions, and proud nonetheless to acknowledge all the facets of who we are.

posted by infini at 11:11 AM on July 17, 2010 [5 favorites]


Folks here are always recommending working on organic farms. Again, summer=busy for farmers so bound to be plenty of opportunities either here or in England.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:18 AM on July 17, 2010


I hate living out of suitcases, even for a week or two. If the digging through suitcases for everything is making you crazy, I remember that when I went to college there were little cardboard chests of drawers that you could buy at kmart. Maybe if you got one of those, you could have somewhere to unpack and then take apart the chest and fold it up when you leave. If not, I once put all of my clothes in a couple of boxes when I was living at my dad's for a month without a dresser or closet. If you don't want even more stuff to carry around, get a bunch of big plastic bags to separate your stuff inside of your luggage. I did this when my daughter went to camp so instead of digging through a mess, she could find the shirts, underwear, etc. each intheir own bag. It seemed more organized that way to me and it took longer to become an unfolded mess.
posted by artychoke at 11:35 AM on July 17, 2010


Seconding "get a cheap hotel room."

I'm an introvert, and while I like hanging out with friends, after a few days, I start getting the feeling you describe of "chasing a few hours of uninterrupted peace."

When traveling and staying with friends, I make sure I always schedule a hotel room every third or fourth day, just so I have some time and space of my own. Makes all the difference in the world.
posted by DaveP at 11:54 AM on July 17, 2010


If you can't afford the hotel room to have some time alone, please just be honest with your hosts and ask if they wouldn't mind if you took a little alone time in your room. I try to stay in hotels when I can because if I have to be "on" all the time I get very cranky. I would totally understand someone asking for some quiet time alone.
posted by IndigoRain at 3:18 PM on July 17, 2010


If it's possible, I agree with tangram1 that you should assess what you're carrying and see if you can strip it down further, and leave what you don't need to be sent on by someone else. If you're switching climates and need colder weather stuff for one place and warmer weather for another, is your schedule reasonably set? Could you mail the clothing and gear you're less likely to need to the place where you'll need it so you don't have to lug it around the whole time? Freeing yourself up from one of those bags would make things easier.

Planning is just a drag, unfortunately. Do you have your schedule, your flight information, your contacts, etc. in one place, so it's easy to get to when you need it? Little things like being organized help. If you're already organized, can you take advantage of that to get a little help from your friends and family? I would have fun with a task like "I'll be here at this time, and I need to do this, this and this - can you put together an itinerary for me and tell me what I'll need to have with me?" Maybe that's giving up too much responsibility or control for your own itinerary right now, but can you see things that you don't have to do for yourself, or that one of your friends/family would be good at helping you figure out?

Give yourself permission to take care of yourself, and to pay attention to your emotional needs. Your time with your friends and family will be better if, when you're feeling yourself getting tapped out, you say, "You know, this is wonderful, but I really need to rest for a bit/have some time alone." I think (like IndigoRain) most people will be understanding - travel is great, but tiring. If you're stressed and run down and just have had it up to here with people, at some point you're going to start to shut down and you won't really be present to fully enjoy the time you have with people you love.

Goodbyes are hard. Personally, I find it's best not to think about them until I absolutely have to. Traveling to see people, to renew or reestablish connections is, for me, an exercise in being as entirely in the present moment as possible. It also helps me to counter thoughts like "I don't know when I'll see you again!" with "But who knows, it could be soon!" (Even for the most unlikely candidates - I think a little magical thinking is okay under the circumstances.)

For all the stress and aggravation, I'm rather envious of your adventure. Good luck, and safe travels!
posted by EvaDestruction at 6:21 AM on July 18, 2010


Here's an inexpensive alternative to hotels, discussed in today's New York Times: Europe without Hotels. Despite the title, one of the services it reviews, airbnb.com, is global. So you might consider "your own place" for at least part of the time between now and October.
posted by WestCoaster at 5:36 PM on July 18, 2010


To add to what WestCoaster said, check for alternative housing, like those highlighted in this thread.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:03 PM on July 19, 2010


Really fantastic answers, everybody! I especially enjoyed the articles infini linked to...it wasn't what I was thinking of when I asked the question, but it's just the right approach to the issues that I really appreciate and value. It helps to understand what's going on psychologically...even though I feel it, it's sometimes hard to understand until I read some experienced perspective. I'm going to keep ploddin' on, taking all these new ideas and options in and doing whatever I can to get through!
posted by iamkimiam at 12:42 PM on July 20, 2010


i found that it was the knowledge of knowing what and how and about when that allowed me to develop coping skills and mechanisms and thus feel a sense of control back in terms my own day to day life even when there was total chaos

i'm glad you liked them, I remembered something that you'd once shared with me about community of practices and thought this might be of interest
posted by infini at 1:09 PM on July 20, 2010


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