And by "a bit" I mean... it wasn't pretty. We'd spent most of the rainy morning figuring out our next few days and afterward I was cold and cranky, so I laid down while Patrick went for a walk. When he came back he recommended that I go check out this amazing park he'd found. I burst into tears, flopped over on my creaky metal-framed bed in our empty former-train-station hostel, pulled the covers over my head, and cried while the city crew jack-hammered on the street outside.
Eventually I decided it wasn't fair if he saw the beach and I didn't (yes, I am about to turn 39 - and your point is...?), so I got my coat and we went for a walk.
the park really was pretty amazing
I can credit hormones for some of this meltdown. This is true. But I think a lot more of it is due to general exhaustion. This kind of travel is hard. And by "hard" I mean, HARD. There's the constant feeling that we are missing a thousand things for every amazing thing we do see, and not knowing if we will ever come back to see the other 999 amazing things. There's not knowing where we will be in three days, sometimes even that very night - yet wanting to stay flexible enough to enjoy every opportunity that presents itself. There's wanting to submit photos to contests and writing samples to magazines but not having the energy (or sometimes the wifi) to do so at the end of the day. There's wanting to scrimp on costs to ensure that our travels last as long as possible while sometimes sacrificing comfortable sleep and/or nutritious food and/or hours of time. There's this stupid Schengen visa restriction that only gives us 90 days of every 180 days in most European countries...
But I'm a project manager! And a darned good one! I've simultaneously and successfully planned the now, the month-from-now and the year-from-now. I've made decisions on the fly and had them turn out swimmingly, and when they didn't go swimmingly, well - no one died, I learned something, and life went on. I've managed budgets down to the $0.01, schedules to the half-hour and scope creep to the nth degree. So I'm trying to figure out what makes this different from any large project.
Three easy answers come to mind. One is that I always had a team to support me. Here and now, I have aforementioned patient and rather awesome partner in crime, but between the two of us there is not enough time in the day to enjoy the now, plan the tomorrow, research the day after, AND maintain our mental and physical strength. Two is that I usually had adequate resources, but now there is only one laptop and two of us. If I didn't already need progressive lenses, I certainly will after months and months of trying to research hostels and train timetables in foreign languages on my iTouch screen. Three is that I (usually) left work behind from 5:30pm-8:30am every day, with a full 48-hour break on weekends... Harder to do on the road. Shouldn't be, but it is for me. I always, always, always feel behind.
And then there's the fourth answer. The biggie. The not-so-easy one. With projects I always knew where I was going. The deliverable, the end product, the countless other words I hope to never hear or write again. With travel? I have no idea. Before we left we had dinner with some friends who wanted to know our "goal" for this trip. We had no answer. We just knew that cubeland was not for us (for the foreseeable future, anyway) and that we wanted to see and do things we hadn't seen and done. That's still true. But my "goal" for this trip? I still have no idea. (I suspect goats might be involved in some way though.)
or possibly Pyrenees horses
or maybe lambs
Honestly, lately there's been this nagging feeling of wondering what the hell I'm doing. We have a Facebook page, we have a Flickr account, we have Twitter followers, we have daily (if not hourly) decisions to make. Other than those things, we have very little. And as for me, other than a truly patient and rather awesome partner in crime, *I*, Jen, have very little to call my very own. I have no job, no car, no phone. I have a small collection of personal belongings scattered in random places. I have a mailing address but no home. I have no pots, no pans, no sheets or fluffy bath towels and rely on strangers for these things... sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. I travel with a tiny bag of toiletries that does not include a pumice stone or deep conditioner... and I desperately need both.
Before you start with your tiny violin, I will say that while this kind of travel is hard, it is definitely also wonderful. Five days ago I had no idea that the bulls ran such a short distance along such narrow cobbled streets in their annual ritual. Two weeks ago I'd never heard of the town where we saw the beautiful beach today. A year ago I would've laughed if you told me I'd be in Spain at any point on this trip.
I am grateful. But it's definitely not all hugs and puppies. This isn't the first time I've had a meltdown but it's definitely been the worst. I've been feeling it coming for a few days so the other day I googled tips on preventing travel burnout and we're doing most things they recommend - cooking familiar meals, reaching out to friends, getting out of cities, doing laundry in actual washing machines, writing about our excursions, laughing, skipping sightseeing to just sit and absorb. We're hoping to park for a few weeks in Portugal to see if that helps. I have some creative outlets in mind that I think will help.
So I try to roll with it. I shake it off and hope tomorrow brings a successful car rental and a rainy but wonderful walk in a gorgeous place I hadn't heard of before last week. And if it doesn't, I know it will at least bring a warm, dry bed in an empty former-train-station hostel and a new adventure the next day.
At least I know that much is true.