How Travelling Saved My Life

A couple of years ago I got hit by a car while I was racing home from work on my bicycle to get to my brother’s birthday on time. Although I seemed alright on the outside except from a few bruises, I fractured my neck and got a whiplash. This has given me terrible headaches. Headaches that made me question whether this life was worth living if I had to deal with constant pain for the rest of my life. And to be honest. No. The life I was living after the accident wasn’t worth it.

The accident push me over the edge. Not literally, although I must admit that I caught myself googling which tall buildings I could get into to let myself fall. The first time was on a really bad headache-day. I tried to talk to people about it, but although they would looked scared, they never really took me serious. I’m not the kind of person to do such a thing.

“I Am a Fighter”

And they were right – I didn’t do it, but I never thought I would come so close. It was a real consideration. What kept me back wasn’t the fear of death. It wasn’t the fear of the impact. It wasn’t the fear of heights. All those things were nothing compared to the pain. It was the empathy for everyone who would be influenced by it. Obviously friends and family, but also whoever found me. How do you make yourself disappear and never be found?

The accident affected my ability to concentrate on one task for longer periods of time, which made the whole jumping off a building too complicated. The only way I could imagine getting away without being found, was drowning. That would be too slow – I would have time to chicken out. Fight back. Too painful. I wanted to escape my pain, not inflict more of it on myself. It wasn’t going to be a cry for help – the doctors had already told me they couldn’t do anymore for me.

So I dropped it. The thought kept reappearing though. An easy way out. A way to escape the constant pain. At the time I was seeing a psychologist and how she failed to discover this is beyond me. It was research as part of a study to see whether you can solve pain issues (from whiplashes) through talk therapy, and in that sense I guess she was very focused on her task at hand: “Did I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) from the accident?” (I did not btw). “Was my pain diminishing due to the therapy?” Not really. “Was I learning to cope with the pain”. Physically, yes. I’ve learned how to “cope”.

I’ve learned techniques that lets me ignore the pain to a certain extend. And I guess that helps mentally as well. Not during my suicidal days in my “hamster wheel”-life in Copenhagen though. No amount of meditation helped me while I was throwing up from the pain in the early mornings after the nights of no sleep. What held me back on those days was the lack of an escape plan.

The Worst Decision I Made was to Keep Working

Still, I’d try to get work done once the headache quieted down later in the day or in the evenings. I didn’t want my condition to affect my work. I was too proud and fought to stay on the same track of success that I’d been on so far. This was the worst decision I could’ve made. Not only because now, two years later, there’s no proof that I lost my ability to work at the same level as before. I actually managed to keep my facade. This means that my insurance can’t grand me any compensation for lost income or working ability.

It’s not the money that makes me regret it bitterly though. It’s the evenings, nights and weekends I spent catching up on work and thereby neglected my friends, my family, myself. I got blindsided by my goal of keeping up appearances that I failed everything important to me. If I could go back I’d force myself to spend that time with my loved ones instead – that is time I’ll never get back.

When I Finally Chose to Take the Leap

To summarise: About two years ago I was in constant pain. Pain of varying intensity but still constant. When it was mild I managed to smile and be normal. When it was harsh I laid flat on my back with tears running into my ears and wished for it to be over. Soon. Now.

When I was good I would work until I’d made sure I had at least covered my 38 hour work week. Once in awhile I’d take a sick day if I was too far behind. Just to let me breath. I rarely prioritised those good days how I would today.

And that’s why I chose to take the leap. I chose that if that life was making me wish for death, I should start considering how I’d survive. I’d gotten a new position as Head of Marketing, which came with a raise, just before the accident (which might have something to do with the whole keeping up to the expectations of me). It meant that I could put a fair amount of money aside each month. Especially since I pretty much didn’t have a social life anymore and didn’t spend money on going out or having fun.

To survive, I turned to the only thing that I know will make me happy. The last resort. If this didn’t work, nothing would. TRAVEL.

I started planning. It gave me something to look forward to. And by planning I don’t mean my trip. It was meant to give me complete freedom. I was going to follow my heart completely blindfolded. The head was hurting too much to have any say in my trip. Instead, I found someone to live in my apartment. I found a one-way ticket to South East Asia, which is one of the easiest places to be alive. I quit my job. I said goodbye to friends and family. I don’t even remember how I told anyone. My brain was so fried that I could only and just focus on the adventure that laid ahead.

Now I Only Do What Feels Right – Every Day

It happened to be the single best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I still deal with the headaches every day. EVERY DAY. But I don’t have to go to work. I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations. I don’t have to fit into the role of myself before the accident. I’m completely free. I have managed to find a way to live in this hell by bringing it to paradise. I’ve moved out of my messy head to settle in my heart that’s growing bigger every day.

As it turns out, I CAN work. Just not like I used to. I worked in Thailand at an animal hospital that was both unbearable but also necessary for my kickstart out of my head and into my heart. Today I have several clients that I work for. Almost every day. It’s not like before though. I choose the clients I take on. If the assignment or client doesn’t excite me, I don’t take it on. Some of the tasks are easy and barely needs me to switch on my brain – I do those for cheap. Others forces me to think, which keeps me sharp still – those are rarely cheap though.

I can go on tours for weeks and be a normal, happy, human being. I haven’t had a suicidal thought since I made the decision to travel. This time away has given me the opportunity to really understand what i want out of my life, in spite of the constant pain. I want to share all the beautiful experiences there are to be had on this planet with other people. I want to write again. I want to laugh and be happy. I want to eventually escape the pain I’m still left with, but right now I’m coping. Better than I ever have.