Ever since I came to Spain and starting living in an apartment, almost like a normal person, my friends have been asking me questions like, “Are you okay?” “How do you feel living in one place for so long?” “Don’t you want to leave and travel again?”
For a while, my answer was, “I’m perfectly fine! I’m working on my book! Happy to be here!” but lately, my mentality has gotten a bit less stable.
I think it began this summer, when I started to develop “writer’s block.” I had spent such a long time editing the first 200 pages of my book that by the time I finally finished this editing process, I kind of lost motivation to continue to write the rest of my book. Why did I start editing a second draft before I finished the entire first draft? Basically because I started re-reading the draft after spending a long time away from it, and it turns out that I can’t just re-read my own writing without changing it completely :D.
Since then (for the past two or so months), whenever I started working on my book, I felt like I was forcing myself to write, and like I wasn’t enjoying it. Because of that, the work was excruciatingly slow and my mind was constantly wandering elsewhere. I struggled with this for a while, tried to take it easy, take some breaks and put less pressure on myself. Sometimes that helped, sometimes it didn’t, sometimes I just forced myself to write and then broke down when it didn’t work. Eventually I decided to drop it altogether.
I told myself that it’s just not working. I shouldn’t force myself to write.
I put my book and computer to the side and did some stuff that I love doing- hiking, reading, camping, kayaking, swimming, freediving, things like that here on Costa Brava.
During this break, I realized that writer’s block wasn’t really a “thing,” rather, it’s just anxiety – but it can develop into a really bad feedback loop: you might feel anxious/disgruntled/depressed and because of that, you can’t write with ease. When you can’t write, you feel even more anxious/disgruntled/depressed, and you have even more trouble writing, and then you feel even more depressed, and on and on. Sometimes you may exert your feelings on others, and make them feel upset, this may in turn make you feel even more upset, then that might make them feel even more upset, and on and on. You can create endless amounts of feedback loops with these negative feelings…
So I realized that I need to stop that spiral before it gets out of control. The next step was to figure out what this anxiety was all about.
It turns out there are a number of things… Money, of course, is always a problem, but that’s nothing new for me :). Then there’s my “legal status” in Europe. Technically, I’m “married” to a European so that means I’m allowed to stay here. But to actually get an official “document” that would allow me to work + come and go as I please, I would need to make an appointment (which is impossible!), pass an interview and submit some documents that we don’t have (like proof that my “husband” has a job, which he doesn’t :D ). So it seems that unless “my husband” has a job or a ton of money, I won’t be able to get this “legal status” in Spain. That makes me a little anxious because it makes me feel trapped.
I’ve been writing a big long book about my great adventures of traveling all around the world, yet as I’m writing, I’m trapped in a little town on the coast of Spain. In order to leave, I may need some kind of “special permission.” Another document…
If I try to leave without it, I might not be able to come back. Now with the COVID situation, things are even more uncertain.
As I write, I feel nostalgia. I miss the feeling of taking off with nothing but my backpack, having no plans, no responsibilities, no strings, nothing. Just a one-way ticket to the world.
Sometimes I miss that life…
But did I really just trap myself? Or did COVID-19 trap me? Or is it this society?
I realized that I have to “un-trap” myself mentally in order to cure my writer’s block.
How to do that?
Understand that we’re all trapped in this world. Most people are trapped by mortgages, car payments, jobs, debt, fear and a lot of other things. I never wanted to accumulate money or things, to own a house or to build a “career.” I’m very happy about that.
Right now, many borders are closed because of COVID-19 and traveling may be complicated and risky. This will pass and eventually borders will re-open. Those of us who are healthy and alive should be grateful for that :).
My “EU status” is a problem, yes, but at least I am here legally. When the time comes, I’ll also figure out how to come and go legally.
Do I really want to leave now anyway? Not really. I would simply like to finish my book :). And I would like for Tio to finish TROM 2 documentary before we make any serious moves to hit the road.
2. Explore your backyard.
Many people travel far around the world without ever having explored their own backyards, so perhaps now is the best time to do so.
My current backyard is new to me and there are a lot of places to explore, so I should be happy about that.
Here’s where I am now:
A tiny coastal town called L’Estartit, just south of the French border. In the winter, it’s a ghost town, in the summer it’s hot and ravaged by tourism.
Luckily, there are many beautiful national parks nearby, some mountains, tall cliffs, caves, the Mediterranean Sea and some pretty cool islands. There are also a ton of hiking trails and some long-distance footpaths around here. I realized that if you have no money, but you absolutely want to go exploring, the best thing to do is just walk! All you need is some shoes, a backpack, some camping equipment (or a hammock) and a bottle of water :D.
The GR 92 footpath runs along the east coast of Spain, and the GR 11 goes from east to west through the Pyrenees Mountains. The photo below is from the start of the GR 11.
Since we live by the sea, it’s also a good idea to explore the underwater world, since it’s beautiful :). Some places around here look like an aquarium! All you need is a snorkeling mask and you’re good to go.
If you have a boat or kayak then you can explore the coastline from an entirely different perspective.
Tio’s family gave him an inflatable kayak as a birthday gift a couple of months ago, so let’s just say we got lucky.
Did I say I felt trapped? Am I crazy? :D
Kayaking around this coastline has been really fun. I absolutely love it. But kayaking on its own didn’t stop me from feeling trapped. It made me feel great on the days that we took the kayak out (once a week or so), but once I stepped back into my “office” I started to feel depressed about my writer’s block again.
Sometimes it even made me spiral into another feedback loop-
This is what most people live like, I thought. They hate Monday to Friday and can’t wait for these little “weekend trips” and “holidays.”
I think it’s the worse thing in the world to spend your life waiting for the weekend to come.
I mean, Monday to Friday is most of your life! How could you want your life to pass by as quickly as possible?! We should be enjoying the majority of the time we spend alive, not just 2/7ths of it!
I’ve always told people that if they hate their jobs they should quit! I wrote out blogs to explain how that could be done from my perspective and I was writing all about this in my book. Yet there I was, working, not enjoying it and not even getting paid for it! …How ironic.
Once I realized this, I stopped forcing myself to do things that I didn’t enjoy.
3. Explore the world with your mind.
I understand that not everyone has the Mediterranean Sea or any national parks at their doorsteps.
If you have nowhere to go, you don’t want to go anywhere, or you don’t know what to do with yourself, why not explore the world through your computer screen?
These videos are pretty cool too:
Call me crazy, but for me, it is so relaxing to understand that my life, the human species and even the Earth is insignificant in the vast arena of the time and scale of our universe.
One day, we’ll all be gone. The human species will go extinct and even the Earth and Sun will cease to exist. All the battles, triumphs, ambitions and accomplishments of humankind will be forgotten, as will the horrors and catastrophes.
Whatever I do with my life doesn’t really matter. Achievements, documents, “prizes,” social statuses, money, “likes”- all of this is insignificant. Those little things that make me feel depressed are also insignificant. Pressure, anxiety, discontentment, “writer’s block”- what is it all about? Probably nothing all that important :).
So is it all meaningless then? Maybe. But isn’t it just astonishing that we have the capacity to think about this?! To ponder about our own existence and our place in the universe. To question and analyze reality. To learn about this world and to understand that we are a part of something beautiful, yet temporary. – Maybe this can bring meaning to your life.
We’re only here for a fraction of the blink of an eye.
What can we do with this fraction? I’d say, just do what you can to enjoy it. Cause that’s all you really got ;)
Last note. Since I started writing this blog, I also started working on my book again. Last week I managed to finish a new chapter and I’m actually enjoying it once again! So there is still hope that I will finish this book one day! (Jk- I’ll definitely finish it, don’t worry ;)).
I don’t encourage people to quit the creative projects they’ve started, but I definitely encourage breaks. Take a break, take a breather, enjoy the beauty around you, don’t get too caught up in negative emotions. Catch that spiral before it gets out of control!
If it’s really bad, do something different. If your project is important enough to you, you will come back to it eventually.
As for me, I’ll continue writing this first draft. I’ll try to write until the end without editing it too much. If I start to go crazy over it, I might do some of that GR 11 trek through the Pyrenees. We’ll see ;).
Back to the book now!