Candice Walsh at an elephant sanctuary

Travel, grief, and relearning to love the world

I’ve been back from my six-week stint around Southeast Asia for about a month now.

I have not written a single word about my journey. Not a single one.

I barely shared my experiences throughout my trip, even though I filled an entire journal with meticulous notes. Places where I ate, the price of my meals, the experiences at hand. My Facebook Page and Instagram collected cobwebs.

Perhaps that was one of the most liberating things I’ve learned about myself on this trip: I do not want to work while I’m travelling.

Yeah, I agree. That doesn’t work well for a blogger.

But, truthfully, this trip was all for me.

Southeast Asia was the best trip I’ve ever done, aside from the Camino. And aside from my first solo trip around Greece and the Balkans. But those were very different trips. They fulfilled some sort of void in my life during those periods of time. The Balkans helped me prove to myself that I could travel far and wide and alone. My pilgrimage established a sense of gratitude that has stayed with me every day since I last strolled into Santiago. And this trip — this wild, sweaty, impossibly dreamy drunken roller coaster of a trip — helped put me back together after last year’s mess.

I say this as I sit in bed at my Aunt’s house, having said “I love you, good night” to my mother in ICU at the hospital just a few hours ago. I have spent the last two days making her comfortable, feeding her, fetching the nurse, keeping her company, and helping her when she’s sick. I’ve done things that would make Old Candice squeamish and uncomfortable.

Mom’s health has never been the same since last year. She’s the strongest woman I know, and I marvel at her resilience. She weighs 100lbs. She’s a tiny bird. It’s weird when you reverse roles with your parents, and you’re forced to think, who’s gonna take care of me? I am surrounded by love and support from all corners of the planet, but I am often just alone. Both my brother and father have dire health issues. Very few of my family members live nearby. When the phone rings and a number pops up from Central Health — or when Mom’s doctor pulls me aside in urgent whispers — it’s just me. It’s me, beside her bed, all day and all night.

And this is why I’m so, so, so grateful for my trip to Asia.

There were so many moments in Asia where the emotions rushed in and I could not believe I was there. I could not believe I had just sweated and scrambled up a mountain to see the sunset over Vang Vieng. I could not fathom that I was exploring Angkor Wat, a 900-year-old city carved with exquisite care. Every moment on that houseboat on the Mekong River, every stroke of the pedal as I bicycled through the Hoi An countryside, every laugh with every new friend was a way of picking up a broken piece of myself and supergluing it back together.

Sunset over the mountains in Vang Vieng

“Grief” may be the wrong word to place on those experiences. But it is fitting in the way that I am mourning a part of my life that now is mostly over.

I need those reminders; I need to know that the world is beautiful and yes it is full of profound hurt and awfulness. But I am alive and grateful, and I am so happy to have the sun on my face and good people by my side.

I get it now — I understand why people flock to Southeast Asia. It’s a fantasy land. Everything you want is at your fingertips. Meeting people is a breeze, and on a spontaneous pub crawl in Phuket, I met two of my travel soul sisters who carried me through the rest of the journey.

I admit that I love my settled life in St. John’s. I look around my little house daily and I’m in awe that it’s all mine and I made it happen. But I’ve become incredibly complacent over the past few years, rarely leaving my comfort zone, and convincing myself entirely that my trip was a bad idea. I postponed my tour about three times. THREE times. I was convinced I’d be returning home in a body bag. The fear nearly killed me and up until the very last day before my flight I considered cancelling and losing thousands of dollars.

Now that I think of it, isn’t it funny how things work out? If I had taken this tour months ago in November like I was supposed to, I would never have ended up with the incredible folks I travelled with.

Everything happened so flawlessly. I didn’t even get sick, not once, and I’m the kind of person who manages to pick up a bad case of gastro in Texas. I can’t help but feel like it was all a way of the universe saying, “Here, Candice. Do you see? Life is beautiful, in between all the bad bits. It’s worth it.”

No matter how settled I am, no matter how much work and money I’m pouring into my new home, travel will always be a priority. It makes me far happier than any other material item will.

Having said all that, I have a Trello list full of blog ideas I want to share with you. I’ve been scrambling to catch up on work and get my life back on track because six weeks is a long time to not be making ANY money. Soon! (Seriously though, I’m never working while travelling again. My dream for next year is to co-work for a few weeks on Ko Lanta before heading off to explore Indonesia and Japan. Can I make that balance work? Who knows!)

  • May 24 2019
    vincent

    Candice.. you write so well.. and what you write about really strikes a chord. You are quite the inspirational person. Thanks for the honesty, and the courage. Keep writing.

  • June 03 2019

    Candice,

    Lovely picture with Elephant. Touching post, all the best for your next adventure.

    Keep shining and light and all the best to you.

    Greetings from New Zealand

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