I am emerging from a dark cloud which has obscured my horizons for the last week or so. Some of this has to do with my new, unfamiliar environs. I traded the ubiquitous red brick apartment buildings and sunny spring weather of Medellin for the colder (but still not cold), cloudy climes of Manizales, Caldas.
I left Medellin for a few reasons, some of which I covered in a previous post. The city lived up to its reputation for being very live able. It possesses many of the creature comforts of any modern city.
I was comfortable in Medellin. I had a great apartment with good roommates and was starting to develop a small social circle. This was all to plan, but after four months of maintaining a pretty consistent routine I was bored to tears.
Despite the violent undercurrent roiling just beneath its surface, I found Medellin to be mundane–it’s culture as bland as its many mega malls. Fake tits, fake asses, and a lot of triflin’ ass females. The sexpats and digital nomads can have it.
Already I prefer my new home of Manizales, quiet though it is. But so then why have I been in a dark funk the last week?
The funk was largely due to feeling lonely.
I’m a huge proponent of solo travel. I like making my own schedule without being beholden to anyone else. It also makes it easier to meet and make new friends. Of course the downside to traveling solo is that it can be quite lonely at times. Here I find myself once again in a new city in a foreign country where I know no one.
There are good and a bad ways to approach this situation. The bad way is to allow it to overwhelm you and withdraw, which is what I did during my first week in Manizales.
Withdrawal and self-isolation are very easy to accomplish in Colombia. While they have no regard for personal space, paisas are not particularly open to foreigners. Unless you go out of your way to engage and interact with people here they’ll basically leave you alone.
I need to be alone every once in a while to re-charge my social energy. This is all well and good, but it’s not healthy to make a habit of long-term withdrawal. I have this tendency, so I know it only further exacerbates feelings of loneliness and isolation.
I’ve learned how to deal with loneliness. It’s a natural emotion and I allow myself to feel it without judgment. I also understand it serves a purpose. It reminds me how much I value my family and friends back home.
The right way to deal with loneliness when traveling is to be very open and willing to engage with new experiences and people. This requires social energy and may invoke some resistance from the introverts amongst us. Like most things that are initially uncomfortable, you’ll feel better after having made yourself do it.
Case in point: salsa class last night. I did NOT want to go. I never do. I’d rather dig fire line than go to a salsa studio. And yet one of my goals coming here was to develop at least basic proficiency in the dance–nothing crazy, just enough to not feel completely lost.
This resistance toward going to dance class got the best of me in Medellin. In my four months living there I went to a total of one group class (a terrible one at that).
There are a few studios close to my apartment in Manizales. Yesterday evening it was approaching class time and I once again felt that resistance to going, though I had told myself I would.
That pernicious little voice was whispering in my ear that I could easily skip class with no serious consequences. I could just go next week right? No big deal. Except I’m familiar enough with this voice and I’m beginning to learn its tricks.
So, I forced myself to go to class. And guess what: it was terrible. It was a big group class and the instructor didn’t provide me any individual attention, which I sorely needed. The rhythms were a lot faster than the few other salsa songs I’ve danced to before. I spent over half the class totally lost, cursing my lack of coordination.
This, also is the unpleasant truth. Travel, particularly solo travel, is rife with disappointments. All the more reason to maintain a positive, optimistic attitude.
I’m glad I finally got my ass to the dance studio. I’ll be back again tomorrow, slightly less uncoordinated.