thoughts on fear and homesickness: updates in Kiev, Ukraine

I’m currently sitting in the business class lounge in the Kiev airport with an unopened coke beside me and a plate of a variety of Ukrainian foods – boiled potatoes with dill, a ham quiche, and a tomato and bell pepper salad.

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pro tip: if you have a long layover, chilling in a lounge is a must. It’s my first time and I’m feeling bougie af and taking care of my tired body and achey heart.

I am here for a 14 hour layover in transit from JFK to New Delhi. As soon as I got here, I left the airport to explore for a bit.

My least favorite part about traveling alone to a foreign country is that moment when you step outside the safety confines of the airport and out into the unknown and have to figure out transportation to your next destination.

As soon as I got out of the airport, I searched for the bus that would take me to the city center. I didn’t really have any idea of where I wanted to go besides St. Sophia’s Cathedral.

With no bus in sight, I started to get harassed by different men trying to coerce me into taking a taxi. Again, I find this to be one of the scarier parts of traveling alone, because you never know whom to trust and who is trying to just take your money or kidnap you.

I personally always feel safer taking public transportation so after saying no dozens of times to the taxi hustler guy, I waited for the bus trying not to look too lost.

The typical bus that I had read will take you to the city center didn’t seem to be running, because a big, non descript bus was in it’s place and I wasn’t even sure if it was the right one, but I got on and hoped it would take me somewhere I could figure out.

It was once on the bus that I started to get a little freaked out. Realizing I was alone in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language, didn’t know a single soul, and had no idea where I was going. I could feel the fear rising as my thoughts jumped to horrible things… “what if I get mugged and they steal my passport and debit/credit cards”, “what if I get kidnapped or worse, raped?”

Once the fear loop starts, it’s hard to stop it. I started to feel foolish for continuing to put myself in these types of situations and started longing for any semblance of security.

“I miss Paxton”, I kept repeating to myself over and over. The realization that I was going to be gone for 2.5 months and wouldn’t be home next week started to dawn on me and seriously freak me out.

I was suddenly reminded of the last time I was abroad for this long. It was 4 years ago- when I was 20 and went to Italy to do a month long theater course in Commedia dell’Arte and when my program ended, I headed up north to live and work with an Italian family as an au pair for 6 more weeks.

On the weekends I would travel to Germany, Austria, and throughout Italy, all on my own.

I remember feeling that same ache in my heart and the same words repeated over and over, “I miss ___” except the last time, it was my ex boyfriend whose name I kept uttering to myself.

It became a habit – a protective mechanism for whenever I started to feel that ache of being in the space of discomfort. Of being far away from anything familiar and “safe”. Of being in the unknown.

It’s as if I clung to the thoughts of the boys I had back at home because they were the ones I believe will take care of me and protect me.

I’m starting to realize now that this is just another one of those limiting beliefs holding me back. The lie that I’ve internalized is:

“I am only safe and protected when with a man”

But that is BULLSHIT.

I am ALWAYS safe and protected.

My promise to the universe that I made a few weeks ago (read about it on IG, here) in preparation for my trip was one of utter trust and faith that she would have my back. I knew that I was doing my part and taking a huge risk and leaping, and I understood in my core that she wouldn’t have had me jump if she wasn’t going to protect me and keep me safe along the way.

I understand that my emotions are just EMOTIONS. One moment I feel fear and heart sickness and longing for something familiar and safe and the next I feel totally fine, marveling in the new sights and languages and people and views and colors and food.

When I am in those moments of utter lost, doubt, and fear, I turn to my writing. My journal helps me process what I’m feeling and just saying it loud or writing it out already lifts the burden from my heart.

Sometimes when I travel alone, I get into these existential thought patterns of what’s the point? I spend months researching new places and dreaming new places and looking at all the travel guides and pictures and wishing I was there and then I get there and I’m like…okay, cool, but what’s the point? When you don’t have someone physically there to share it with, it seems to hold little meaning.

But even when I’m in those spaces, I know the meaning is in my creativity. The meaning is in my art. Nothing provides me with more inspiration or insight or new perspectives or a NEED to write then traveling.

My motto is “experience it, feel it, now share it”.

Write about your experience. Create something from it. Turn all those scary, heart achey emotions into something beautiful.

The trip may only last a day or a week or a month or in my case 2 and a half and in those moments we feel lost and scared that can seem like SUCH a long time, but in reality it’s a little blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things.

When you return and life goes back to normal and you catch yourself daydreaming about traveling again, look back on all that you experienced, felt, and shared during that time.

THAT is why traveling makes it worth it to me. So, this is my reminder to myself when I find myself thinking “why the heck did I ever think this was a good idea? why would I EVER want to travel alone”?

I know that it pushed me to my limits, that it helped me face my fears, and that it helped me realize how safe and protected I am ALWAYS no matter where I am.

I have about 5 more hours until my plane takes off to Delhi and I already know how nervous I will be for that plane landing and stepping out of my comfort zone and into the unknown…but I’ll report back on the other side 🙂

WITH SO MUCH LOVE,
Leya

and p.s. Kiev is breathtaking. Enjoy some pics from my 5 hours there 🙂

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