I am having a rough few days.
It started on the bus from Battambang to Phnom Penh. Usually, on a bus ride I’d be staring out of the window, drinking in the scenery, taking blurry photos of villages and mountains, comparing it with the English landscape and marvelling at how different the world can be. Instead, I put my feet up on the seat next to me and went to sleep.
For six hours, I napped. I napped until it was painful to nap any more. I got bored of my audiobook (for sleeping) and switched over to some music (for looking out of the window and pretending to be in a music video). But I did not look out of the window and pretend to be in a music video. I sat, with my eyes shut, and listened to the same album I’ve listened to so many times I know how long the gaps between the songs are.
And then, when the album finished, I just sat there.
For two hours.
On my first day in Phnom Penh, I went through the motions. I got up early, I went to go see some stuff. I went to S21, the genocide museum, which may or may not have spiralled me further into this funk. I read almost all of a book about failing middle aged ambition, which also probably didn’t help.
On my second day, I started again. I woke up a little later, I went to the National Museum. I wandered around the exhibits, barely able to read the signs, forgetting everything as soon as I saw it. Thoroughly disinterested, I circled the museum until enough time had passed to justify the entrance fee, and then I came straight back to the hostel.
I had a shower. I had a fruit shake. I ordered a burger, took one bite, and it tasted like shit.
Now I feel like I want to cry.
Am I depressed? I’ve been depressed before and it wasn’t really like this. They usually call it “travel fatigue”, and cite the constant, repetitive change, the lack of meaningful social interaction. It makes people tired, blasé, immune to the beauty around them. It makes people want to sit in bed and watch Netflix and ‘recharge their batteries’.
But I just want to go home.
I remember having this feeling before. On my very first solo trip I went to the Netherlands. It was mid-August and I had a good 6-8 weeks before I had to go back to university. “I can stay as long as I want”, I told myself with glee, “I can see everything. I can be open ended and spontaneous.” But in the end, I stayed only 12 days. One hostel booking ran out and, on auto pilot, I walked to the train station and bought the first ticket home. It was expensive, but I didn’t care. I didn’t want to be there any more.
As soon as I got back, I felt intense regret. It felt so weak, to give up at the first twinge of boredom. “Only boring people get bored”. I swore to myself that next time I was travelling, and I got this feeling, I would sit it out. I would make myself stay for a few more days, and chances were the feeling would pass.
So here I am, sticking it out a few more days, waiting for the feeling to pass.
And trying not to cry, because if I start I will not stop and I’m in a hostel room and, even though I’m alone at the moment, some one might come in at any second and I can’t handle the social awkwardness of being caught crying. Or rather, I don’t want to have to talk to someone, and if someone sees me crying they will ask me if I am okay and I will have to speak to them.
I have been away for two months and 10 days, approximately one third of my trip. Last week (only last week?) I was telling people that I was considering staying for longer. Now I am actively avoiding googling flights, because I don’t know where that might lead.
This will pass, right?