You might recall from an older blog piece on an epic road trip through Namibia how I came back totally shook, not having realised how much I needed a holiday until I was back from the holiday and had to return to work mode.
But it was more than that. I realised that having an office job where you sit at a desk for 9 hours a day is just not natural. I spent a good 6 or 7 months being horrendously depressed about the daily grind of waking up at 6-something to drag yourself to that desk and that fluorescent-lit office where you don’t even get a lunch break (in my case). But I was trapped in a serious debt-cycle. I needed every cent I got from my regular office job AND the money I made on weekends and nights, working extra gigs. So after about 7 months, I stifled my depressed spirit and told myself to MAN UP and accept that McJobbing is part of Adulting.
But IS IT, GUYS?!?!?! [CAPS LOCK FOR DAYS!!!!]
I consoled my spirit those months by planning our second epic road trip! I was living for December, basically.
I tried to create balance by not putting too much pressure on my holiday and that helped. A reminder to oneself to not have expectations but just to let life flow is important. This is especially the case when your whole year revolves around an upcoming holiday. If you keep thinking it’s going to be epic, you will probably end up being disappointed and crushed by the holiday “letting you down”, so to speak. So I kept an open mind, understanding that I could not know what to expect to a very large extent. And, in fact, the holiday kept surprising me in unexpected ways.
That’s how we spent much of the December break. It was 19 days of road-tripping all over the Northern Cape, a bit of Namibia, the West Coast and the Karoo. It was magic! We camped everywhere (except for one night) and we made all our own meals (except on maybe 3 or 4 occasions, and bar cereals for breakfast to expedite breaking camp). That means that at least 34 meals were made by us. And we drank so much water, especially when it was hot. And every day we moved our bodies in some way, shape or form. Every day we walked (boy did we walk a lot!), hiked, climbed rocks, paddled, set up camp, broke camp, unpacked the car, packed the car. Every day. And we had decided on a completely offline holiday. We deleted social media apps and only switched on data to send one brief semi-Christmas/sort-of-New-Year’s message or to find ourselves when lost (if data was even available, which was rare anyway). No staring at phones or scrolling through newsfeeds or endless Whatsapps.
What happens when you come back from that life of exalted freedom? Three weeks of knowing what’s going into your body, drinking lots of water, constantly being active and disconnecting from the noise?
We arrived back on a Thursday night and on our first Saturday, we wandered around Melville in search of a restaurant that was open so we could have brunch. It was a delicious meal and it was healthy in many ways. But my body rebelled against this food. Immediately, I puckered up like a raisin from all the sodium. And the meal got flushed out. And that would happen with the next 4 restaurant meals we had. I would almost instantly feel incredibly thirsty and struggle with the sodium content, watch my face get dry and pruny, and ultimately, my body would evac the food.
Being back at work was a lot of the same. Suddenly basically sitting for 9 hours, hardly moving, staring at screens of all sorts, and I had a monumental five migraines in a few weeks. This is unheard of for me as I usually have 3 a year, if I’m unlucky. This was the hardest element to deal with since, try as I might to avoid it, I need to do my job. Being out of action 50% of the first two weeks of work proved to be extremely stressful, which doesn’t help with migraines!
However, there was something far stranger! When we got back from our first trip last year, we’d been taking malaria meds and were having weird dreams throughout. We came home and had a bizarre series of nightmares for about 3 weeks after we got back. We wrote it off as malaria-medication-induced and thought nothing of it. But here we were, not on prophylactics this time, and back in our bed but having odd nightmares again, both of us. This lasted at least two weeks into the new year and I still wake up once in a while, having a dream or nightmare of a similar nature. We spent 19 days sleeping in a tiny tent, feeling remarkably safe (most days). It seems the knock-on effect of that is that sleeping in a house again, in a big bedroom, leaves you feeling very unsecure, unsafe and generally apprehensive. This is odd because the house has alarms, doors that lock, windows that bolt … all of those things. We decided that it had to do with the space. The space of the room seemed to be the problem. Both our dreams often involved feeling exposed and that somehow we had lost our tent and were sleeping “out in the open”, with danger lurking (animals, flooding, fire, criminals).
It’s been said many times and in many different ways, but it’s becoming more and more clear that we as humans are just not meant to be chained to a desk in our corporate bubble, away from nature and the outdoors. And that’s why adulting sucks.
During camping, we were up just past sunrise without effort but try as I might, I struggle to get up at 06:00 every day just to sit in traffic and then to spend the entire day at my desk. While we were on our trip, it was dead easy to reach your step-count target every single day but in the daily grind, you’re lucky if you reach 2000 steps a day. The trip saw some stressful moments but it’s nothing compared to the constant stress that one is under at work. In the rat race, we are constantly on our phones or computers, checking in and reading emails, always available, always responding as soon as possible, to every ping we get. While out there on the trip, we sat and stared at the ocean or the road, sometimes long quiet times stretched out indefinitely, and we looked at phones only to capture special moments.
The world doesn’t seem to allow for it, and some people don’t even recognise it, but we need that freedom. That “living your best life” thing shouldn’t be a cheesy line but the ultimate goal to strive toward. I’m on a mission to find out how I can break the shackles tying me to this desk, keeping me in that traffic, hiding me away from the sun. Are you?