Travel blogging is a disjointed, wonderful, but weird world at times. We shared friends on Facebook, interacted online and traded messages. She left supportive comments on my blog and my fan page — constantly showing her enthusiasm for what travel can bring. But did I know her intimately? I cannot claim this.
From her last blog post, some devastating events were pulling her world apart, her father was steeped in terminal illness and her six year relationship ended, her partner offering very little explanation, other than to break her heart and leave.
What I feel right now is inadequate. And shame, because part of me thinks I should have known what she was going through. Yet, logically I couldn’t have, like many of us couldn’t have. Mostly, I am saddened. I pray she is bathed in peace now. And my most heartfelt condolences go to her family and friends.
I debated writing this post at all because Bret Love of Green Global Travel had already written a well-thought out piece that affected many in the travel blogging community deeply.
But like Bret, I also kept wondering why Anita’s death impacted me. I can’t call her a close friend, so I have no right to be so shaken, take it so personally. As I read the news about the tragic unfolding to her story, I couldn’t quell this sick feeling in my stomach. It just wouldn’t disappear. Even after leaving it for a few days.
I realize what won’t leave me is this sense of connection between us. False as it probably is. Anita was a solo female traveler like myself. Were are the same age, but a year apart. I’m 42, she was 43. She also left a corporate job to pursue writing and travel on a more full-time basis.
I can never fathom the rhythms of her inner self and again, I have no right to, but what struck me about her last written words was this sense of loneliness, that perhaps the pursuit of travel wasn’t quite enough anymore. She had done solo travel while in a relationship, but part of the reason for their split was his intense dislike of her excursions. The prospect of a life alone dogged her, likely intermingled with all the other demons she had to fight. And knowing she was going to lose her father.
I’m not going to tell you my choice isn’t stressful or there aren’t days I consider shutting down this travel site because it’s so draining. Those elements exist. We are three dimensional, yet we forget this. Anita was just as three dimensional, so while she applauded the travel life, it doesn’t mean the rest of her life was fantasy. Flesh and viscera is what we are.
I cannot know it all, except to express my true feelings. What some people don’t realize is there’s an immense pressure on women in my age group. The prospect of being cast out by a man frightens us. Because there’s such an underlying fear that nobody will want us. We are dried prunes. By 40, you are supposed to either be married or already have growing children. Blend into the background. Definitely forget being vibrant and sexual. Career should also be solid by now, not gossamer filaments of a wan career such as writing.
If you haven’t made it by now in the writing field, it’s time to let it go because if you refuse, then you’ll not only be old and alone, but a failure.
If you don’t succumb to these norms, people don’t know how to process you, figure you out. Deal with you. Especially on the subject of love. Sure, it’s so simple to pat my hand and give me the advice that I will find someone. I’m still vital and beautiful, highly intelligent.
It’s just not the same. When you’re thirty, you think, I’ve got time. When you’re thirty-five, still got it. Past 40, time is sliding, all but mist that evaporates to the atmosphere.
Choosing travel and never finding someone to share it with scares me sometimes.
The other travelers get younger and I grow older. The men my age are already married or with someone younger. If I meet a younger man, I automatically assume he’ll run far away once he knows my age.
I rarely feel 42, but 32. But to convince another man of that? He would have to be very special.
When I am swamped in these thoughts, struggling with bouts of isolation and a desire to be twined with another person, to connect and feel his touch, all I can do is try to remember that no matter what happens next I try my best to do what makes me fulfilled.
If this lifestyle didn’t any longer, I’d change it. I’d return to Canada and carve an existence there again.
So I continue forward, with the knowledge that love may not materialize, but what I’ve come to know are other forms of love. In the skyline. The trees. A smile on my best friend’s face. A dragonfly fluttering near a reed of bamboo. To kiss a new man without knowing where it will go. Everything is love.
I think Anita knew love too. Yet she had a darkness to contend with, so she went down that path.
I know the touch of suicide. Her friends, her faithful and loyal friends have spoken of her smile and laugh, even at her own birthday party days before she took her own life. Suicide is a finality that can’t be talked through, cried out or laughed away. My own mother attempted suicide three times and each time she tried, we had no idea of her intentions. Later on, there were small clues. Those are the realizations that happen months after. My mother’s attempts were never successful, but her zest for life eventually drained until we admitted her to a nursing home.
Depression is an animal that has wrapped around my family since I knew breath and one of the traits is to conceal it. Even from those who know us best. In my heart, I feel Anita affixed that smile and tinkled with laughter, when inside pain overwhelmed her. I remember often going to school and pretending that my mother was at home baking cookies instead of lying in a psych ward.
What it’s best to do is remember the contributions Anita made to those around her, those she loved, who loved her. To pay homage to her delight at exploring a new nook in a country and what traveling meant to her.
At a time like this, I always remember Lauren Hill’s song, “Everything is Everything”, when she sings, “After winter, must come spring. Change, it comes eventually… ”
Ladies, fellow travelers, adventure enthusiasts, rule breakers — we lost a great one. May she always remain spring.
Photo: M. Anderson