Eleven years ago, I embarked on a Working Holiday Visa adventure in Australia because I aspired to something different (see original article, “I’m running away”) but also—and I didn’t mention it originally—to get over my first breakup and a person I had loved.
Obviously, some people around me told me I was running away.
I’ve been hearing that “running away isn’t a solution” and that “it never solves anything” for over a decade. Well, I beg to differ.
Going abroad to run away from deep-rooted ongoing issues may be an unrealistic way to deal with them—or maybe not, after all!—but it can make sense to run away from a tricky situation or a hard blow, when you’re full of doubt and don’t know what to do or what to think anymore. It can even be a life-saving move.
Going abroad, even if you don’t travel to the other side of the world, means putting yourself in a situation where you lose most of your bearings—the city, streets, people you were familiar with are gone. You step into a new culture with a different atmosphere, you eat different foods, discover behaviours and customs sometimes exactly opposite to what you were used to at home.
Going abroad is often a chance to scrap the past and start fresh, to refocus and fill your mind with tons of new info and immediate details that demand attention and have nothing to do with the original issue you were running away from. For instance, you have to concentrate on travel prep and the many tangible steps necessary to move forward with your project. It’s exciting, scary too, and it makes you feel alive.
And then, after you arrive, there’s accommodation to find, maybe paperwork to take care of, not to mention surviving in a new environment speaking a foreign language. Everything around—or almost—is new, unfamiliar, surprising. Soon you start meeting people and making friends and it only takes a few weeks to distance yourself (metaphorically and literally) from what hurt back home. Basically, you’re taking a breather.
It doesn’t mean that the original issue or source of troubles disappeared—it’s just that thinking about it is no longer a priority. The focus is somewhere else, mostly on living a good experience abroad.
Maybe you were sick and tired of dwelling on the same things back home.
People around us, kindly or less so, intentionally or not, tend to remind us of the issues. Leaving can be a way to end the conversation and shut down repeated discussions.
Once you’re geographically far, you and only you choose the topics discussed with new friends and acquaintances, including private matters.
Leaving is also a way to shake things up, to kick your own butt and give yourself a chance to bounce back, to prove yourself—just in case you stopped believing!—that life is worth living and you can pull yourself together to find a way to start fresh.
So yes, far, far away, you may feel lonely, you may question yourself and wonder why you left and whether it was a wise decision. Past issues may resurface, sometimes completely out of the blue and quite viciously once the “honeymoon” is over. I’d say that it’s best not too put too much pressure on yourself and expect much from the trip—just go with the flow.
I wasn’t expecting anything from Australia. And this country gave me so much…
I needed to distance myself from my former life, I needed a year for myself and it worked. This WHV adventure turned into a series of happy moments against the backdrop of a feeling of freedom and relaxation.
I had another tough year in 2017. Naturally, I considered travelling again. I was dreaming of exploring New Zealand, among other destinations. I had amazing scenery, quiet and new friends in mind. I wouldn’t be taking a huge risk—I’m an experienced traveller now, I backpacked solo, I know I’m okay with it and I know it makes me happy. I just have to, you know, do it again and that’s another story. It depends on what you’re running away from, I guess—someone, people, a situation, an event.
Sometimes, leaving means turning the page and leaving someone or something behind for good.
Is it necessary? Maybe. Doesn’t make it easier to take the first step, though.
Sometimes, running away from a painful situation—like a difficult relationship with a relative—can be a way to step back and find the will to make peace (again…) or solve the issue. It can be a way to find answers, see clearer. It can be a way to come back less angry and more confident, ready to deal with the issue differently and maybe make the effort to do something about it.
Sometimes, upon your return, you keep the momentum and feel you can control the situation better. Maybe you used to be weaker, unable to follow through, stuck in a dead-end street. But that was before—now you know where you’re going and what you want. You’re starting fresh.
So if you have no idea what major you should sign up for or what kind of work you should pursue, if you were dumped, if you need to walk away from relatives, if you don’t know where you’re going, well, my advice is to consider a Working Holiday Visa, the European Voluntary Service (if you want to explore Europe), international volunteering through WWOOF, HelpX or Workaway. Just consider travelling! Maybe it won’t solve anything but plenty of new experiences await.
You don’t have to go for a year, you don’t have to go far. Maybe you could start with a one- or two-month volunteering experience in a neighbouring country, just to test it out. Then if you get hooked, you know what the next step could be.
Go ahead, run away and have fun!