Towards the end of my Belizean experience last year, I found myself quite comfortably living amongst the locals and ex-pats harboured in Punta Gorda, Belize. On the southern end of the country. On a clear day, you can see both the shores of Guatemala and Honduras from the beach. PG-Town wasn’t exactly a top tourist destination stop, that said they had water taxi’s coming in from Guatemala weekly and enough passer-through’s came by to keep it interesting, without completely being submerged by a tourist mentality. Typically they stayed a night and were off to the next location.
It was one of those travellers who spent a few days with us on Front St. (Where we had a hostel, a bar with live music, and a restaurant, all next door to one another) who said something so minor, and in passing, yet has had a strange hold on me ever since. His name was Glen, he was Belgian. He was the life of the party, seemingly living on a spiritual high deemed infectious on every one he met. His broken english and high energy was inspirational, enough at least to convince me to get a tattoo, the night he went roaming and came back to the hostel with a Tattoo artist after midnight. Clearly had gotten out of bed for this crazy tourist, who gets Ink everywhere he goes, in addition, he lets the artist pick the design. These are his souvenir’s.
Several days later lounging at the Central Club next door, nursing some beer’s and solving the worlds problems… I put down my sunglasses for a moment, and Glen picked them up.
“You wear these… because you are afraid.” he said.
Alright, I thought… And I suppose, because I’m protecting my eyes from UV Rays, keeping bugs out of my eyes while riding my motorbike, and generally just being able to see a little better in the Caribbean sun… but I suppose Glen’s right… I’d prefer not have to anybody stare in to my soul so readily.
I carried on my adventures, as time, and finances began to slowly dwindle. One of my last days in Punta Gorda Town, before beginning the long journey home, I “forgot” those sunglasses on the bar of one of the many PG drinking establishments. And though it wasn’t immediately intentional, I haven’t worn a pair since.
As you all know, I made it home without a hitch, and hopped back into the fruit truck for another summer of ripping around Saskatchewan. Feeling accomplished, and energized. I had day dreamed of that Belizean escape in one way or another for about 3 years prior to leaving. And although a little piece of me secretly hopes to find something so majestic, out travelling, that I’ll never want to come home. Usually, however, it’s the coming home part that holds the most majesty, and this time was no exception.
Once I got back to Saskatchewan, I was overwhelmed with what I saw in the wellbeing of my peers and loved ones. Tom, Clay, and Sam had formed the Lakeridge Preschool Band, built on a solid foundation of talent and passion. Before I left Canada, Tom was playing me his songs, on his acoustic guitar, hashing out ideas. By the time I got back, these songs had been transformed into complete pieces of work, with a full band behind him, playing shows that people are actually paying to see. Miranda the Whistler had only gained momentum since I last saw her, signing on to CFCR Radio, and hosting her own house-concerts, which are now selling out. Ryley and Courtney were well into their 12th year together, and first year as a married couple, looking even more in love than they ever have. I also got home just in time to be there for the birth of my first nephew. A miraculous glimpse into the circle of life, witnessing first hand life starting over. This was all the kind of stuff that makes a guy want to stick around forever. Contribute however I can to the prosperity of those I love. And believe me, It’s been such a blessed 10 months basking in all the good things of life. But life (God, the universe, science, take your pick) still has a way of sending you in another direction…
Call it a chemical imbalance, a vitamin-D deficiency, whatever, I found myself losing steam heading into 2017. All my little ambitious projects I saved up for a winter at home seemed to fall by the way side as I found myself doing less and less. Giving more attention to the darker side of the mind, which like a seed planted and watered, has the ability to grow to it’s maximum capacity. There are so many things a man can find to blame in these times. Refusing to admit a relationship is not working, and if it only found a way, I’d be fine. Or waiting to shake off these wintertime blues, get back to my projects and build myself up again… All the while seeing things turn in the opposite direction, I finally reached a point where I was paralyzed. Unable to make a life decision as minor as going outside for a walk.
I eventually reached out with a phone call to a friend I hadn’t seen in almost a year, and she said “What the hell’s wrong with you? Where’s the Joel who comes up with a ridiculous plan, and heads out to see it through?” I had no response, but it resonated with me. “It will be good again. You’ll come up with plans. You’ll get excited for them. You’ll fall in love again. The good times will come again.” The next morning, still numb, I got on my computer, and booked a flight. One Way. In two weeks.
That’ll fix me. I thought. Dump myself off in Central America with no return ticket, and my 1st world problems should fall by the way side while I figure out how I’m going to get home.
From there, I took off to Saskatoon, and passed this news to my Best Friend, who’s always assured me I’m a traveller, and can get going whenever I feel the need. I told him of the being paralyzed, and the lows. He said “It’s hard isn’t it? Not being able to do anything”. Being the straight shooter that he is, he began to tell me the facts of depression. Serotonin deficiency. That 20% of us are dealing with this rock bottom feeling now and again. We spoke of Bell Media’s recent “Let’s Talk” campaign, and all the stories he had heard from this. It’s common. It’s hard to talk about, we’ve heard this all before but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. Talking it out helps. It’s a foot in the door to a solution. Granted, there will be people in your life who simply do not know what to say, leading you to feel like you’re only burdening them with your problems, furthering your own anxiety on the matter. But sometimes you spill the beans to the right person. The person who knows what to say.
My best friend and I went to his mom’s place the next afternoon for lunch and the topic came up. I told her of my plans to go travelling to shake it off. I spoke of the portion of peers who continue to tell me I cannot keep running away from my problems. Instead of facing real life adversity, I have a tendency to slip out and live a fairy tail life until I’m feeling better, and that may be just as unhealthy. She laughed it off. “Who told you this?” she asked… “and have they ever travelled before?”… They hadn’t. “You’re a traveller, Joel. That’s what you’ve done ever since you were old enough to go”
You’ve got to do, what you’ve got to do.
And so I shall. To be honest I’m not even excited, yet, for my one way ticket to Mexico. I have no feeling on the matter. Depression has the power to make a person completely delusional. As if that girl who now refuses to talk to me was possibly the one thing that could have made me happy. As if nothing is worth doing, because everything is essentially meaningless. These are delusions. And I know, once I get off that plane, I’m going to have snap into shape. Food, Shelter, Safety will now be dependant on my survival skills. Figuring out a way to get home, and hopefully collecting some stories along the way, leaving my first world problems right there at the Airport. It will be a self proclaimed boot camp to get my legs moving again, conveniently escaping a winter north of the 49th Parallel (granted it’s been another beautifully mild winter in Saskatchewan, I’d still rather be sleeping outside.)
Last time I took off for Central America, I was hoping to somehow help save the girls so commonly trapped inside the region’s ever hustling Sex Trade. This time around, I’m going to save myself. So stay tuned, if you so choose, to hear stories from my adventures, I’m still not entirely sure where I’ll go once I get off the plane in Cancún, but I can tell you one thing, the first thing I’ll do is buy a pair of cheap sunglasses.