When you go numb

Written by on April 17, 2015 in Blog, Europe, Expat Life, Expat Life Featured, Spain - 25 Comments

being numb

There’s a pressure mounting in my veins. I can feel my heart race at night, before I go to sleep. The anxieties I fought so hard to quiet, surfacing and swirling in my mind, prohibiting my body to surrender to quiet. To black. To dreams.

I’m in Madrid.

And yet, I’m not. Physically, yes. I wake up in Madrid. I go about my day in Madrid. I sleep in Madrid. But, my mind? It’s not here.

It’s elsewhere.

Floating in a myriad of what ifs. You know the kind: the ones that pool in you, lurk just behind your lungs, and creep up to render you emotionally paralyzed.

#popcorn #cloudporn #latergram

A photo posted by Diana Edelman (@dtravelsround) on

It’s been four months since I’ve left Thailand, and there isn’t a day my heart doesn’t float back there. To the thick, humid air. To the sweaty nights listening to geckos and frogs. To the pounding monsoon rains that fall onto my metal roof like quarters. To the animals.

There are times I lay awake at night wondering if I made the right decision. Even though I know I did. I guess I just never realized the next steps would be so difficult for someone who always found beauty in the unknown. In traveling.

London was a whir of culture. Of life. Of the things I missed while living in SE Asia. London made me feel alive again. A different alive than in Thailand. In London, I felt that exciting whir of possibility once more. I felt desired. I felt strong.

My favourite sign in the world! #Madrid #sol

A photo posted by Diana Edelman (@dtravelsround) on

And then came Spain. A country I have always dreamed of living. But, when I arrived to Spain, it was cloaked in a cloud of sadness. I didn’t want to leave LondonI didn’t want to start all over. Again. I didn’t want to go through the impossible tangle of visa applications, finding a new place to live, meeting new people.

But, I left London because I had no choice. At some point, the GBP would catch up with me and my nomadic paychecks. At some point, my visa would expire, and all of the work I did in creating a life there would go with it.

Passing over the England channel and watching the glistening lights of the coast disappear out of my window evoked a feeling of defeat. Even though I knew it wasn’t. There, the twinkling lights faded and across the channel, small dots emerged, lighting up little swaths of land below. I couldn’t help myself, so I hid my head under my hat and let the tears fall as my flight crossed into mainland Europe.


A photo posted by Diana Edelman (@dtravelsround) on

For a month, I’ve been here. Going through the motions. Connecting the never-ending dots, checking off boxes on my list to acquire my visa. But, I’ve done little else. Somewhere this past month or so, I lost my sparkle.

Stress is a funny thing. It can either make you move faster, or make you freeze. And, it does both to me. First, there is the freeze. The denial. The idea that the things I want are so unattainable. That the proverbial mountain I have to climb is just too damn big. Too hard to summit.

So, I let it overtake me. I stopped writing because I felt I had nothing to say. I had no motivation. Instead, I escaped.

I tried a lot of things to snap out of it. I visited the city. I explored narrow, hill-laden paths throughout buildings in existence far longer than my home country. I tried to spark that feeling I had all those years ago when I first came here. That feeling of awe. That the world is my oyster. That any place I rest is home.

Since Christmas, when I left Chiang Mai, I haven’t had a real place to call “home.” I have felt like a lost child, wandering through places that don’t really want me, forgetting to appreciate where I am. The moments I have had. I’ve been on this automatic pilot, and the only thing that kept echoing in my mind is that I have a couple more months before I can unpack. Before I can truly get settled. Before I can really start a life here.

It’s a feeling I haven’t had in a really long time. This purgatory. This hurry-up-and-wait while everything around me happens, spinning out of my control.

It’s a scary feeling to have, that the only thing I can control here is my happiness. But, it is also a powerful feeling. One that finally pushed me out of my I-can’t-move-or-think-or-write-or-do-anything because I am spiraling down into my own self-created doubt and anxiety.

Today, I finally accepted something that was gone for a long while: my life is mine. Yes, there are things I cannot control. There are background checks, and policies and red tape I have to go through to get what I need to stay here, but it will happen.

Flowers and pretty today in #Madrid

A photo posted by Diana Edelman (@dtravelsround) on

And, in the meantime, I can choose to wander, numb. Or, I can choose to open my eyes, smell the beauty of the coming rain, appreciate the flowers blooming on the trees, the taste of tinto de verano. You know what I choose?

My happiness.

About the Author

Diana Edelman is an avid traveler who recently spent four years living as an expat. Most notably, Diana spent nearly three years in Chiang Mai, Thailand where she worked with Save Elephant Foundation to raise awareness about the realities of elephant tourism. Currently based in Las Vegas, Diana works in many industries as a publicist, social media expert, content creator and journalist. The co-founder of the Responsible Travel & Tourism Collective, Diana has spoken at conferences about travel blogging and responsible tourism.

25 Comments on " When you go numb "

  1. Emily April 17, 2015 at 6:34 pm · Reply

    I think so many of us have those ups and downs, and it’s got to be tough starting anew with no regular folk you know and who know you, and then dealing with a whole ton of bureaucracy. Good luck with getting through all that and keep your chin up! 🙂

    • Diana April 20, 2015 at 5:24 pm · Reply

      Chin is up, Emily! It is tough, but it shows me I can do it, which is important.

  2. hilary April 18, 2015 at 9:09 am · Reply

    I’m so glad you are writing again, I’ve missed it!
    I understand so much of what you’ve written, going from one place to another is not always the easiest thing to do, even when you know its the right thing, but then you had to do it again…….
    Of course it will take time for your head and your heart to catch up with your body, but it sounds like you’re getting there. Much love x

    • Diana April 20, 2015 at 5:24 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Hilary! I’m getting there … this past week has been really eye-opening and empowering. Only better times from here 🙂

  3. alex April 19, 2015 at 1:16 am · Reply

    girl you’re writing is too good. i wish i could express myself the way you can – thank you for sharing and making me feel like it’s normal to feel this way at times 🙂 hope to see you again soon!

    • Diana April 20, 2015 at 5:23 pm · Reply

      Thank you, Alex. I really appreciate it! I know we will cross paths again soon! 🙂

  4. De'Jav April 20, 2015 at 2:17 am · Reply

    This story seems so familiar the whole process can definitely bring its highs and lows. Sounds like you’ve keep your head high and you can’t go wrong with tinto verano. Good luck with everything I’m sure it will work itself out.

    • Diana April 20, 2015 at 5:23 pm · Reply

      Thank you!! You’re right — can’t go wrong with tinto verano!

  5. Alex April 20, 2015 at 6:13 pm · Reply

    I know how you feel, my dear. No matter where I go and what I do, there is always a Koh Tao shaped hole in my heart. And the more places we go and love, the more places we have to miss and long for! Sending you lots of good vibes x

    • Diana April 22, 2015 at 4:46 am · Reply

      I am so glad I’m not the only person who goes through this! It is so comforting to know that other travelers out there know what I’m talking about. Thank you for the good vibes. Looking forward to another work out session with you somewhere in the world. Followed by some drinks. xo

  6. Mindy and Ligeia April 21, 2015 at 8:10 am · Reply

    We too sometimes miss Chiang Mai, mostly the food, the ease of getting around and of course the animals at Elephant Nature Park. So often though we tend to live in the past, realizing the good times we had only after we’ve left. The trick is to try as hard we can to enjoy the present, both in time and location. Not always easy to do of course. But it sure would be a shame to only realize how awesome a time you had in Madrid only after you’ve left.
    I think every travel blogger can relate to this post on some level. 🙂

    • Diana April 22, 2015 at 4:45 am · Reply

      It’s interesting. I definitely recall the good times, but like so many other experiences, my mind only allows me to remember the good times and not the bad. I remind myself why I left, and it helps get over missing it so much. Thailand was an incredible and beautiful and life-changing experience; it made me grow up and learn so much about myself and about the realities of life and human interactions. It’s been tough since I left because I’ve been essentially a nomad with no firm roots or the ability to really unpack and start a life. After awhile, especially if I am stationary, it weighs on me. I’m so excited for this next chapter in Spain … just needed to get out of the funk. I am working on being in the present and focusing entirely on that, and it is going well so far! Love and miss you. Thank you for your support, always.

  7. Giselle and Cody April 21, 2015 at 2:40 pm · Reply

    Oh muffin, we’re so glad you choose happiness, because you deserve it! Always know that there are new adventures ahead, and sometimes you have to feel numb or unhappy to feel gratitude for everything you have experienced and everything you will continue to experience. But we know what you mean about Thailand. Just today, I (Giselle) went to an Asian supermarket because I missed Thailand. I zig zagged in and out of the aisles commenting to myself about the Thai brands, and even picking up a few Thai groceries. 😉

    • Diana April 22, 2015 at 4:43 am · Reply

      That is so true. Once I got out of my little slump, I was looking at the world with fresh eyes and excited for the opportunities which lay ahead. Sometimes, you are right, you have to have those moments in order to feel and live. I miss Thailand all of the time, but I am careful to remember the things I miss and remind myself of the things I don’t. Love you and miss you.

  8. Laura April 21, 2015 at 4:51 pm · Reply

    Very eloquent. Hopefully you’ve turned the corner out of some of those numb feelings.

    • Diana April 22, 2015 at 4:42 am · Reply

      Thank you! I have!! Just thought I should share the realities of my life, versus just the happy moments. 🙂

  9. Dan Vineberg April 24, 2015 at 2:35 pm · Reply

    Cool article, Diana. I moved to Paris this year and can relate to the feeling of “going numb”. There was a period before I found an apartment and steady work when every day was a a struggle. At some point if travel is your life, well your life is going to have ups and downs wherever you go. So much of travel blogging focuses on the ups, as if that’s all people want to read about. But taking time to acknowledge the downs can be just as relatable, and probably takes a bit more courage and self-awareness.

    • Diana April 26, 2015 at 4:16 pm · Reply

      I’m glad you can relate. I think many travelers can, but as bloggers, people tend to just want to focus on the “amazing” “awesome” experiences versus the realities: we all have our down days, weeks, sometimes even longer. I hope people can relate to my experience. Thank you for your support, Dan!

  10. EvaSturm May 14, 2015 at 2:16 pm · Reply

    I can very much relate to this restlessness you describe. I have been living in Edinburgh for a while now, but not always feel at home, think back home or other places I used to live. To pull myself out of this rut I make plans for the future, but in the mean time I lose sight of the present.

    I am in a long term relationship here and sometimes our lifes are too intertwined and I get too hooked up in my partners affairs making them mine (like his long long visa application issues) while they are not. I therefore thank you for your: My life is mine! I need to make that my mantra again for a while – I decided what I do with it and how I feel about it and am not being taken for granted.

    Thank you!

    • Diana May 29, 2015 at 5:01 pm · Reply

      Thank you!! I can barely make plans for tomorrow these days, let alone my future. That mantra is important for perspective.

  11. Dannielle Lily June 16, 2015 at 6:39 am · Reply

    Oh my God these pictures have given me serious Wanderlust! I’m not sure if I’m already following you on Instagram, but I definitely will be when I get my hands on my phone at 5pm! Great post.


    • Diana June 18, 2015 at 2:09 pm · Reply

      Thanks! Madrid is beautiful.

  12. Turner April 27, 2016 at 12:26 pm · Reply

    All the right spacing to make me pensive. I’m still in limbo in the US, refusing to go abroad without much of a plan this time (not to mention going ALONE). I know I should take things day by day, but financial realities are catching up to me, and spending my time abroad doing job searches back here seems pointless.

    • Diana May 25, 2016 at 1:53 pm · Reply

      Go with your gut!

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