Well, How Did I Get Here?

          Just as I always try, and always fail, to pack lightly, I brought more of myself to Europe than I wanted to. I didn’t care much for the world or for myself when I left Washington on the 13th of May, and was bracing to face my weeks abroad with the theatrical weariness in which I had become so well-practiced; to be sad, so to speak, somewhere else. Call it ingratitude, call it mental illness, call it a dramatist trying to play a comic role – whatever you call it, I expected it, as a continuation of what had come before.
          Still, traveling is known for its unpredictable side effects, which, if not transformative, certainly give the status quo a run for its money. I still haven’t gotten used to the feeling, for example, of waking up every morning in another part of the world. It’s a stomach-dropping, daydreaming, rollercoaster-riding sort of feeling – a queer mix of terror and excitement, punctuated by the same belated self-interrogation that comes invariably right before the big drop: how could I possibly have imagined that this would be fun? And somehow, it still is – but the fun is inseparable from the terror. Every morning, that terror wraps around me in the form of my thick blanket and pulls me into the mattress, even as my host-mother calls me down to breakfast.
          The anxious writer is never published because he doesn’t write, or never submits what he has written; the anxious talker is never heard because she doesn’t speak, or speaks too quietly to be heard. In London I nearly missed my train because I was too nervous to ask from which track it departed; in Spain I almost threw my book of poems in the garbage, having come to believe them, on the second or third reading, imitative and amateurish. But the anxious traveler can’t so easily give himself up, unless he wishes to stay in his bed all day, which is, of course, simply trading uncertainty for boredom. The anxious traveler is forced by default to travel, to live, to take risks, to breathe new air, to succeed and fail, to win and lose. But he must possess the resilience to untangle himself from the blanket and go down to breakfast.
          Some mornings, by way of motivation, I repeat to myself the mantra, as true as it is tired, that each day abroad offers an experience of immeasurable worth, if only I see it through; or I remind myself, very practically, that a German minor will be well within reach come this fall, so long as I show up to class; or I think about the money already spent (by my parents) and blackmail myself into self-confidence. But when all else fails, there’s only one surefire solution I know of: to tell myself that even if the whole thing has been a colossal mistake, I’d better get out of bed anyway because my host mother has made strawberry jam just for me and there’s nothing more life-affirming than a good breakfast.
          The purpose of this blog henceforth will be photojournalism – observations of the world around me – but the reader should have some idea of what’s going on behind my eyes before I publish anything concerning what I see with them. My writing is my own, and it is the writing of an anxious talker, an anxious writer, and an anxious traveler. I will neither emphasize nor downplay my identity in future writings. But the reader deserves to know: the traveler cannot leave himself behind.

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  • You have a beautiful way of saying what so many people experience and can’t express. You’re honestly is soooo refreshing! Eloquent!

  • This is such a great post and these feeling are quite familiar to me. I’m happy you are pushing through to enjoy this incredible experience.

  • Hi Renny. You don’t know me but I do know your mom casually. I now know more about you on your trip than I knew about my daughter when she studied abroad. She also struggles with severe anxiety.
    Your ability to so eloquently write about something so raw blew me away. Please continue to write as you photograph your adventures. I loved reading your words even as they describe the painful process you are going through. And continue to put one foot in front of the other. It will be worth it.

  • Holy moly. Please keep writing and sharing and rising for breakfast. Thank you for this gift of your initial experience; your words will resonate widely. A+++++

  • Being a fan of your mother’s writing and thinking it came as no surprise that your honesty would be in the forefront of your writing. I look forward to following your adventure no matter the anxiety you may have about what may be in store for you in your travels. Being also the kind of traveler who not often leaves the relative perceived safety of familiar surroundings, I find that no matter the amount of planning in the attempt to ease the anxiousness, most often the planning takes a back seat to the actual spur of the moment experiences and actions. You will always surprise yourself and end up the better for it.

  • You are absolutely one of the most talented writers I’ve ever met. Cannot wait for more.

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