It’s so amazing and rare to find someone you enjoy traveling with. It’s even more amazing to spend ten straight days together, then miss the person when you part.
We met in college, in the fall of 1998. By the end of the semester, when he left to go home to Ireland for a month for the holidays, the friendship was deeply solidified. I missed him when he was gone.
When he left for good at the end of the spring semester in 1999, I knew we’d stay friends. I didn’t have high hopes of ever seeing him again, but I knew we’d stay in touch.
And stay in touch, we did. Through letters and emails, we stayed connected through the years.
We saw each other, briefly, a few times. Eventually, as will often happen, our closeness faded. We still knew each other, but the emotional intimacy we had shared in college became a thing of the past.
During the summer of 2017, he contacted me and told me he would be attending a conference for work taking place near me. I was thrilled to spend some time with him. It had been 12 years since we had seen each other last.
Thanks to this necessary business travel, we spent a week together touring the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 2017 and enjoyed each other’s company greatly. It was an intense period of reconnection. We had both recently suffered great losses, and most of our conversations centered around the ways in which we were trying to heal. It was good to have my friend back. I was grateful.
He was living in London at the time and said I should visit him. I didn’t think I would. It seemed beyond what someone like me, someone with my anxieties and PTSD, might be likely to accomplish.
I got back from the trip last weekend. I am amazed that I summoned the courage to go.
Not only was it emotionally difficult to book the flight, get on the plane, and actually get myself there, but I didn’t fully believe he might want me there. All my usual depression fueled anxieties about being unlikable emerged.
I hushed them and I went anyway.
He organized our trip and did so marvelously. A day in London, five days in Ireland, and another day in London before I returned home.
As was the case when we toured the Pacific Northwest, we spent lots of time in the car together. Much of it was spent in silence. Our companionship was one that didn’t require constant chatter. Perhaps it was for this reason that his company didn’t exhaust me; as an introvert, it amazes me that I was able to spend so much time with someone without feeling wiped out.
Some of the time, though, was spent engaged in conversation. This became true particularly after seeing the Galway Guys.
The theme of those conversations was my amazement about experiencing feelings of acceptance and likeability. At age 20, when I had initially known the Galway Guys, I had been loved and appreciated by them. I hadn’t seen it back then but I felt it upon seeing them again. It was stunning to me, this realization that I was loved by them, both then and now.
My travel companion was confused and surprised to find this was a revelation for me. He asked how my brain rationalized him spending a week with me, traveling with me, organizing the trip if I felt I wasn’t cared about or liked. I don’t remember what I said. I exploded in a passionate verbal tirade that lacked a filter to such a degree that I have no idea what came out of my mouth. It was honest, of that I’m sure. It was extremely vulnerable. And it shocked him.
“I didn’t realize things were so bad for you,” he said. Yes, I replied. This is depression. This is the voice in my head that I battle constantly. This is an example of the lies it tells me, the darkness it wants me to focus on, the steadfast refusal to see or feel lightness or love.
The rush of awareness, of awakening, that occurred during this trip cannot be adequately put into words. I felt love. The Galway Guys, my travel companion, all my friends here at home, my family. They love me. People love me. I am loved.
And they don’t only love the nice things about me. They see my insecurities, my anxiety, my depression, along with my fun times, my huge and always open heart, my love for all of them.
Why I did not see this before, why I was unable to feel it despite all the evidence of love provided by so many, I cannot say.
I had been excited to travel. I had been excited to see my friend, to see the Galway Guy, to see new places and have new experiences.
I had no idea the trip would cause such emotional revelations as well. The trip was lovely in all the ways I anticipated, but the best of all was the realization that the huge love I have for so many people is returned.
I am loved.