Spain, Sadness, and a Struggle
Leah Walker September 30, 2012

A week ago I was sad, unusually sad.

What could I possibly be so despondent about? Everything seemed to be going my way. I was in Spain for goodness sake. What rational person could be upset with so much delicious ham around? It was my first time to the country and all my expenses were paid. I was surrounded by friends, both new and old, but yet I couldn’t help but be engulfed by a wave of grief.

Girona Spain 2

While everyone else at the travel conference was preparing for the closing-night party, I was headed back to my lovely Girona apartment to pack. I had an early Sunday flight out of Barcelona and was due back at work on Monday. If I would have allowed myself, I could have thrown an award-winning kicking and screaming fit. I cried when I said goodbye to my girlfriends, even though I’ll see them in a matter of a month. Hell, I’ll even return to Spain in six week’s time.

I felt like the only kid with a curfew.

It didn’t help that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all reminded me exactly what I was missing. Even if the time had wasn’t that great, in my mind it was the best thing ever simply because it was forbidden. I was angry that my job, one that I’m completely ambivalent about, was the reason I had to leave. I was bitter that I’d let myself become a slave to something that I don’t enjoy.

Girona Spain

I was having a full-on pity party.

In order to make myself feel better, I rationalized that some Spain is better than no Spain. I reminded myself that my job is allowing me a month off to travel around Europe. Where in corporate America does that happen?  In short, I tried to look on the bright side.

I felt slightly better.

In addition to my suitcase and backpack, I carried a heavy heart home to Houston. I picked up my dogs, and for a moment, their excitement to see me quelled my sadness. But the grief was soon back upon me. I cried on my way to work Monday morning. I cried at my desk. I cried when my boss asked me about Spain. It was just one big sob fest. Not being such an emotional person, I felt ridiculous. I thought of my mortgage, my dogs, and how hard my husband works in order for me to do anything I desire. Guilt consumed me.

Girona Spain 3

Id. Ego. Superego.

Sigmund Freud saw the human psyche structured into three parts: the id, ego, and superego. The id is ruled by the pleasure principle, which wants immediate satisfaction of one’s desires and needs. If not satisfied immediately, the result is anxiety or sadness. In contrast with the id’s chaotic and unrealistic nature, the ego uses reason. The ego operates according to the reality principle, using realistic ways to satisfy the id’s demands. Often this involves compromise or postponed satisfaction. The superego works to civilize our behavior. It tries to suppress the id’s impulses and persuades the ego to strive for morality and perfection. The superego is made up of the conscience and the ideal self. The conscience can punish the ego through causing feelings of guilt. The ideal self is basically a perfect {and unrealistic} picture of how one ought to be.

Simple enough, right?

I learned this Freud theory in my freshman psychology class. It didn’t make much sense or perhaps I just really didn’t care at the time. I again revisited the id, ego, and superego when teaching Lord of the Flies. It made a lot more sense as an adult. It was certainly easy to identify the concept when analyzing a book, but not being the most introspective person, I couldn’t equate the theory to myself. It wasn’t until I was trying to make sense of my intense reaction to leaving Spain that Freud’s theory became crystal clear.

In Spain my id was duking it out with my superego, and my ego was trying to play peacemaker. My conscience was punishing me with guilt because of the vision of my ideal self.

By figuring this out, I might have saved myself a co-pay and a few hours on the therapist’s couch. However, understanding why I was feeling such strong emotions didn’t make me feel better. In the past several months I’ve been trying to figure things out. I’ve been consumed with deriving a plan where my need for travel {id} can be quenched, while my responsibilities to my family and society in general {superego} are still being met.

This is no easy task.

I’ve made a little headway and a couple of things are in the works. Some days I just want to say,“What the hell?” and pack it all in. I will soon enough, but not until I have my shit together. After all, my ego would never allow it to happen any other way.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for three years, and was recently awarded another four with a Passeport Talent visa renewal. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.

28 Comments

  1. I know it all too well. That feeling of not doing one of the things you love doing, or leaving a place that made you feel so comfortable. I’d always put the post-trip blues down to tiredness or jet lag, but it’s definitely more than that. When I’m not doing my day job I’m happy, but right now I need the day job to help me do so many other things. It’ll change, for the better, for both of us. The important thing is that you’re heading in the right direction, and that is definitely something to smile about. x

    1. Oh, I know, Graham. We had a chance to talk about this a bit. I think you caught me drying my sad tears before leaving. 🙁 I, too, tried to attribute this melancholy to tiredness and jet lag, but many hours of sleep it didn’t go away. Yes, you and I both have the sickness. I promise that if I find the antidote you’ll be the first person I share it with. And you know what else we have to smile about? Finally meeting! 🙂

  2. I hated it when you left. But look at this from a different perspective – how good were the previous 48h? And how cool is it that you were able too be there coming from sooooo far away?

    But things happen for a reason – and this week you wrote a post and I just said.. I’m going to see this place now, and with you!!!

    Life is good – we are very fortunate! The best bit is yet to come! See you in Miami next week!,

    1. Leave it to Mrs. O to be such the voice of reason. I’m blessed and fortunate to have gone to Spain at all. And yes, the previous 48 hours were amazing. I wish I could bottle the feeling and sell it. I’d never have to write a software manual again! 🙂

      You and I have many adventures ahead: Miami, London, New Orleans, Switzerland…I’m happy for all of them, but I’m most grateful the opportunities to create more memories with you. Because really, what are the destinations without the people in them?

    1. No, THANK YOU for the invitation and making it happen. My trip wouldn’t have been possible (or memorable) without you.

  3. Cool, you found the original high you’ll forever be chasing 😉 Because our imagination runs wild, we kinda exalt the part we missed out on when we should really be grateful and awed by the “previous 48h”. Its one of those things where the more you realise what you’re missing out on the more it sucks. Is it better to know or not to know? Living in the moment is the only remedy I’ve come up with so far.

    1. It certainly requires an attitude adjustment to focus on what I got to do instead of what I didn’t get to do. It is such a mental tug-of-war. Dwelling on what could have been isn’t healthy and by doing so one misses out on “living in the moment” as you describe it. But that high…it’s intoxicating, isn’t it?

    1. Oh, yes, Frank. No matter how many times I taught/read Lord of the Flies, I always felt a kinship with Jack. Not surprised, are you?

  4. It can be frustrating when your responsibilities seem to interfere with what you really want to do…I’ve felt that before, but as you said, a couple of days in Spain is better than none at all. I haven’t made it to a travel blogging conference yet but would love to go one day. Maybe next year.

    1. Yes, Jenna, I sometimes wish I weren’t so damn responsible. It’ll work out though. I always seem to have a knack of getting what I want. It just might not happen as quickly as I’d like. As for the travel blogging conference, this was my second one and I’ve already got my ticket for TBEX in Toronto. It’s a great time as well as educational. You should seriously consider going.

  5. Leah, thank you for your candor. It can’t have been busy to write those feelings out, or to have had them published. That struggle, those challenges of which you wrote, strike at the heart of my year-long RTW, too. I’m presently struggling about what to do next, or even, where I should live. I look around, and lots of my friends are having their lives. Some might envy the journey I’ve been, but I envy them in turn, because I think they’ve got their things sorted out. It’s been a mental and an emotional challenge, one which I’m anticipating will intensify as this year heads to a close. For you, I’m glad you have the support of your family and friends. Thanks again for your post, Leah!

    1. Isn’t that always the struggle, Henry? What’s next? I’m such a planner and sometimes that is to my detriment. I think it’s amazing that you’ve set out on your RTW. I’m not sure that I would be able to do that. I really do like the idea of home and having a place to settle if only for a bit. I guess you could say that I just want the freedom to choose when, where, and how I go. You and I’ll both figure it out. It’s not like time is going to stop until we can come up with a plan for ourselves. The key is to just keep moving and working toward our goals. I’ve found that sometimes the best things that happen aren’t the ones we’ve planned for. That’s kind of cool because it keeps me on my toes. 🙂

  6. How you’re feeling is normal. Most of us have a day job, or work that pays the bills that we feel ambivalent about even as we work towards making our living doing what we love. Keep at it, it sounds like you’ve made so much progress already!

    1. Thank you, Chris. I do understand that most have day jobs, but I’m not willing to accept that for myself just because it’s commonplace. That’s how I’ve feel about so many aspects of my life. I don’t want to do things like everyone else. I want to do it differently, my way. Perhaps I’m dreaming or delusional, but it’s worth a shot. I’d rather try and fail than ask myself “what if” for the rest of my life. It’s just how I’m wired.

  7. Leah,
    I would suggest a ice cold Longneck Lone Star and a slab of BBQ from Cooper’s in LLano. If that doesn’t change your perspective, I don’t know what will.

    Wait until you are old like me and cannot find employment, because of age discrimination (unemployed going on two years). At the end of the day nothing is more important than family. They are there through thick n thin! A high level executive position brought me one heart attack and five back surgeries. Enjoy what you have!

    My wife of 34 years has been totally supportive through all the years through success and now hard times. I took off for Ecuador last fall and just knew I was going to become a writer. That failed. Now I am writing at home! This spring my wife and I went to Japan to visit our oldest son. loved the country, people, culture and food. Thought I might stay but that would cost money we didn’t have.

    I love to travel, but at the end of the day, financially, we can only do what we can do. You are young and have the rest of your life ahead of you. Don’t get tied up with internal battles. Love your family and they will love you back.Take the time to appreciate life again and make sure you are around people who make you laugh. Chin up my fellow Texan!

    1. Well, you know, Mike, I believe that Cooper’s cures most of what ails a person.

      Thank you for the insight. I beat myself up about my complaining about a job that I don’t love when there are so many others that are without…just another thing I feel guilty about. I’m well aware that my issues are not earth shattering or really important in the grand scheme of things. I often remind myself that there’s always someone worse off than me. I’m also well aware that life is short. I’ve seen my mom toil away at a job that didn’t give her much in return. It’s one of the reasons why I quit teaching.

      It’s taken me some time to find my way, but I believe that it’s better late than never. Now that I’ve found that path, I need to figure out how to navigate the terrain. Through my family, friends, and stubbornness, I believe that I will not only navigate the trail, but I could even blaze my own.

      Your words are a great comfort and contain many worthwhile lessons. It’s nice to know that I can come back to the post and read them when I need a reminder. Thank you.

  8. I completely understand…I’ve had so many of the same feelings myself, and that too with a new baby, I cannot just get up and go. But I see what my mother does–she unabashedly throws herself into the situation with such joy and such a respect for simply pleasures, especially watching my kid grow and smile. It’s amazing to me how someone could be SO happy with little joys in life–a meal, getting a new dress for Erika, while I dream of “bigger” things like going to Hawai’i or traveling to 193 countries. Perspective! Rilke said you have only yourself to blame if you cannot appreciate the richness of your situation. I remind myself of that everyday. And you, Leah, have been to so many more conferences than I, and are going to Europe next week. I haven’t even traveled to distant places in a while but am supremely happy at revisiting my memories. You have it good, girl!

    1. WOW…what an amazing mother you have, but of course you do. You’re an amazing woman! I agree, it’s all about perspective and I need to adjust mine a bit. I’m not trying to have a “poor-pitiful me” post, but instead am trying to figure out how I feel. I like he Rilke quote. Perhaps I need that written on a Post It note and placed on my bathroom mirror. Onward and upward, Charu!

  9. It could have been worse, you could have been where I am- not in Spain, struggling through the work hell that is my job…

    Smile, it gets better from here- thanks for keeping me entertained.

  10. As someone who was on Twitter and Facebook the whole time from Toronto I know the jealousy. I just couldn`t make it happen and I was bombarded by posts of people having fun. You only got a little taste but so much more than me 🙁

    1. Oh, I know, Ayngelina. There’s always someone who has it worse off. I’m sorry you didn’t get to come. Surely we’ll meet in Toronto in June?

  11. It’s definitely hard to be in that spot where you need to work to have money to travel, but your busy job keeps you from being able to travel like you want!

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