Mid-way Meltdown

I was queuing for some chips and mayo during our short stop-off in Amsterdam of all places when it finally hit me.

An enormous wave of emotion came hurtling at me at break-neck speed, smacking me in the face with the force of a deadly tsunami as the reality of what I’m actually doing finally caught up with me.

It startled me; caught me unaware, snuck up on me when I was daring to ease into my new life, well, with ease.

It wasn’t there when I handed in my notice – trading in a stable wage at a paper I love with paid holidays, sick pay and a pension that kind of promised to look after me in later life for an unstable career as a freelancer in a country thousands of miles from home.

It didn’t hit me when I drove out of the gates of the newspaper I’ve ploughed my heart and soul into for the last six years for the last time – although I did shed plenty of tears for the friends I was leaving behind.

The paralysing dread yet again failed to put in an appearance as I tried to decide which of my beloved belongings to take with me during the relentless and overwhelming task of packing up my things.

And it was still lying dormant when I bid a final, fond farewell to my friends and family.

So it was that I set off on my 27 hour journey to Cambodia to open a new chapter of my life feeling kind of numb.

Apart from the few – ok, several – bouts of tears, the whole upheaval had kind of washed over me and I seemed to have taken it all in my stride – unusual for someone like me who has anxiety not blood pumping through their veins.

But I should have known I wasn’t going to get off that lightly. I should have known that as soon as the adrenaline I’d been running on for the last few weeks as I hastily got my life in order wore off there’d be room for other emotions to muscle in.

And that they did, as I was stood in flip-flops, feet soaking wet, wearing paper-thin leggings and a flimsy jumper I’d thrown on at the last minute that provided no protection from Amsterdam’s bitterly cold breath.

To the heavy stream of tourists that surrounded me in the grey city, I looked totally out of place; a fool dressed for a glorious summer’s day when the wet and windy winter weather whipped outside.

As I wrapped my arms tightly around my shivering body, I felt idiotic. OK, so I wasn’t expecting to be able to leave the airport during our six hour wait in The Dam and there was certainly no need for warm clothes at my final destination, but here I was all the same, living out some sort of metaphor for my life: unprepared, caught out, stupid.

Frozen, I stood in the queue, wrapped up tightly in an uncomfortably cold blanket of nausea and self-doubt that was tightening its grip, suffocating me more by the second.

What the hell am I actually doing?

It took me a few minutes to compose myself. To regain the momentum and excitement that fuelled me during the last few months.

Hang on a minute. I know exactly what I’m doing.

So I ignored the sniggers and quizzical looks being fired my way from warm-clothed passers-by, just as I’d staved off the doubts from concerned friends and family about the huge changes I was making in my life, because in two flights time, as I stepped onto Cambodian soil where the air is heavy with heat, being cold would become a distant dream.

Since then, I’ve embraced the leap into the unknown and cherished every slice of excitement life has thrown my way – and in just four days, there have been many. After all, this was what I desperately yearned for: an escape from the mundane, predictable world that I had slipped into.

So now I’m off to continue living the dream.

Phnom Penh

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