In the months before I left Sydney my mind was flooded with impossibly big and mostly unanswerable questions. My instincts knew I was making the right decision, but as always my logic offered endless reasons to feel doubt and fear. Someone told me that once I got to Jamaica, it would all be a distant memory. Because I’d be having so much fun, obviously.
A small part of me really wanted to believe it. I could picture myself frolicking the Caribbean sea, drinking a coconut cocktail, sun-kissed and perhaps even a few kilos lighter, without a care in the world, simply because I was in Jamaica. And the Van She song would be playing in the background: There’s a place we can go to make it all disappear/Jamaica…
It’s all too easy to convince ourselves that a geographical change will provide instant happiness. That simply changing place allows us to reinvent ourselves and effortlessly discard the parts that we don’t like. The questions, fears, weaknesses and failings. But even while imagining my blissfully happy frolicking self, I was able to recognise this person’s suggestion for what it was: a complete delusion. For starters, I did not come here for a relaxing holiday, or a crazy Contiki experience. And I certainly didn’t come here to escape myself. In fact, quite the opposite: I came here knowing that I would be shining a huge spotlight on every aspect of who I am. That there were absolutely no guarantees of what I would experience or what would be lost or gained.
There is a lot of fun in my new Jamaican life. A lot of kindness, beauty, laughter, learning and constant mind-expansion. There are many times when I am so consumed by the newness and the wonder of it all that there is no room to think about anything but the here and now. But there are also many “What am I doing here?” moments. Many moments of anxiety and fear and doubt. Far from being an escape, when you are completely by yourself in a strange new place your fears and flaws seem bigger than ever. They suddenly come with surround sound. And 3D glasses.
But luckily this also holds for the positive aspects of yourself. Your own strengths, talents, certainties and joys go wherever you go, too. And if you let them, they will always trump your worries and fears. So, in those times that I am struggling, I know where to find little pockets happiness that exist no matter where in the world I am: teaching a child something new; encouraging a friend to value themselves as much as I do; writing from the heart; dancing like nobody is watching. This last one is a little tricky, because when you’re the only white girl in the village and you start dancing, you can bet that every single person in the village is watching. But they tell me somewhat incredulously that I don’t do the “roly poly” like most white people, I actually dance “alright”. What can I say, it’s a strength.