March 25, 2023

PTD with a side of COVID

Up until last week, I'd never heard of post-travel depression (PTD). I'd certainly never experienced it. As I stated in my last post, I'm usually all in on a trip for the first three or four days and then I'm ready to get home, but this one went a little differently. I flew down to Costa Rica kicking and screaming and flew back to Atlanta the same way.

When I first got home, I had no desire to do anything that didn't involve me hopping on a plane and going back. School, work, my garden, my animals — I had no interest in any of it. I spent the first day in bed watching TV and recovering from a long day of travel. I spent the second day doing pretty much the same thing. I truly fell in love with that country and its people and the way of life. Being home just left me feeling unsettled. But then it got worse.

On Tuesday, I went out to feed everyone, and when I came back inside, I decided to make some ramen, which I never eat, but warm brothy food sounded good, and then I went to bed and slept until Wednesday. By Thursday, I thought I had a cold, but a friend told me to take a COVID test, so I did, and it was positive. By Saturday, my dad had it too, and he can be a tad dramatic when he's sick, and I knew I probably wasn't going to die from it, but his complaining might kill me.

I'd planned to hit the ground running when I got home to start working on a few things, but it's kind of hard to do that when you're sick. And really, it hasn't been that bad — more of an annoyance. I get tired easily, and the cough/runny nose is relentless. I also injured myself coughing, which I'm pretty sure takes a special kind of talent. Anyway, I know a lot of people have had it much worse, and I do have friends who have died or lost loved ones to it, so I'm grateful it hasn't been too bad. But man, the timing mixed with this so-called PTD sucks.

Throw in the fact that we seemed to be on a permanent freeze warning for the whole last week and a half when I'd just spent eight glorious days in the most beautiful warm, humid weather, and then there was the time change. And because I try to be somewhat responsible (unlike the sick lady who sat next to me on the plane and most likely got me sick), I couldn't really go anywhere because of the COVID. I can't smell or taste anything. I'm way behind on school, particularly math. I totally missed a big project for one of my classes in which I basically had a perfect grade. And a few nights ago, I decided to go out on a limb and do something I never ever do, and it did not really pay off, at least not the way I'd hoped — just made me feel like the world's biggest loser.

So, can I go back to Costa Rica yet?

Well, as it turns out, I can. This morning I was in bed, moping over the crazy thing that I did that didn't really have the results I'd hoped for, and I was texting a friend of mine. "Get up! Go do something fun!" she said.

"What's fun?" I asked.

"What's fun to you?" she said.

"Going to Costa Rica," I responded.

"So go," she said. "You can work from anywhere. Why not?"

She's right. The truth is that I really have been mentally planning a trip to go back since before I even got home. There's not much stopping me. I do have responsibilities here, though my dad and I have actually talked about this since I've been back. He's mostly willing to help me out with that for as long as he can, though we had this talk before he tested positive for COVID too, so I am not sure we're still on the same page. And I've decided to pause on adding any more responsibility to my life for a while until I figure this out. My biggest dilemma is leaving my dog, but she actually did pretty well while I was gone.

So, I'm planning to go back before the year is over. I could easily see myself spending a lot of time there in the future. It's hard to describe, but I just felt like I belonged there. Or maybe I just changed there, and it's not Costa Rica but me. After all, I stepped way outside of my comfort zone in many ways during those eight days. And even a little bit after I got home. Costa Rica me seems to have a lot less anxiety than Atlanta me, and I don't hate that. The only way to figure that out, I think, is to go back and dig in deeper. I'd also like to go back in better shape and having done more research on what I'd like to do while I'm there. I didn't take this first trip seriously enough.

Back when I was a little younger and traveled more frequently, my mom would joke that I liked to go on trips because it wasn't real life. I didn't have to cook, clean, work, etc. And admittedly, we stayed in a swanky resort and didn't have to do a lot of real life stuff during this particular trip, but as the week went on, I found myself wanting to. I really just wanted to go to a grocery store (says the girl who has been in a grocery store exactly once since March 2020). I wanted to see what it would be like to stay in a house that I had to keep up there. I wanted to have to learn some Spanish to communicate and pay for things in colones. That's why this felt different. I wasn't craving the vacation experience, I was craving the Costa Rican experience.

And I'm not sure where any of this will take me, but I'm gonna try to sit back and enjoy the ride. If I ever stop coughing...

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