My mind works a little differently to most. I want to open up about my challenges while travelling.

It’s been the cause of many shrugs, eye roles and cold shoulders over the last few months since commencing our year abroad. But recently it caused an argument, which was both a build-up of exasperated events. It’s been tough, and I’ve ignored it for so long, but last night I had to come to terms with it.

Firstly, my mind doesn’t work like most people I know:

  • I am often slower to complete tasks than most. While taking my time to make sure I am thorough or that I’m doing it right, else I will most definitely make a mistake, such as forgetting to bring something or lose it altogether.
  • I regularly mix up my words; most recently, this could be reciting places I’ve visited. For example, confusing Belize and Bolivia, which doesn’t sound all the unusual, but when it happens continuously…
  • I will confuse stories, reciting them in the wrong order or out of place. My memory in the long term is usually okay, but I will more often than not, mix up events.
  • My spelling is atrocious, and I often find pronouncing words a cause for embarrassment. This is emphasised even more when trying to learn a new language.
  • When I read, I’m slow, and if it’s a complicated or detailed piece, I will always reread it several times before it makes sense to me. You can imagine how long it can take to read long novels.
  • Worst of all is my concentration, and struggle to maintain focus for long conversation before I am distracted or my mind wonders. I don’t even realise I’m doing this half the time.

Consequently, high school and university were tough. So I chased other more creative avenues towards my career path; paths that suited how I worked. But even starting my career came with complications, that luckily I was able to overcome.

Staring out Inca Trail, Sucre, Bolivia
Inca Trail, Sucre, Bolivia

Over time I have been able to live without the need to openly admit my issues, implementing strict processes that manage how I operate. I use tools to accomplish tasks and assist in my writing. Morning and night, I will prepare what needs to be performed for days ahead. I would never go into a meeting unprepared with notes/insights, capable of predicting outcomes and actions. Design thinking methodologies help me a lot, mind mapping and step by step processes are used to help shape outcomes, inevitably using my creativity to overcome roadblocks.

I try not to stop. I exercise a lot, minimum five times a week, and most of the time a few extra hours in the office won’t bother me.

And with practice, it all becomes rhythmic, and the struggles shrink or disappear altogether.

But recently I’ve embarked on a journey around the world with the person I love more than anything in the world, and It has completely thrown my defences out the door. My procedures to help make sure I can operate like everyone else aren’t in place, or aren’t working for the new journey I’m on. Consequently, a change in scenery for an extended period has caused me to become ever more conscious of my struggles, bringing back my anxieties and doubt towards myself. Ironically, this then makes the situation worse.

When my wife and I first decided to go on this trip, I was excited, but if you asked anyone back home in Australia, it didn’t ever show. And that was because of my fears. I had been doing well at work, becoming successful in my career as a digital consultant. I am lucky to have found my niche, something I loved a lot and played well to my strengths and creativity. But I knew that if I went travelling, I would lose that comfort and it would be hard work to maintain my defences. Consequently, I would need to find new ways to manage my weaknesses. Even scarier, I had to deal with the possibility of losing/forgetting how I had already got to where I was previously.

At first, I buried and tried to ignore these fears. I thought, surely it’s just in my head, and everything will be fine. And you know what? For the most part, this was true. But last night made me realise it’s going to be tougher than I had thought, and perhaps my concerns weren’t for nothing.

For my wife, Gabby, I understand how difficult I can sometimes be. But we had our first heated argument during this holiday I now I feel I need to work harder (and she admits the same, but that’s for a different post).

Let’s jump into her shoes for a moment. Imagine you had at some point embarked on an incredible experience with the person you love, and you wanted to talk about that memory with said partner. But reciting the happy memory, you had to continuously correct or remind your partner what had happened – because what they had thought had happened was in a different order or was intertwined with other events incorrectly. For Gabby, I could imagine it would be like talking with a loved one who has early onsets of Alzheimer’s.

I don’t want her to feel like this, but nor do I want to feel anxiety or stress that I’m just short of getting something right. Particularly if that feeling is met with anger and frustration from my partner.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Now I’m not saying my life is terrible or hard, because that would be a lie. There are people with far worse conditions and struggles, and until now, I’ve been more than successful at managing how my brain works, as I had mentioned above. My life is excellent, privileged even. I have beautiful people in it who love and support me, no matter what. But between all the good, there are the flashes of bad, and sometimes this can make you feel like you’re one hundred steps behind where everyone else is. And that’s where this is coming from.

This trip is one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life. It scares me each minute we do something new, but I know that each new step is guiding me to be a better person. And while my wife and I work to be a stronger couple, over the course of this trip, I’ll work to be someone she can rely on and share these significant moments with.

That’s what this blog is about for me. A memory. Order to the chaos. And hopefully something I can share with anyone else who reads it. It’s a message; to not be afraid to get out and see the world, no matter your fears and worries.