I did it. I went on my trip. It didn't all work out as I had envisioned, but it went quite smoothly and I think it was a good risk. I struggled a lot with the food choices, so mealtimes always brought some anxiety, but it was nice to be in a bubble for a few days, often without phone or internet signals. I was able to have conversations with other travelers, and since they were fairly brief I didn't feel too uncomfortable or pushed to share anything too personal.
This was my first time traveling in 3 years, since I had to leave my masters program in Finland due to rapidly declining mental health. I am definitely in a better place than I was then, and since Covid made everyone's worlds become much smaller I wasn't the only one with little to show for the past few years.
The vacation did bring up a few things:
1) I have to get out of this city/region. Living here just makes my anxiety worse because of fear that I might unexpectedly run into my ex one day.
2) I don't like my job. I haven't let myself even think in such a definitive way about my job before this trip, but now I am sure. I need to find a new job.
3) I have a habit of "mirroring" people. If someone struck up a conversation with me on the trip, I caught myself watching them for cues about what to talk about, what emotions to express, and when to leave the conversation. It was very hard for me to end the conversation on my own, even if I had to go to the bathroom or needed to move on to the next event. I've been talking about boundaries with my therapist lately and I think this is connected.
4) Although this trip was a big change in my routine and represented a big step forward, I am still not ready to fully re-engage in life. I need a safe bubble of people, routines, and work. I'm not sure how to create that with simultaneously needing to move and change my job, but I know I need to.
I got back home yesterday and fell into bed. It's been nearly 24 hours and I have mostly been just lying in bed or sleeping. I have the impulse to do things like deep clean my apartment, but I just keep lying there. I was able to get some long overdue things done before the trip because of the deadline, but now it feels like I am just going to slide back into the muck and mire of life here.
In the end, I'm glad I took the trip and had some time off work. I'm glad it didn't result in any panic attacks. I'm glad I was able to interact with strangers in a way that felt safe. I'm glad that I didn't just stay home in my apartment for a week.