JESS’S #travelsundaystory

Dedicated to Jess’s Dad

This is a very special story to me.

One of the most awesome things for me travelling has been meeting people that I’ve previously met in other places in different countries weeks or months later. It’s bizarre because you might have hung out for one or two days, but there’s this switch, it must be our subconscious, our gut telling us that we can or cannot connect with these people within the first five minutes. I wasn’t meant to be in Ecuador, but my plans changed, and sure enough I was in a place called Llulu llama meeting up with my Dutch friend who I’d previously met in Colombia. We had decided to do a succession of hikes, known as some of the most beautiful in Ecuador. One of these is called the Quilatoa Loop and people trek for approximately three days around it, sleeping at hostels en route. Our timing meant we couldn’t finish the whole trail, but we had the joy of spending one night in the well know Llulu Llama hostel. I’d noticed a beautiful girl chatting loudly in the communal dining room with her equally beautiful boyfriend, surrounded by people. She caught my eye, I’m not sure why, her energy just pumped. The following morning, my friend dragged me out of bed at 7am to get to yoga. We joined the small group of eight, with the girl from the previous night and her boyfriend. Once again, I can’t tell you what it was that made me curious about her – it was 7am she wasn’t exactly chatty. Maybe it was her smile, which looked honest and reached to her eyes, but I remember thinking I should speak to her! Sorry Jess – sounding like I had a massive girl crush on you which really I did. We left the following day, and I never thought I’d see this couple again.

A few days later, I travelled with another friend to the well known Cotopaxi area to hike some more. We left Quito and stayed in a fantastic farm house, where groups met and from there used it as a base to hike to different places. WiFi and incessant social media scrolling was replaced by sausage dogs and a warm fireplace to sleep on the sofás by. Sitting at the table with my friend, I recognised that the girl and her boyfriend were also staying there. I grinned and started chatting to her, aware of the warmth of smile again and the easiness it was to talk to this couple. Her energy was addictive, and I had this bizarre moment of feeling like I was almost talking to myself. I can’t explain it. Dinner came and went, and I asked about her line of work, becoming even more interested when I found out she was training to become a therapist. I spoke to her about my struggles with mental illness and the different types of therapy I’d been in since I was 5. She told she was surprised I was so interested and met my eyes about the topic: “People can be scared when I tell them I’m a therapist, don’t meet my face, don’t really know what to say about it and get scared I’m going to psycho analyse them”.

Funnily, she’d also noticed me at Llulu Llama, in the yoga class, catching sight of my tattoo on my arm. The tattoo is dedicated to my Dad and says “Keep Strong” and she asked me the story behind it, where I told her that my Dad was disabled with Multiple Sclerosis. As we spoke about the difficulties I’ve found living with a disabled parent, I asked why it had caught her eye so much and she told me that her Dad had died suddenly, without reason and that she wanted to know my story, to see if it was relatable. One thing I could tell, was that through her happy stance, if you looked deeper there was pain in her eyes. Really deep pain, and the way she spoke about her Dad broke my heart. We compared how the grief in losing her father and the pain I felt seeing my Dad lose his mobility and having to care for him shaped us in viewing the world differently and appreciate small moments more, even though the situations are different.

We talked about countless other things, Depression, Anxiety, the controversy of diagnosis, different treatment modalities, current and past therapists but mostly we LAUGHED! Laughed until we cried and conversed until we cried. Jess, another beautiful soul, showed me once again that sometimes the people that shine the brightest light are the people who have endured pain to get there. Her positive spirit was and is infectious and I am blessed to connect so deeply with someone I can call a friend after such a short amount of time.

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