On the path of a meaningful life

Texts, photographs and videos by Claire B.

Sustainable buildling and light habitats. to transform the act of building and rethink our relationship with living things.
Transition tales. towards an ethical, sustainable and united future.
Travel dispatches. discovering the world between solo journeys and life experiences.
Creative approach. photographic work and videos.

15 October 2017

Problematic social interactions

Relationship difficulties turn my experience at Arkaroola upside down.
Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, South Australia © Claire Blumenfeld
NOTE

Today is the beginning of October. I have been working at Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary for over two months. And despite the beauty of the place, the interesting work, the relatively calm rhythm and the security (accommodation, meals and wifi provided and a good pay), I do not feel very good. Or rather I do not feel good anymore. The first two months were full of discoveries, wonder, learning. The third month was full of clashes, anxieties, disappointment and ill-being. What has happened that completely change my appreciation of the experience?

I have always had a lot of problems with social relations. Interacting with others has always been associated with many questions, disappointments and misunderstandings. Apparently, I do not understand others. And I do not understand why I can not understand them. Since I started traveling, it has not changed. When I left France almost two years ago, I had in mind to go to Japan for a year. The n°1 country on my list of places to visit. This journey to the other end of the world was supposed to change me mentally and physically. I was gonna find out who I really was, overcome these feelings of ill-being and disappointment that have inhabited me for years and have successful relationships. Of course this was not the case. I spent six difficult months in Japan, filled with loneliness and misunderstanding. Everything was not bad, on the contrary. I have seen wonderful things, did incredible experiences and learned a lot. But what struck me was the feeling of extreme solitude associated with difficult exchanges. Yes it is normal. Japan is a very different country from France, people behave differently and the language barrier is a hard obstacle to overcome. I was most certainly naive to think that while traveling a few months in Japan, I was going to find the solution to all my problems.
 
So rather than push myself and end up being disgusted with this country that I love so much, I flew to New Zealand. There, I was gonna be able to change, for sure. The country of wide open spaces and hiking. Everything I love. This time I spent a year there and despite all the wonderful things I saw and the great experiences I did, the feeling is mixed about social relationships. Even in a country with a culture very similar to European culture and without too many problems of comprehension (I speak relatively good English), I did not have, or not succeeded to have, very successful exchanges with others. Again I felt very lonely. I met some people with whom the exchange worked very well but the rest of the time was quite disappointing. I had several clashes probably due to too high expectations and I spent almost the entire year without real friends. And let’s do not even talk about love relationships. I have always been a loner but at 28 years old, I feel like I really need to find someone (friend or partner) to share, to have a real contact, a true exchange. 
 
So here I am in Australia since July. My initial plan when I left New Zealand was to work for six months, travel in the country for two months and then go travelling in Asia on a bicycle. Now that I am in Australia with a one-year visa I think I will stay here and enjoy the full year to discover as many things as possible. This is also why it is probably time to leave soon Arkaroola. I thought of spending six months here but after two and a half months I think it is better to go elsewhere. The country is so big that spending six months in one place feels like a shame. And associated with this, another experience very mixed concerning social relationships, I think it is time to face the obvious. Take a decision. Leave Arkaroola and leave behind me this discomfort that is growing here or stay and hang on despite the problems…

Arkaroola is lost in the middle of the Flinders Ranges. This is what is called an Outback Resort. This means very little contact with the outside, with “civilization”. Just the semi-desertic nature and the tourists who come by every day. It does not bother me, on the contrary. I love nature, hiking, quiet places and I like working in hospitality. Exchanging everyday with touristy people is one of my little pleasures. But most of the time the exchange remains very superficial. The people with whom I could have more in-depth exchanges are my co-workers. But that is not the case. I have one or two people with whom I have some interesting exchanges but that’s it. So where is the problem ? Why do I feel so disappointed with my experience with others?

Probably because the people I work with are just very different from me. First they are (almost) all Australians. Most have lived a great majority of their lives in the Outback and their pace of life and way of seeing things is different from mine. The team consists of about twenty people, ranging from the twenties to the sixties. They are nice but not very warmhearted. Or that is what I feel. Ask someone else and he will probably tell you something else. But apart from a few people, I do not feel much “sympathy” in exchanges. People are very detached and individual. It may be the way of life that wants that. So it is certain that when one lives and works permanently with the same people and that they don’t get along very well, things are not full of joy. I had several clashes this last month with a few people from the team and with the manager who have upset me a lot and left me depressed. For a time, I lost sight of my travel goals and my willingness to change. But fortunately since two weeks I try to relativize what happen to me, to concentrate on the essential things. No need to insist, there are people with whom the exchange does not work. Better to take the whole thing as an experience and learn from that.
 
But maybe the problem comes from me. Most certainly a big part of the problem comes from me. Despite all my efforts to stop this, I still have expectations far too high. Whether in relations, experiences, visits or meetings, I always expect too much. I drop, on people I just met, different from me, my expectations. And unconsciously I expect them to respond to my anxieties and my existential questions. And I always end up disappointed. One would think that after two years of traveling, I would have finally learned the lesson, but apparently this is not the case. And even if I have started to change, the change is not yet big enough to be noticeable. This experience in Arkaroola is probably one of the toughest (concerning the relational exchanges) that I have experienced since I started traveling. Yes, probably harder than what I have experienced in Japan. So the language barrier is not the problem. Maybe it is just my character, the people I meet and the environment where I meet them. But all these difficulties and disappointments may have taught me at least two things. Apparently I am either made to work solo without team. Or I need to be in an environment allowing more exchanges (a larger team or just do not live and work at the same place). I have not yet found the right situation for me. The second thing I learned while staying in the Outback is that the beauty of an environment is not enough to compensate the lack of relational exchanges. Arkaroola may be beautiful, the lack of successful exchanges makes it a mixed experience at the time of my writing.

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