As an adult with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD), I've learned to cope with instability by traveling. I call it my passport therapy.
by Jane D.
Passport therapy is the escapism that has gotten me through the speed bumps in life. Whenever things on the work or relationship front collapse -- I take out my passport and travel.
I am well aware that things are the same anywhere you go and that, like my friends who are married and have mortgages, I should have outgrown this habit of running away from my problems years ago. But, like my friend’s penchant for eating ice cream when she’s down, passport therapy is my way of coping that consistently works (and though more expensive than a gallon of the frozen stuff, it's probably healthier).
It was with this mentality that I easily picked up and headed to Asia for work. With the sister's constant mantra, "Nothing in life is forever or permanent," I've become resigned to the reality that a lot of things in my life have been temporary -- jobs, relationships, friendships -- and I see passport therapy as my ticket to bouncing back quickly and helping me become as adaptable as a slinky.
A month and a half after the move abroad, I have no regrets. I miss Gotham, but this detour is best for me mentally. I’ve already been to four cities and had a chance to live with and get to know my grandmother in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong isn’t all that different from New York, except the city has about a quarter of the space. The average living rooms here are the size of the average American closet, and restaurants can get so crowded that it feels like fellow diners are eating on top on one another and elbow space is a premium. Everywhere I turn it is bright lights and noisy sirens. It feels like Las Vegas turned upside down and inside out, a beehive of shopping malls, noodle shops, taxi cabs, and a Starbucks on every corner.
Everywhere I go, food, culture, and language have been lost in translation. I speak a smattering of Cantonese, conversational Mandarin, and understand a bit of Shanghainese, the dialect that the grandmother speaks. At first, these little challenges were the stuff of great conversation starters to share with the friends back home, but the honeymoon period faded when I got dragged into mundane routines. Soon all I could focus on was the high humidity and the feeling I was sinking into an endless public mosh pit.
While here, I’ve been doing a lot of suitcase living -- moving between a friend’s flat, my grandmother’s apartment, and meeting extended family along the way. Meeting long-lost aunts and uncles reminds me of where I am in life. While most cousins have hit the major milestones -- marriage, kids -- my major accomplishments are my master’s degree or are otherwise related to my career. As you know by now, my last relationship lasted less than a year and blew up like an overheated soufflé.
When I’m asked about my martial status or income bracket, I don’t have to feel self-conscious. These awkward exchanges are a reminder of the wonders of passport therapy: Everything is temporary; it’s only a matter of time until I pick up and move on again. While I may be somewhat lonely as I flit from place to place, at least it never stays dull or awkward for too long.