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Losing My Spirit to Settlement

[ 5 ] June 1, 2011 |

It’s a feeling I hate, the feeling of going nowhere, the feeling of stagnation.  It’s draining, it drains your happiness, it drains your excitement and it drains your spirit. For months I’ve felt this feeling ever so quietly creeping up on me, I tried to force it into the furthest corner of my mind, I tried to tell myself I didn’t want to leave China.  And why would I? I have a whole adopted family here, I have a life here, I have an awesome apartment here, I like being settled.  But despite part of me believing all these things were true I just couldn’t throw that unsettling feeling of stagnation. The more I tried to ignore it the more rapid the shadow began to take over until I reached the point I’m at now, spiritless.

I remember a time that now seems so long ago, a time when I was excited and enthusiastic but most importantly filled with spirit.  It was always a time I had something to look forward to, I had travel to look forward to.  And even though on many of those occasions I was slugging it out working jobs I despised just to save money for travel I didn’t care, I knew what was to come. I had travel insight to keep my spirits high. But now I have nothing and with nothing I feel lost.


Back when China was new and exciting, back when I had a reason to stay!

I had only ever originally planned to stay in China for 6 months. That extended to a planned year and a half after I travelled around the south in the summer of 2010 and realised that China is a big country and I still had so much more to see. Ultimately my decision to stay in China was a decision to travel, stay longer, work longer, save longer and travel longer.  Then that plan all went drastically wrong and now here I am sitting on my couch, my sweaty back uncomfortably sticking to the pleather while I gaze out at the hazy gray sky.  This is not what I signed up for!

I had it all figured out, finish travelling around the south, get a job, settle in Shanghai, work my arse off and then the next year (right about now actually) head off for another two months of backpacking . This time I planned to follow the silk road across central and northwestern China then down into Tibet. Right now I should be packing for that trip!

So why am I here and not there?  Unfortunately for me the awesome job I thought I lined up wasn’t so awesome. It was underpaid, they got me the wrong visa (the repercussions are still making my life a nightmare), I didn’t have such a great boss, I was miserable and stressed out working ridiculously long hours. In the end the only choice I had was to quit.  The problem with that was I sat around for 6 weeks without a job, rent and living costs to pay with no income coming in.  My plan to save disappeared literally down the toilet in the water bills, in the (ineffective) heating that kept my room at a bearable temperature during the bitter cold winter and in all the visa costs I now suddenly had to fork out just to stay in the country.

Needless to say after realising there was no way I could do my planned trip that I had been so excited for just a few months back, after all the drama I’ve had with jobs and visa’s I’ve been feeling pretty jaded. No savings in my account, no solid plan to travel, nothing to look forward to.  But don’t get me wrong my life is good. I have a nice roof over my head, I have awesome friends, I have the best roommate in the world and I have the cutest little students that bring a smile to my face every morning.  But despite everything I have, everything I should be grateful for, it’s not enough.  A settled life is not enough for me at this stage in my life all it’s doing is holding me back!

I want my spirit back, I want to find the girl I used to be. And I know where to find her, I know where to rediscover my spirit. At the end of the day the answer that will illuminate the shadow and make things exhilarating again can be summed up in one word…TRAVEL.

Have you ever had the feeling that your life is stagnant? What did you do? Was travel your savior?

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Category: Expat Stories, personal

About onurwaytravel: Colin has been travelling the world with his young family for the past 2 and half years. He runs a couple of websites all revolve around travel, family travel and digital nomadism. His websites include,, and now View author profile.

Comments (5)

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  1. Edna says:

    I know exactly what you mean!! I went through this about two months ago – the unsettling feeling you get from being settled. I wanted to run, I wanted to pack up and leave in the middle of the night because I couldn’t stand how settled I was. Then I would hate myself for not appreciating what I had – same as you: the great life, good job (“I work in reality tv” is a great ice-breaker), amazing apartment…I even snatched a wonderful guy (every traveler’s double-edged sword hey). My original plan was to leave by Christmas, now here I am coming up on my 11 month-iversary!

    I think the turning point was recognizing WHY I was so unhappy, which was a combination of “I’m too young to be this settled” and, “But there’s so much more world to see” and, the last straw, “My job is completely superficial and I moved away from the US (and from Shanghai) to escape the rat race, not become part of it.” Sorry to hear how everything’s gone down in Shanghai, but good on you for realizing that you’ve lost something and knowing how to get it back.

    I’ve decided to suck it up and leave (albeit slowly), even though life is good here, I’ve booked various trips for the rest of the year that are forcing me to continue to travel long-term and also follow my dream career. I knew I’d leave Singapore within a year of arriving; it’s great that I’ve lasted this long and I’ve some amazing times but there’s only better to come, once we get off our butts and go!

    Sorry for the rambling comment! I guess this stuff’s been on my mind for a while and it’s nice to know someone else has felt the same way in life-is-too-good-sometimes Asia. All the best Sasha!

  2. Sasha says:

    Thanks for the comment Edna! I’m glad to hear someone can relate, it makes me feel a little bit less ungrateful! As far as leaving China, due to lack of money and new business opportunities I’m committed here at least until the beginning of 2012. What I have realised is to stay sane I need to make a solid plan to travel, it always worked for me when I was stuck back home. I have to work out my China expiry date and plan to leave by then. It may be still a long way away but hopefully with something to look forward to things will start picking up! :)

    I’m glad everything’s going so well for you in Singapore! And you snatched a guy, you lucky girl! Going on various small trips throughout the year is a good idea, keeps you feeling invigorated and alive. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do that too! :)

  3. Thanks for sharing that. I know the feeling! Most times taking chances on the road will lead you to something new and exciting, even if it’s not what you anticipated. But there are times that job offers have led me to miserable situations. It actually happened to me last year. Same thing: no hours, underpaid, dick boss. But I was living in paradise and luckily there were jobs around to get me out of that situation. I know it’s not always like that on the road which sucks even more if your funds are low-but the good news it, you’re still out there with nothing to hold you back. You can take a chance again on a job and see how it goes. I hope things work out and you can start your travels again!

  4. Sasha says:

    Thanks for the comment Bobbi! I appreciate it, I’m definitely gonna take on board what you said! Also I’ve just started ruthlessly budgeting and have anticipated how much I can save to spend on travelling, hopefully I can start planning a trip soon! :)

  5. Gautami says:

    This is Gautami from Mumbai(India).I have recently got over with law exam. I can try to understand the stagnation and boredom. I strongly believe travelling is the best way to clear the mind and start fresh. I like to go for easy treks too(coz dont have super fit but it is better to start with easy ones than never.

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