Free Flyer

Adelaide, Australia
Santiago, Chile

“…the negative lens we adopt during sleep deprivation can ruin relationships and create seemingly irreversible damage to our lives. But sometimes when we are in the moment of emotional tiredness the hardest truth to remember is that it’s temporary.”

It started in Adelaide Airport, the feeling that I wanted to cancel the trip. Why would I think this was a good idea? I had so much fun in the weeks leading up to this day, I deepened my connections with my friends, and I was doing productive work on my personal projects. The travel planning anxiety gave me so much energy I didn’t sleep for 24 hours before boarding the plane. The sleep deprivation was hitting me; my confidence reduced, I missed my pets, I missed my friends, I missed my bed, and the plane hadn’t even taken off yet. The process of detaching yourself from your comfort zones to start a new lifestyle is unsettling at the best of times. I felt in limbo as I carried my life to a new destination, putting my belongings on my back so I can roam free.

There are teething issues when you arrive in a foreign country, you don’t speak the language and you are trying to get by on the few words you can remember in your sleepy state. Tired and hungover, you and your travel partner take out your frustrations of airport security on each other. Parched from the change in air conditioning, you realise you never checked if the tap water is safe to drink. But it doesn’t end at the terminal, out on the streets you have no sense of direction, your bank card isn’t working, and you don’t understand the cashier’s instructions as you buy your bottled water. It’s funny what the brain does, how your mood changes, your lens through which you view the world shows only negatives, when you’ve had no sleep. I was overwhelmed. I felt sick, like I wasn’t myself. I felt in over my head, and ill-prepared. I wanted to get on the first flight home.

Self awareness and deep insight to myself and how the brain works saved me in those first few days. I knew that the emotional brain can become overactive when sleep deprived, seeing neutral daily life as a distraction and a threat. To overcome this I adopted a mantra, “get some sleep, you’ll find yourself again, you’ll get yourself back, don’t give up now.” And so I am reminded of the importance of sleep for my mental and emotional health. It is a basic human need to be respected, for the negative lens we adopt during sleep deprivation can ruin relationships and create seemingly irreversible damage to our lives. But sometimes when we are in the moment of emotional tiredness the hardest truth to remember is that it’s temporary. I was able to offer these kind words, not only to myself, but to my travel companion as well. Gradually our body clocks adjusted and we easily forgave each other for our understandably bad attitudes.

~ Sam

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