I was sweating, lying on a bed in a budget hotel room in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia. The room was small, with a shared bathroom. It wasn’t the most comfortable place to be resting, but at least it had air conditioning. I had a fever, some body aches, and a slight headache. I couldn’t get up to leave my room. What was wrong with me? Did I have dengue fever or malaria? The anxiety of being alone and not knowing just made me feel worse.
Occasionally we pause to recognize that we’ve learned something new about our lives. We’re constantly learning about ourselves, but we don’t always realize it. I often attribute my personal growth to travel but that’s just because it’s what I’m usually doing at the time. You could have the same revelations at home or wherever you are.
Traveling long term or living overseas as a digital nomad means you go through many of the same challenges as everyone else, but added to that, you may be alone in a foreign country. This makes the experience more traumatic or at least more intense. Only hours before I was traveling with my brother through Malaysia. He had just boarded his plane to Kuala Lumpur on his way back home. This is when I came down with a fever. It was bad, but I thought it was much worse. A little bit of Tylenol could have made me feel a lot better.
Instead I rested in a cheap hotel room, just hoping it would go down naturally. It didn’t. I felt worse. I was too tired to go out and eat, so my empty stomach just intensified my misery. Now I perceived myself as quite ill. Knowing that I had just come from a rural area of a malarial zone and was currently staying in an area with recent outbreaks of dengue fever only made my situation worse.
As a freelancer I had the added stress of missing work. When you freelance, you don’t get any days off. A missed day of work gets you no pay. Most of the week I was in bed resting, unable to do any meaningful work on my computer. I eventually got help to go to a local medical clinic. As it turned out, my fever wasn’t even that bad. It was probably just my anxiety that kept me from improving. In a couple days I was able to ride a bus to the next town, yet I still slept most of the days and couldn’t concentrate on any writing.
It was there in Kota Bharu that I came to the conclusion that sometimes you just have to stop and rest and get better. You may have to lose a few days. That’s OK. And it’s necessary. At some point you’re going to get sick and exhausted and you need to rest. Nobody’s getting any younger.