Trips to the Past: Trinidad, Robbie

During lockdown, with the prospect of travel seeming further away than ever before, a lot of us will be feeling an extra strong sense of wanderlust and nostalgia for our past trips and adventures. G You is happy to present a series of travel writings reminiscing on our community’s favourite and most meaningful trips to remind ourselves of the joys and growth travel can bring. Our first ‘Trip To The Past’ is to Trinidad, by Robbie Greenshields.

We’ve only been in lockdown for just over a month, but we already feel so detached from the world of order and normality that we once knew. For some enigmatic reason, the very idea of being able to travel freely, the world on your doorstep, suddenly seems so surreal. For many of us, myself included, the ‘world’ is now the four walls of our homes.

It’s at a time like this when I think about the greatest distance I’ve ever travelled – a trip that forced me to my limits and really made me think about my relationship with the world.

In late 2018, I had the privilege of being chosen for the 2019 Trinidad expedition, run through the Glasgow University Exploration Society. When I found out that I was on the team, my initial reaction was tremendous excitement – and paralysing fear. On the one hand, I’ve always loved to travel, to experience new things, to expand my horizons. On the other hand, I was an awkward second-year who struggled to navigate social situations. To be placed in a room with a dozen other people and told that I would be working with them for the better part of a year, and living with them on a Caribbean island for three whole months left me with a vague sense of dread that I tried to ignore, and failed.

As I got to know the rest of the team, becoming more comfortable around them, that feeling subsided slowly. But it never went away.

When the day of our flight rolled around in early June, I didn’t really feel prepared. Nothing could have prepared me for a situation like that, because I had no frame of reference. As far as I was concerned, this trip was make-or-break; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or a gigantic mistake.

We landed in Trinidad several hours later, after the usual airport antics. Words can’t express how beautiful the island is – it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Everything was new and exciting, from the tropical greenery to the rolling hills, from the eclectic cuisine to the captivating music (I especially recommend “Pull up to Mi Bumper”). 

Despite all that, something didn’t sit right. The days were long, and the nights longer. The zoological work I was aiding was engaging and rewarding, but I couldn’t get the hang of it, and it frustrated me. The other members of my team turned out to be the nicest, kindest, most accommodating people I could ever have hoped to have with me, but I could feel myself struggling to keep up with their outgoing personalities. There was a speck of unease inside me, like I was totally out of place, and it only grew larger and more prominent as time went by. Eventually, it was overshadowing the entire experience.

I made it through regardless – and there’s one main reason for that. I decided to be open, to translate my concerns into words. It took me a while to accept help, and to clear my mind to the point where I could sincerely understand where my fears were coming from, but that’s when the change occurred. I decided to look out for myself. I made a resolute decision to put myself first sometimes, and show myself more compassion. That’s a promise to myself that I continue to keep.

In contrast to that horizon-expanding trip, I now find myself firmly enclosed at home, unable to leave except for that all-important daily hour of outdoor exercise. It’s a situation that most of us are familiar with at the moment, and it carries its own set of difficulties. 

However, I’ve learned that a well-rounded life is one filled with a rich variety of experiences, each of which can teach you something about your life and about yourself. There were many trying moments during my trip, many times where I thought I couldn’t cope any longer and I just wanted to go back to the comfort of my home. But looking back, there were so many amazing moments too, which allow me to reflect on the journey with a fondness and nostalgia that I never would have expected. I’m proud of myself for tackling those challenges with everything I had, and achieving personal growth as a result.

For all its stresses, I was able to come out of the experience with a better understanding of myself and my limits. I’ve even managed to apply that lesson to our current situation – I know that I can come out of lockdown as an enriched person.

That’s where I get my hope from, and that’s why I’m no longer afraid of what lies ahead.

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