“The wanderlust has got me… by the belly-aching fire.”
Immediately after my stroke, I wondered how could I
travel alone internationally or across the country when
I couldn’t even go to the store by myself? I had been
planning to visit California for the first time, but now it
seemed impossible and daunting. I was devastated.
About a year and a half later, I decided to do it. I
booked a plane ticket from Virginia to San Francisco,
and never looked back. I rented a car, maneuvered
around traffic in the Bay Area and communicated with
people while ordering food at restaurants and checking
in at hotels. It wasn’t always easy, and sometimes I had
difficulty understanding other people, but I was able to
handle myself and every situation.
How did I get there? From the frightening moment
I was told about the stroke, until the day I arrived in
California, I was determined to get my life back or
at least somewhere close to what it used to be. My
internal motivation made me work hard during my early
recovery. I immediately started stimulating my brain:
talking to others online with my
very limited communication skills
at the time, listening to audio
books and writing reviews on Yelp
just one month after my stroke.
Don’t get me wrong—I had some
dark days, and some depression,
which is to be expected after a
brain injury. I believe a crucial part
of my recovery was the healing
effects of nature.
I have always loved nature,
being outside in the great
outdoors, but I found myself
craving it even more after my
stroke. Noises are so loud to
me now. I never listen to music
when I’m driving because my
brain seems too sensitive, and it
can be challenging when trying
to comprehend what someone
is saying to me when noises are in the background.
Sensory overload is real: It’s like your brain no longer
has a filter and all sorts of stimuli come racing at you.
When I’ve had a day full of working my brain, talking
to people, or sometimes just handling day-to-day life, I
need to be alone where it’s quiet and dark.
Nature is another way I deal with sensory overload.
I believe that spending time in nature is crucial when
recovering from a brain injury. While in California, I
spent hours hiking alone, allowing my brain to heal, rest
and grow all at the same time.
My global aphasia diminished weeks after my stroke,
but I still have mild chronic aphasia, and will have
it the rest of my life. I learned to accept the changes
in my brain --and how they affect me. I can’t change
what happened to me, but I can still follow my dreams.
Taking that trip to California helped me wander back
to myself, and brought back the confidence I once had.
Never again will I say, “I can’t.”
Because I can.
One of my passions is travel; you could
say I’m a wanderer. Ever since I was a
young girl, I’ve been drawn to adventure.