Side Notes: Having Let Myself Go

Side Notes: Having Let Myself Go

I have been avoiding this subject for a while. I have been trying my hardest not to let it get to me, then flat out ignoring it thinking it would go away, but it’s just not working. It has been weighing me down and making me not enjoy, well, me and my time where I am.

I told myself when I left Peru that I was not going to let my eating disorder hold me back. I felt like I was in a really good place and that I was going to able to truly enjoy the places I would go, people I would meet and things I would eat. And for a while I did.

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(Dinner in Lima, Peru)

I enjoyed the cultural foods of Peru, the ever available pastries and desserts, and endless hours of work just sitting and staring off into the distance waiting for birds.

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Unfortunately, all this time of no working out (yes, I was hiking almost everyday, but evidently it wasn’t enough) with consistency and eating like I normally do, took it’s toll on my body, making me extremely frustrated, anxious and unhappy.

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My clothes, most of them, are now not as comfortable they used to be. Lingering emotions of my eating disorder have taken over and attacked all that I have worked so hard for in the past two years with my counselor. Throughout all of this, especially the guilt, I kept reminding myself that it wasn’t so bad, that I’m only in Peru for how long and who knows if I’ll come back, and that when I return home I’ll go back to my normal ways of eating and exercise. But it’s not enough apparently, because the now is what is bothering me the most, and I feel helpless.

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It’s been a hard road to battle here, away from my family, friends and Whit, whom I usually confide in about these things. I didn’t discuss it in length with any of my co-workers here because I truly believed it wasn’t going to be a problem and it just wasn’t something I wanted discuss with them (I often feel like when I discuss these things with new people they end up feeling sorry for me, pity, or that I’m messed up, which I don’t want) so I kept it to myself for almost three months.

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Well, that backfired. I’m in a pretty stressed out state over it, and afraid of being judged for how my body has changed since I left the states. I’m sure you all know how that goes, you go away or don’t see certain people for a while and then when you do, they always have something to say about how you look, good or bad. I may be able to put on a brave face in the mean time, but it’s hard to deal with as soon as I can take it down.

I’m not sure how things are going to play out. I keep talking about how when I get home “I’m going on a detox, going to eat as clean as ever, and make a workout that just might kill me,” which coming from someone with an eating disorder, though mostly recovered, could spark danger for the future and ongoing recovery. I’m trying my hardest to keep a level head about it and work on the now, eating as clean as possible with what I have and where I am, but it’s hard when you have to eat out two times out of three during the day.

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(Lunch of black bean taco and dinner of lentil soup and salad with a shared chocolate cake and Bannofi  Pie on Sunday)

I keep telling myself too that I should cut back on the sweets and desserts but when I’m constantly with friends who are enjoying it, it’s hard. That and I feel like I’m addicted to sugar now since it’s all I want once I start eating it! That’s a hard thing to work on when you’re on vacation!

I guess this is a venting post, but if you have any encouraging words as you always have through the past few years of my recovery, you know I’d love you all even more than I already do. I want to bounce back from this and stay strong! I don’t want to let my ED win!

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This entry was posted in Anxiety, Confession, Counceling, ED entry, ED Side Note, family, Fears, Guilt, Negative Thoughts, Recovery, Side Notes, Stress, Travel, vacation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to Side Notes: Having Let Myself Go

  1. Pearl says:

    I would really consider if I were you that you are perhaps at an even healthier weight than you were before you went to Peru. Women’s bodies continue to gain weight until the mid-twenties and this weight gain could be what you need to continue on your personal growth curve. I know weight gain during/ post recovery isn’t comfortable but it might be worth taking some time, sorting out your feelings with your therapist, and sitting with your higher weight for a while. Sounds like your trip is fantastic!

    • Melissa says:

      Pearl, thank you so much for your comment. I think you are right in that my body might just be adjusting to getting older, and am also taking into account what another commenter said about altitude and salt having a huge effect on my body. I will definitely be making an appointment with my counselor when I get home to work through what I’ve been going through. Thanks again!

  2. Amanda says:

    When I was in Peru I had no control over my eating habits or my body, but in the opposite way. I was sick ALL THE TIME. When I got home I had lost 20lbs and everyone said how great I looked. I was focused on how CRAPPY I FELT. It sucked.

    The fact that you are even bringing this up says alot about how far you have come with your ED and how much you have grown. It may be a while before you are able to get back on track physically and that is frustrating, but the time will come. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Do your best to focus on your mental health as much as you can. Also, make sure people at home know about your struggle. The people that love you don’t judge you, they just want you healthy and happy. :)

    • Melissa says:

      Hey Amanda! Thanks for the comment! I hope you’re doing well and appreciate you still reading the blog. I hear you on getting sick here in south America, which happened when I first got here, but then I suppose I hoped that would happen, in the back of my head. I think it’s a reason why I might be so upset, that everyone around me was losing weight yet I was gaining it. Frustrating to say the least. But something I just need to work through. Thanks again, and let’s try to get together when get back. I should be living in the area!

  3. Allison says:

    First, I just have to say how brave you are! I am in recovery right now (or trying) and I admire your honesty and ability to open up and ask for support!

    Second, I wonder if since you’ve been in Peru, you have been able to let your eating disorder go more than ever before and actually be free to live your life. Upon realizing this, I wonder if your Ed set off a bell in your head and shoved its way back into your mind because it doesn’t want you to let go. In a perfect world you could shove those thoughts aside and enjoy this opportunity and time you have in Peru! However, I know how insanely hard that is, and I have only encouragement and support to offer!

    • Melissa says:

      Allison, I think you’re right that I got comfortable enough to ignore my ed and live life and somehow it got the best of me when I least expected it. I wish you the best in your recovery and am here for you too when you need it!

  4. Biz says:

    My dear Mel – sending you {hugs}!!!! I’ve told you before that I wish you could see yourself as I see you – a strong, beautiful woman who is independent and living a life in Peru. I was actually happy to see you posting pictures of good eats and cakes, and that’s just what they are.

    It’s different because you are in a strange place, with different people and I know its hard for me to tell you that its okay to eat because soon you’ll be back in your old routine.

    Hang in there!!

    • Melissa says:

      Ah Biz, you always know how to make me feel better whenever I need it. I appreciate your support and am giving you a thank you hug back! <3

  5. madeline says:

    I’m so glad you posted this, because I thought I was the only one that has dealt with this exact same thing. Recently I traveled for work for a few months, stayed in hotels, got very lonely and ended up eating more candy and sweets than usual. I felt so ashamed! When I got home, I got a few comments that made it super hard for me to try to accept my body… the negative voices in my head just screamed. I ended up exercising more at home and the weight dropped off pretty quickly. Even tho I was sure it wouldn’t, my weight stabilized. That said, you look GREAT, seriously, the way you are NOW and don’t need to worry… altho I get exactly where you’re coming from. Thank you for being so honest!!

    • Melissa says:

      Madeline, I think that has been one of my biggest concerns: I had done so much to improve my body by working out to the way I had wanted it, then “ruined” it with my emotional eating here in Peru, would I be able to get it back upon returning home? I’m glad to hear touch did so well after you returned home and will keep you in mind with your adjustment when I get home too. Thank you so much for your comment and support!

  6. First of all, you are one of the strongest women I know. It may seem hard to believe that about yourself sometimes, but it’s true. The fact that you are so self-aware and honest about what’s bothering you speaks volumes of your ability to overcome the emotions you are feeling right now. It easy for me to say, “You only live once. This is an amazing opportunity and you should keep making the most of it!” But it’s also very true. There are just some periods in life where the perfect diet and exercise does not exist – I just went through a similar feeling of doubt with the move when I was eating junk every night and not working out all while driving in the car all day. But it was also an incredible new chapter and I didn’t want to miss a minute of the experience. You’ve done exactly that with your time in Peru, and I couldn’t be prouder. Hang in there – Whit will be there soon! I adore that last picture of you – you look amazing and happy. :)

    • Melissa says:

      Words cannot describe how much your support has meant to me over the years. I can’t wait until we can actually are each other again so I can give you the greatest hug on the planet! <3 you Jenn!

  7. Mara says:

    Oh Melissa, you are a strong, beautiful, and independent woman who has done more in her life than I could even imagine. I’m so incredibly proud of you for embarking on this adventure in the first place, and as I told you the other day, you look phenomenal. You have to keep in mind that your body will do what it is meant to do, and if that means that in order to survive in Peru, you may have gained a couple pounds, so be it. Like Pearl said above, our bodies as women change shape and healthy weights as we get a bit older…
    You appear to be relaxed and happy (sans the recent stress) and more vibrant than I think I’ve ever seen you.
    I understand the stress and feelings of failure, but my dear, you have done the opposite. You haven’t let yourself go, you’ve let yourself LIVE. Love you, and I can’t wait to hear more about your hummingbird adventures!

    • Melissa says:

      I’m training my brain to think that what has happened isn’t the end of the world and that my body will adjust when I get home. I definitely had a really great time with what I’ve done while I’m here and hoping that will keep me going until I get home in a few weeks. Thanks for the support Mara. Love you chickadee.

  8. Emily says:

    I agree with every comment on here.

    But I think the most important one for me to reiterate is how beautiful you, Melissa, are. Inside and out.

  9. Emily says:

    Hey there Cuz –

    You are smart. You are focused. You are driven (proof: I know no one who has changed jobs as frequently as you to keep doing what they want. NO ONE). You do what you believe in (proof: you quit a job where you didn’t believe in what the company was doing to volunteer out of the country for a few months doing something you truly enjoy and believe in). You love your family (proof: your cat, your brothers, your parents, and me, your awesome cousin).
    And you know what? Your pants, your shirts, your shorts, your dresses don’t change any of that. They might not fit the same way but you are still smart, focused, driven, doing something you love and believe in. And (believe it or not, but I’d prefer it if you believe it) your family will always love you and always be there for you. They were there for you when things first started getting bad, they’ve been there for you every step of your push through recovery, and they’ll be there every step after you get back.
    It’s hard to live overseas. I know it. I get it. Food that you aren’t used to, new situations, new people, new stresses. It is hard. I know you are trying to focus on the good. Like your gorgeous smile in the last picture of your post. The good moments are worth hanging onto and cherishing. Those are the memories you want to keep.

    Love you lots, cuz. And happy early birthday. Sorry that times are rough.

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks Emily. I cant tell you how much your encouragement over the years has meant to me. You’ve been there for every family gathering I’ve felt stressed at, and helped me keep my chin up, even if you didn’t know it. Traveling has been hard, but I know now that when I get back I can get better, mentally and physically.

  10. me says:

    talking about my stress has always helped me, so please keep talking to us whenever you need to!!! one thing i have found that helps me is looking back at previous/past experiences. this has helped me realize
    1. ive been here before, i can handle this
    2. reminds me of how it wasn’t worth the obsessing.
    in my head i made a fuss 10 x the amount anyone else did. i let others control my thoughts when i really shouldnt have. i like the idea pearl has. see if this is really your healthy/comfortable weight. :)

    • Melissa says:

      I suppose I should have written more about it to help it not accumulate and get worse over time. I’m trying hard to handle my emotions and focus on what I did instead of what I should have done with food and exercise. It’s not the end of the world, is what I keep telling myself. Thanks for your support!

  11. Joy says:

    Melissa,
    Good for you! For recognizing a problem and being pro-active! My best suggestion would be to email your therapist and nutritionist to set up appointments soon after you’re home. Don’t give your Ed a chance to act have your army ready and waiting!

    • Melissa says:

      I’ve called and scheduled an appointment with my counselor for when I get home! And now that I’ve put it out in the open everyone at home is ready to help me when I get there!

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  13. kiki says:

    Weight is nothing but a number. I accept my body. I accept my body. I accept my body. Possible to Skype with a nutritionist? I hear you, Sister. ED can suck it. I’m proud of you!

  14. Carol B says:

    A new reader here, you are BEAUTIFUL!!!! Just remember what you see in the mirror is not necessarily what everyone else sees. Also, remember that as you get older (even a year) your body is not what it once was. Once you get back home and in your routine, things will go back to a new “normal.”

    • Melissa says:

      Thanks for visiting Carol! I know my body dysmorphia affects what I see in the mirror so I’m just trying to stay away from it to keep negative thoughts from taking over. Getting home will help as I adjust back to my normal routine I’m sure!

  15. Mo says:

    Melissa,
    As the mother of a 20-something daughter who has recently gone through much of what you are currently experiencing, I want to send you positive vibes, and let you know, that this too shall pass. My daughter had a 6 month work-related move to another country (albeit English speaking), and while working 10 hr days, found herself slipping out of her hard-won place-of-peace with her eating disorder. As a mom, all I could do was offer encouragement and support, and remind her of all she had already overcome. I know that she had to find it within herself to accept the encouragement because of her negative feelings. When she returned to the U.S. it was hard for her at first, and slowly but surely she picked up where she had left off, and she did it at her own pace. Melissa, one thing she told me is that she wished she had been just a little bit easier on herself while she was gone! This, from a young woman who struggled mightily! Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for what you have already accomplished and will continue to accomplish! You will find your way again…

    • Melissa says:

      Mo,

      Thanks you so much for your comment. Although I am sad to hear your daughter has had to go through this, I am very happy to hear she came out well in the end after having an upset while on her travels. I will certainly keep this in mind as motivation when I get home for sure. Thank you again!

  16. Hi Melissa,

    Biz sent me here, and I’d like to just begin by saying that it takes such courage to tackle an eating disorder head-on. Just admitting that you are struggling is huge, because it’s out there. You aren’t ignoring it or sticking your head in the sand.

    I struggled with an eating disorder for years, and every meal was a battle in my head: what to eat? how much to eat? will this make me fat? if I eat this, am I going to feel the need to throw it up? As you know, it’s exhausting.

    If you can communicate somehow with your therapist, I encourage you to do that. Also, writewritewrite. It will help you clear your head and face the hard things. I think you are doing yourself a favor by hiking so much–getting out, moving your body, experiencing the vastness of nature and your surroundings. It reminds you how small we really are in the scheme of things.

    I think you are beautiful.

    • Melissa says:

      Thank you so much for coming over from Biz’s blog to leave me such a wonderful comment. I am definitely writing as much as I can right now as I don’t have my counselor readily available and it certainly helps when I’m stressed the most. I’ve got an appointment for when I get home but for now trying my hardest to enjoy my travels! Thanks again for visiting my blog!

  17. I wish I were there to give you a hug, not that it would change anything but sometimes I think just knowing someone gives a shit matters.

    Recently I started working with a great friend on nutrition and she is helping me to learn to separate emotion from nutrition. I think especially when we have spent so much time thinking about food it does back fire on us a bit…can you find a way maybe before each meal to say why you are grateful for the food, your body and the experience? Obviously you don’t need to share it with the table but evening doing this mentally can help shift the thought process and know that right now your body may be asking your for the sweets because you aren’t getting the healthy carbs so it’s not a lifetime sentence.

    • Melissa says:

      Amanda, I take your hug full heartedly over the internet! After your comment I have been taking a few moments to look over my food, really appreciate that I can have it, then slow down and not inhale it and savor the tastes. It has helped me not feel as guilty as I normally do and enjoy everything else I’m doing. I’m hoping to see a nutritionist when I get home so hopefully that will help!

  18. You know, the fact that you are even discussing this and in such an honest, real way says to me that you aren’t going to let your ED get back on top of you. It sounds like you’ve really tried to just let yourself live life during this time away. But it’s hard because that ED part of the brain just never quite goes away. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself. It can take a long time for your body to work out where it sits after an ED and by a long time I mean years. It took me and my body a long 5 years to settle down. I don’t know if that even made sense. Sorry!
    I just found your blog again after a few months and I can just feel so much more life and hope coming out of your writing. Life is for living. You will be okay.

    • Melissa says:

      Vaala,

      Thanks so much for coming back to the blog and for the kind words. Working through this disorder is hard and frustrating, and I suppose that just after I always think I have a hold on it something happens. One day I’ll get there! Thanks again for the encouragement!

  19. Ann says:

    I’m over here checking in from Biz’s blog. Want to let you know how brave you are and that it’s NORMAL in any anxiety disorder (ED included) that when you have a change of routine you’ll feel more out of control and challenged. Hang in there. You’re doing the right thing writing about it here. Get support from those around you and try to focus on things other than food and your weight. Just LIVE. WOW, Peru. I mean……Wow. Too cool.

    • Melissa says:

      Ann, thanks for coming over from Biz’s blog! I can’t thank you and the other commenters enough for your supportive words! Peru is definitely an awesome place and I need to focus on living it up here!

  20. Maggie says:

    Melissa, I agree with what others have said before me, and really want to emphasize what someone said about your passion for birds and the environment really and truly shining through in your posts from Peru. It’s obvious that you’re doing something you love down there, and that’s wonderful to see.

    I also agree with a few others that maybe your body is settling into a new phase and finding it’s own weight during this time in Peru. I know it can be incredibly difficult to accept how your body has shifted (hell, it’s way hard for me to accept in my own body, and I’m coming to it as someone who has never struggled with an E.D., so I can only imagine how it must be for you). However, what I have noticed in the photos of yourself that you’ve posted from Peru is how HAPPY you look. How filled with joy and life. Hold on to that joy, hold on to this happiness…when your ED starts badgering you with bad thoughts, hold these shining thoughts and memories up against it. Remember why you chose to go on this adventure to Peru in the first place…

    I’m sending you lots of hugs and good thoughts.

    • Melissa says:

      Mags,

      Thanks so much for leaving me such a wonderful comment. It has certainly been an adventure here and I’m trying my hardest to focus on what I did that I truly love instead of what tortures me in the background. Let’s talk bird adventures soon!

  21. Aimee says:

    Hi Melissa, just visiting from Biz’s blog to offer words of support. It’s interesting because I have struggled with being overweight for most of my life and it wasn’t until I lived in Mexico and Mozambique that I learned to appreciate my body. There was a much healthier attitude about women’s bodies.

    In my brief tour around you site I must say I admire you very much both for you courage to share your emotions and your passion towards the work you do. I wish you all the best. Be kind to yourself.

    • Melissa says:

      Aimee, thanks for stopping over from Biz’s blog and leaving a comment. I have noticed that every time I go to a different job in a different environment my eating disorder goes one way or the other, from better or to worse. I’ve noticed a much different attitude towards women’s bodies here and am trying to take it into account when I’m struggling; in Peru their bodies are not about looks, but being able to do the hard work needed to get food on their table and care to their children. The are such strong and independent women!

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  23. gina says:

    You know, I tried really hard to find something comforting to say. Or at least something helpful. But this situation (and I have been there) is really difficult. Here’s what i have got: maybe you gained some weight. Maybe you’re bloated from weird foods. Maybe you are swollen from the altitude (I went up a size all over my body, even my feet, while living at altitude. When I came back down, I deflated). The point is your clothes fit differently. OK, will your loved ones no longer love you because your pants are tight? Do you notice when a good friend gains 5 pounds? If you do notice, do you like that person less? Think they are gross? No? Then don’t worry about their reaction to you. People who care about you, love you as a whole, not for the way your jeans fit. When I hear that voice in my head (the fat voice), I follow it up in a super whiny voice “Annnnnd now NO ONE will ever love me again”. It helps remind me that I am being silly.
    Part 2: OK, no one cares, check, except you. You are really important. SO why do you care-
    Comments from others (see above). Your response to comments: “yes, I really enjoyed the food”. Change the subject- how delicious the cake was, all the strange fruits, how hard it was to eat without refrigeration. That is badass. Refuse to hear it as an insult, it probably was not intended to hurt you.
    Fear- whenever I talked to my doc about my fear of gaining, she would remind me that I could always lose it. Its true- it is not like you are eating your “happy/healthy” diet and running/working out the amount you feel good about and this happened. I know some people might think it is a bad idea to say yes you can try to lose wt to someone with ED, but there is a balance there. Don’t go home and restrict. Go home, give yourself a month to adjust, check in with therapist and nutritionist, and see how you feel.
    Remember, fat is NOT a feeling. If you feel fat, ask yourself what is really going on: lonely, afraid life at home has changed, tired, bored, guilty and try to resolve or accept that feeling.
    Good luck.

    • Melissa says:

      Gina,

      So so so many great points to take into account. I never realized how much altitude can affect our bodies. I definitely noticed a difference when I travel anywhere between two to three thousand meters in elevation, especially in the heat. I’ve been making sure to get more water than normal as that seems to help, at least a little bit! And you’re right about the comments and what people will think when they see me, albeit changed or not. Over the years I have learned that my ed is primarily about control and not failing, so as someone who might have succeeded at losing weight once I fear that people will think I’m a failure when I can’t control my body and gained weight. It’s a messed up state of mind and something I hope I can get rid of or at least make it tolerable. When I get home I am hoping to be able to relax and let my body adjust to what it is normally used to, and hopefully that will help. Thanks again for your comment, insightful and helpful as always!

  24. Rhonda says:

    Just stopping by from Biz’s blog to send you some strength and encouragement. I don’t have experience with an eating disorder, but I am a woman and understand body issues for sure. I have never had to deal with the anxiety involved in the disorder so I commend your courage because talking about what scares us is one of the hardest things to do in life.

  25. Sarah says:

    I can absolutely relate. Just remember that recovery is not a straight, steady line. You will always have these moments, where you realise you still have vestiges of your disorder that you thought you had purged, but those moments will grow more and more infrequent over time. Yes, you struggled more than perhaps you thought you would. But you now have the tools to actually dissect how you are feeling and be proactive as you transition back into your regular routine. This post is proof of that. This is also a really great opportunity to actually reassess your habits and patterns from before you went to Peru, and to think about where you want to push yourself now. Pushing yourself, with compassion but with enough force to feel uncomfortable, is the key to continued recovery.

    So all of that is to say that I don’t think you should see this as a setback. I think you should see this as an opportunity to confront those thoughts head on, and tell them “No, actually, Peru reminded me there’s a beautiful life outside of the confines of my head!” At least that’s what I would say to myself. You obviously need to say whatever works for you.

    • Melissa says:

      I think you’re totally right Sarah, I should look at this not as a setback but as my own little therapy session with my thoughts to remind it that it is no longer in charge, and that I am. So true and thank you for reminding me that I am in charge, not my ed!

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  27. am says:

    a really stunning point in my recovery came long after i considered myself recovered, and i was reminded of it when you talked about your intense sugar cravings, how you feel like it’s all you want once you start eating it. my revelation came when i was reading the epilogue to Unbearable Lightness, when de Rossi said something like, “now, if i want fries, i order fries. i eat only as many as i want, and stop. if i’m tempted to over eat, i remind myself that i can always have fries tomorrow if i want them.”

    i always knew that restricting set me up for a binge. what i didn’t realize is that even if i think i’m not physically restricting my intake, mentally hanging onto ideas about “good” and “bad” foods can put me into the same exact position. it wasn’t until i read those simple sentences about french fries that i realized i was still trying to force my body into a certain calorie count, or a certain idea of the “right” amount to eat. i realized that wasn’t how i thought about food (and this also made me think of you, because you keep repeating that you’ll get back to eating “clean,” like it’s really important for you to have that).

    i realized i still hadn’t taken the time to learn what my hunger cues were, and to follow them. i still struggle with this, but once i began to do that, i was shocked at how much emotion i was able to drop surrounding food and cravings.

    good luck. like everyone else has said, you’ll figure it out. and it’ll definitely be okay.

    • Melissa says:

      I read Portia’s book last year and remember reading that part, and realizing the same thing about how I thought about food. It has taken me along time to realize how my brain thinks under these circumstances and stress and how I need to respond to them, with rationality and a calm attitude to make sure I don’t do anything drastic. I know I often still have the good vs. Bad food mentality when I eat so it’s something I have to work on in the future. Thanks for reminding me how my brain might be working against me!

  28. jhonatan says:

    Very good desserts and Andean food, excellent article helped me a lot to plan another trip to those places.

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