Friday, August 4, 2017

Travel Link-Up: Travel Anxiety

There I am, on Instagram: tilting my head back, mid-laugh with a drink in my hand in Singapore, as the sun sets behind me at a rooftop bar. And, there's me: smiling astride a camel in a Moroccan sand dune, khakis rolled up to the ankle and the sun beating down on my shoulders. And, again: striking Triangle Pose at My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam, wearing shorts and a Breton tee as if I'd just been plucked from a picnic on Hampstead Heath, instead of exploring a UNESCO world heritage site.

I look at these photos and think, 'Who is this person?' Because it certainly doesn't seem like me - the person who carefully looked up the dress code not once, but twice for that Singaporean roof top bar; the person who overpacked for the camel-camping desert excursion (but failed to bring hand sanitizer, for which I suffered the utmost consequence after being struck by a stomach bug shortly after); the woman who spent the first 2 hours in Hanoi nearly crying from the chaos that came with mopeds clipping dangerously close to her heels with no paved sidewalk to escape to.

In short, I'm the world's most anxious traveler.

In fact, I'm not even sure I enjoy traveling.

There, I said it.

I mean, of course I love discovering new places, but getting to the airport? That, in itself, requires a CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)-lesson-in-practice for me. Lots of deep breathing and such. I still print every single travel-related document and bring it along with me on the trip: proof of my travel insurance; our hotel confirmation; our flight confirmation; in fact, anything with "CONFIRMATION" in the subject line.

My husband, on the other hand, is the Cool Hand Luke of travel (particularly, aviation travel). Slinking into the airport an hour (at most) before his flight takes off, brandishing his passport at First Class check-in and waltzing through Fast Track security with the grace of a seasoned Strictly Come Dancing-professional, he is cool, calm and collected from the minute he leaves our house to the second he disembarks the plane at his destination. Completing 3-4 long-haul international flights per year for work (plus numerous other short-haul trips scattered inbetween) helps, not to mention that Gold Loung access, but frankly? He's always been this chilled out about travel before his job required him to whip around the world faster than you can say, "Doors to manual".

When we travel together, everything is golden. I fret, sure, but I unload my anxieties onto him and he sweeps them away like a genie granting wishes. "What are you worried about?" he'll ask, noticing my furrowed brow on the ride to the airport. "What if ... what if the taxi guy doesn't show up and we're stuck in Marrakech and we don't know any local cab numbers and I forgot the hotel number and what is the airport like and what if I need to go to the bathroom but there's no time or ..." and he'll listen patiently and have an answer for everything. And I'll sit back, satisfied, in my seat, the seatbelt tugging at my chest.

I think I inherited my parents' travel anxieties: road trips to Vancouver and the Oregon Coast wouldn't be complete with my mom and dad checking not once, not twice, but nearly three times they had turned off the stove, locked the door, and switched on the home alarm. Passports were checked, re-checked and counted for all to see in the car - and this was all before we'd even backed out of the driveway.

Further trips abroad - to the East Coast, the Rocky Mountains, and Japan, for example - were left to the professionals to organize; Chinese tour companies with guides who waved brightly colored flags and umbrellas, our smallish group attracting contempt and disdain from locals and tourists alike wherever we went.

When I'm travel-ling, I'm constantly on edge. Where is the bathroom? (Can you tell I have a pre-occupation with my pea-sized bladder?) Where will we eat? How will we get there? I have a headache. AM I DYING? It all gets a little bit out of control.

But lately, when I've panicked on a trip, I observe John, silently, and watch how he deals with a stressful situation. Severe and sudden snowfall, for example, meant that several accidents blocked the road to the airport in Reykjavik on our way out. We also hadn't put the coordinates for the car rental place into the GPS. Already, my imagination was going into overdrive: we would miss the plane. We'd never get to the airport. We wouldn't be able to find the car rental place. Our own car would skid off the road.

OBVIOUSLY, we made it to the car rental place in one piece, with plenty of time to spare. The car was checked in smoothly and a shuttle took us a few yards to the airport.

Later, when we were sitting on the plane, preparing for takeoff, I whispered to John, "How did you know where to drop the car off?"

He shrugged. "I didn't, really. I mean, I knew it was just a few feet from the airport, for goodness' sake, so how far could it be?" He opened War and Peace on his iPad and was, at once, deep in concentration. Shoes already off and tucked under his seat. That guy.

But I've learned something so valuable from him - John, my preferred travel companion. I've learned how to stop catastrophizing; how to stop predicting the worst. And when the worst strikes, how to problem-solve - not stress.

Do you suffer from travel anxiety too? Or are you great at dealing with anything unexpected that comes your way? I'd love to know (plus, any tips or tricks you might find useful!).

This post is part of this month's Travel Link-Up series on "travel fears and scares". Head over to Angie's, Polly's, Emma's, and Maggie's blogs for more posts on this theme!

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