For as long as I can remember, I’ve had visions of me traveling the world — Hawaii, Alaska, California, The Grand Canyon, Paris, Italy, Aruba, Ireland…
So far I’ve been pretty lucky to have traveled to several places along the east coast here in the US and to a few beautiful Caribbean Islands. I’ve enjoyed almost everywhere I’ve visited, and fell downright in love with the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
But the thing about traveling with anxiety is that no matter how much I may want to go somewhere, no matter how hard I work to save the money to make it happen, I’m still, when it comes down to it … terrified.
Whether it’s roaming the rocky beaches of Old Orchard Beach, Maine or being in the presence of Queen Elizabeth I’s tomb in Wesminster Abbey, in order to cross these things off my so-called “bucket list,” I have to, well … travel.
It’s not really the destination I’m afraid of. I can do plenty of research on the hotels, the lifestyle, the restaurants, the people, the culture, and the transportation systems. And usually once I’ve reached the destination, I’m cool.
But in my anxiety-riddled mind, getting there is not half the fun. It’s half the problem.
Anyone who knows me knows that I almost never drive on the highway. I’ve driven short stretches a handful of times, but hardly anything gives me more anxiety than speeding down the road with hundreds of other vehicles when I have no control over any of those other drivers. There are even times when I have to close my eyes on the highway as a passenger, especially when passing large tractor trailers. (it doesn’t help that I work at a salvage auto auction and see what happens when a Chevy Cobalt meets a big rig).
So needless to say any road trip can be stressful and overwhelming to me. A few months ago I had an epic meltdown a mere hour before leaving for a short road trip from Pittsburgh to Columbus, OH for work. Sometimes I’m honestly not sure how I endure the 530 mile drive to the Outer Banks every other year.
Flying is a whole other story. When I was younger, I don’t remember being afraid to fly. The first time I rode a plane after 9/11 was for my 11th grade trip to Disney World, and we were on a chartered flight with no one but band geeks and chaperones, so I didn’t have to deal with the hyped up security and new, scarier way of air travel.
I didn’t board another plane until 2009, when I went on a cruise with my now husband. Maybe it was because it had been almost a decade since I’d flown, but I remember being extremely nervous for that trip. Things only got worse on our return flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta – we hit some pretty decent turbulence, and during our layover in Georgia, I was so terrified at the thought of getting on another plane I spent close to an hour in the bathroom sobbing uncontrollably. Luckily, some nice wife-of-a-pilot offered me a Benadryl. While it didn’t knock me out completely, it took the edge off enough that I could get back home. (Obviously I don’t recommend taking pills off of strangers in bathrooms. But I was so hysterical and desperate it seemed like a good idea at the time. And hey, the pill was labeled).
Our upcoming trip to London is barreling towards us like a freight train, and although I am getting extremely excited, I am also trying desperately not to think about spending 8 hours on a plane. Over the Atlantic Ocean. Shudder.
I’m planning on taking plenty of Xanax, which helped immensely when we flew for our honeymoon. But honestly I kind of wish I could be in a temporary coma for the whole thing.
What got me thinking about all of this travel-related anxiety is an announcement at work – my company is opening a new location in Germany, and they’re looking for volunteers to help set up. I immediately said “YES,” thinking this was an amazing opportunity to travel (for free!), and while I still want to go, the more I think about it, the more terrified I become.
I don’t know if I’ll get picked to go to Germany for work. Part of me really hopes I do, and part of me really hopes I don’t. The thought of being in another country so far away and seeing so many amazing and beautiful things (on someone else’s dime) is a dream come true. But the thought of getting to the airport, boarding a plane, and navigating an entire other country BY MYSELF is a complete nightmare.
Because of my anxiety, inevitable travel hiccups set me over the edge. Getting lost on the road means we’ll end up in some secluded forest and get chopped to pieces by a crazy ax murderer. Thin walls at a hotel means I won’t be able to get any sleep and will be a miserable zombie for the entire trip. Lost luggage means we’ll spend our entire vacation budget on new clothes. Taking the wrong bus to get to the Tower of London means we’ll get kidnapped by terrorists. Not speaking the language means (insert epic, improbable disaster here).
I wish I was the kind of person or employee who could travel at the drop of a hat. To hop on a plane with no qualms or head onto the open road and let the wind blow through my hair without worrying about getting lost or maimed or otherwise traumatized would be a welcome change. I’m slowly working on tackling these issues in EMDR therapy , but I don’t know if I’ll get there before we leave for London. Or before I potentially go to Germany.
Until then, I guess I’ve always got Xanax. And hey, they always say the best way to conquer a fear is to face it.