It’s Sunday and I’m tense. This isn’t my usual M.O. for the weekend and that annoys me. What’s more irritating is the reason I’m so keyed up. Tomorrow I’m traveling to the U.K. to see my friend and her sweet baby girl — I was her “Tuesday mom” when we lived close.
I’m not really sure why, but ever since I can remember I get weird about traveling. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love being in different places, trying new things and experiencing all the weird/awesome/unforgettable stuff this planet has to offer.
But there is something about actually getting my butt out the door to do it that freaks my out. Someone pointed this out to me about four years back when I was about to fly to Europe for the first time.
I just didn’t want to go. I honestly almost convinced myself to cancel. I thought it was pre-flight jitters. Something about flying across an enormous ocean without a safety net.
But as I look back at most of the trips I’ve taken, whether they’re road trips or flights to another continent, I’m usually considering pulling the plug a few days before the whole thing goes down.
This upsets me. I am so grateful that I’m able to travel the way I have. I know how ridiculously blessed I am to have a passport, how lucky I am to have traveled outside than the state where I was born.
Like I said, I thought it was the plane ride that upset me. If you let yourself start to think about what you’re doing, rushing through the atmosphere, 30,000 feet above sea level in a tiny little tube, it can freak you out.
But most of the time I don’t let my mind get too involved, so I don’t think it’s that.
Maybe it’s the preparation. Packing. Double-checking travel arrangements. Figuring out how we’ll manage with food allergies. What if I forget something? These are small, stressful moments, but they only bother me if I don’t give myself enough time.
Really it’s that when you travel, you come back a different person. You are fundamentally changed. Your eyes have been opened to something. Or you suddenly realize how good you really have it.
When I was 17, I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Honduras with a missions group. I helped folks get their eyes checked, largely because I could understand the Spanish alphabet. I helped poured a cement floor for a family of four living in a hut where before they’d sweep their dirt floor every morning. I braided four-year-old girls’ hair after combing lice out of it.
Near-death experiences on the winding roads up and down the steep hills were a daily thing. Garbage peppered the roadsides. Shacks were the norm. And I loved it. I woke up to roosters every morning. Mist hung in the mountains all around me. When I developed my film, 3/4 of the pictures were those mountains.
I saw happiness and love in its most pure form there. Where almost everyone had nothing, where filth and disease were so common, there was where people knew how to live life. Kicking around a soccer ball, strumming a guitar, chasing bubbles.
I’d go back to my AP classes where I’d worry so much about colleges, I would eventually freeze with depression and refuse to choose. Others who went would go back to working too many hours a week to pay for their outrageous mortgage or something else they thought they needed. This was how we lived.
Something about that trip stuck with me. But it took years (an entire decade actually) for me to understand the message I was receiving, and by that time I had to change a hell of a lot to become the person I could’ve been if I’d just listened back then in the first place. I basically stripped back down to where I was at 17.
So I think my nervousness is two-fold. One is that I am going to come back changed, which means dying a mini-death to the person I am. And the other is that I’m scared I’ll refuse to die that mini-death, that I won’t get the message and ten years from now I’ll have to break everything back down to zero again.
The first is, to me, a completely rational and normal thought. No matter how much we change, no matter how good we get at accepting these mini-deaths, moving on is tough. Knowing that you’re walking up to one voluntarily is a little unnerving.
The second one is more of an old habit and a bad habit at that. Sure this might have been a relevant fear when I was 28 and just starting on this journey. But like I said before, once you become more evolved, it’s difficult to go backwards. Worrying about not getting the message is like worrying about me not drinking enough water. I need it to survive. I’ll get it one way or another.
And so, without being too hard on myself, I’m going to try to let go of this fear and focus more on my intentions for this journey: spending time with one of my closest friends, seeing a new country and giving loads of love to my little Lydia.
Author’s note: After writing this in the morning, I went on to have one of the most relaxing and wonderful Sundays I’ve had in a while. I guess that just shows me that getting my emotions and feelings out on the page serves to move them through me. The Artist’s Way strikes again.