I’m in downtown Toronto, in my car, facing a crosswalk. Streams of people pass by. I’m sweating. I need to turn right. There are cars behind me waiting. Somebody honks. I edge forward. More people pass. I. have. to. get. out. of. here. But I can’t. The light turns yellow. I have to turn right-right now. A couple stragglers run by. I go ahead and make the turn, my heart pounding hard in my chest. In a matter of a couple seconds I must turn, look both ways for possibly more stragglers, and get to the next intersection without blocking the one I am currently in. Why did I do this? Why? Decide to drive I mean. Enter downtown during rush hour, with no other goal except to sight see. I’m an idiot. Never again. This experience was absolutely horrible, and I garner to say one of the most stressful in my life.
But I at least did it. To some, driving in a busy downtown may not be stressful, maybe just mildly irritating. To a cab driver, it would just be standard procedure. But to someone with anxiety, and ever increasing anxiety about everything including travel, it was hell.
I don’t know why my anxiety is increasing. I don’t know why I can’t just enjoy the moment and stop worrying about getting to the final destination with everything. I used to be so different from this. The journey was the best part for me. Now I have totally flipped. Getting on a plane is so fear inducing that I must take a damn klonopin. Imagining having to get from country to country that I want to see feels like a hassle and I must worry extensively about it.
I’m not 100% sure how this started. I think possibly because of some turbulence on a plane I experienced, or my anxiety in other areas leaking over into my traveling. Or maybe I am just worn out on traveling period. While this could turn into a whole other post, I know that my anxiety in general is the underlying need for reassurance – that I don’t have a horrible disease, that I won’t die in a horrible car accident or plane crash, that I won’t get robbed or raped, that I can just live a relatively peaceful existence, and accomplish what I want to accomplish before I die. This is pretty much the same for my traveling, only on a much smaller scale: I want to know that I can see exactly what I want to see, go exactly where I want to go and when, and reach my final destination without hassle. But this has rarely been the case for me, which is probably why I have so much ever-increasing anxiety about it. Something has always gone wrong, been stress-inducing, fear-provoking. But some may say this is the adventure of traveling- the challenges, the frustrations, the crazy events that sometimes end up serendipitous or at least great stories in the end.
I understand that if you don’t live in the moment, you are essentially missing out on your life; with your anxiety you are living constantly in the future. This can never be enjoyable. One common saying about life is that there are no guarantees. With my anxiety, and lately with traveling, this is what I want- a guarantee that things will go as planned.
I think adding to my anxiety about traveling is the fact that if you are in a foreign country and things don’t go exactly as planned it can end up being financially detrimental, dangerous or even life altering and/threatening.
Health insurance, if you even have it, doesn’t cover everything. You miss a flight. You lose your baggage. The hotel where you reserved a room doesn’t have any record. You get sick and have to find a doctor that speaks English. You fall and break your ankle. You get lost. You lose your debit card or your passport. Or worse, you get kidnapped, robbed imprisoned, or even killed. All things that can happen. Some of them have even happened to me already, but you know what? They worked out in the end.
I guess I, and whoever is reading this or has experienced these and is still alive (and hopefully not imprisoned in a foreign country, which to me doesn’t exactly mean things have worked out in the end), must offer ourselves reassurance- we’ve been there and done that. We got over our sickness. A misunderstanding was resolved.We got through the turbulence or the stress. We found our way back.
I must tell myself that my most life-changing, incredible travel experiences involved some scary things. That is part of the adventure I think. In Egypt I thought I was being kidnapped. In India and Nepal a whole HOST of things happened that were potentially very dangerous- and I got through all of them. And that trip in particular was one of the best, it not the THE best thing that has ever happened to me.
I must tell myself this: while there is trauma that can result from things, and which can lead to emotional exhaustion and the desire not to live anymore, which I write about here, sometimes it can lead to exhilaration, a great story, and when it comes to scary shit happening, what one war vet I knew described as “the realist shit ever”, which I believe meant being totally in the moment, experiencing everything fully, and in general truly living.
So here’s to experiencing the moment and life experiences in general, whether awe-inducing, boring, terrible, just so-so, enlightening, stressful, wonderful, crappy or crazy, without expectations, guarantees and most of all, anxiety. Because while I know this sounds cliché, none of us make it out of here alive.
Worrying about everything means you miss everything, and being worried about dying prevents you from living.