Tuesday, May 15, 2012

travel jitters

Whenever I'm getting ready to travel, I have to contend with the fact that there is a part of me that hates to travel. Even before the most exciting trips, like the one I'm about to go on, I think that it wouldn't be so bad if the whole thing got cancelled, thereby relieving me of the burden of exiting my familiar and cozy bubble.

 The first major trip I ever took was when I was 22 and I went to Costa Rica for two months. I lived on $50 a week for almost a year to save for that trip, but in the days before departure, I was filled with dread. I didn't want to admit it to anybody, but I did not want to go anymore. I was very disappointed with myself, because I had always imagined that when I grew up, I would work only to save enough money to travel.  I consider myself an explorer, and I thought my whole life would be about traveling and exploring.  I had very romantic notions about what it meant to be a world traveler. I would be full of stories from my encounters with exotic people and lands, my home filled with beautiful trinkets and unusual souvenirs, and I myself would also be slightly exotic after having sailed the seven seas, rubbed shoulders with the natives, and seen things that most could not imagine.

 Despite my foreboding, I pushed on to Costa Rica anyway, secretly convinced I would die in a ridiculous mishap while I was there and never return. And as soon as I arrived, I was fine. When I arrive anywhere, I am fine.  Now I understand it's not the actual travel I dread. It's the anticipation, preparation, and transition. Knowing that I am about to be surrounded with absolutely nothing familiar, except for what I bring along, kicks the little girl inside me back to life, the one who who had to travel back and forth between divorced parents and was constantly coping with missing one parent or the other. It's the insecurity of being alone in the world, one that is assuaged by the familiar things and people I surround myself with.  Travel strips that bare.

I recently read "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed, her account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone at 23 years old, and I was highly amused at her description of her backpack, which she nicknamed "Monster" due its outsize girth and weight. It mirrored exactly the pack I took into Costa Rica with me, which was so outlandishly overweight and wide, grown men who were trying to help me with my luggage would drop my pack and stare at me incredulously.  I never had to worry about someone stealing my pack because you simply could not run with it. My backpack reflected my intense need for familiar comforts, like my 16-oz bottle of hair conditioner (my hair is very thick and requires special maintenance,)  a stash of paint and all kinds of paper for every drawing and writing need (which I am grateful for to this day,) 6 different dresses for 6 different kind of occasions, and a Walkman, Canon camera with two lenses, and tape recorder so I would not forget one fucking thing.

My needs are smaller in some ways now.  I know how much conditioner will actually be required in a 6 week period (approximately 4 oz,) that I will end up sketching and writing more than painting and do not need a full palette of paint, that I only need one dress for walking and looking, another for sitting and looking pretty (attitude makes up for the other four,) and everything that needs to be recorded can be done with one little device.  And while I hate every moment between right now while I'm typing this--tying up my business and loose ends, saying good-bye to my husband, trying to figure out how close I can cut my arrival to the airport that will take me away--I am waiting for that sweet spot when I finally arrive.  And everything is fine.