Thoughts of travel consume everything I do, even when I’m not on the road. The juggling of finances, personal sacrifices combined with all of that overtime, are all decisions made with ‘future me’ in mind. Sadly, for most of us, long-term travel isn’t a quick aim to fulfil. It requires money, compromise, and a lot of self-discipline. The trip that I am about to embark on (which I will have started when this post is published) is the culmination of two years saving and six months of counting the days. At times, it genuinely seemed like a dream which would never come into being.
Today is packing day and here I sit, doing anything I can to delay the process. (I hate packing and this has a tendency to screw things up for me, just look at my disastrous packing attempt for Ukraine.) Despite the months of counting down to the moment where I would be free and ready to go, I feel 100% overwhelmed.
I have tried voicing these thoughts to a number of family and friends but I feel I am yet to explain how I feel in a clear and succinct manner. Many people have asked whether I still want to do this trip and I definitely do, but sadly my mind won’t allow me to work in black and white. If you are about to embark on a big trip and feel like you’re being beaten up by contradictory emotions, let me talk you through my boxing ring of thoughts.
‘And then I’m going to explore the catacombs, and have a cheese gorging session by the river, and walk along the abandoned railway and…’
I try to step away from the planning side of things because I can’t help but enforce a regimented itinerary which is always more fun on paper than in reality. However, I can’t resist shortlisting all of my stand out ‘must-do’s’ when I book a trip. I quickly become very carried away once I start planning and even knowing everyone else is sick of hearing me drone on about my trip doesn’t put me off. Enthusiasm marks the inception of all the crazy ideas before the fear sets in so this pre-trip emotion is one to be savoured.
‘What if our train is cancelled/I break my leg/forget my passport/get trampled to death by a cow?’
This is where my mind starts to go into overdrive. As someone whose head is always clouded by a foreboding sense of doom, I sometimes feel like there is nothing I haven’t considered when it comes to my travel plans. The thoughts start out as rational issues before ricocheting off the walls of my cranium into complete lunacy. I haven’t yet found a way to conquer these overbearing brain farts but have found the symptoms to be less aggressive when fought by some simple stress-busting techniques.
‘I have no sense of direction so I have no idea how I am going to navigate 500 miles on foot in another country!’ (Also known as WTF have I got myself into.)
Where anxiety rears it’s ugly head, self-doubt is never far behind. Ever started doing something and realising you feel like a complete and utter fraud? Make way for the classic imposter syndrome. I find battling this one particularly hard but get through it by reminding myself that I can do it. There is no shame in getting it wrong from time to time and just because everyone else seems like that have got their sh*t together, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have. Feeling inadequate doesn’t make you unworthy of your experiences but instead means you have to work harder to accomplish what you want. Looking in from the outside, I’d say that’s pretty darn admirable.
‘Why the hell are hiking poles classed as a dangerous object?! I’m going to have to pay for hold luggage now, I haven’t budgeted for this!’
In travel, as with life, it can feel like nothing goes the way it should. Things constantly crop up and make you question whether you will ever be able to save enough for your trip. Unexpected costs are a common frustration of travelling, especially when it comes to those last minute jobs that should take no time at all. Planning well for a trip overseas definitely helps with travel based frustration down the line but sadly, it seems to be one of those things that can’t be avoided.
‘Holy crap the Eiffel Tower is so high, I feel sick just thinking about it.’
I have noticed that in the lead up to my departure date, my fears have become weirdly magnified. I am scared of a lot of things anyway but as I get closer to leaving through my comfort zone door, my fears have become more intense. I feel scared of the unknown stretch of time in front of me, scared of the home life that is soon to be behind me and everything in between. Somewhat bizarrely, the travel part can actually be the least scary thing of all and instead it is the thought of what will happen while you’re gone that freaks you out. Where will I be coming back to? Who will be greeting me? Will I even go back? All of these questions are simply too overwhelming to currently consider.
‘I’ve put travel insurance, my EHIC card, passport validity and check-in on my list of things to do. That should take me the rest of the afternoon. Oh my god, I forgot I am meant to be seeing Grandad!’
If I had to sum up my life in the last few weeks prior to this trip, panicked would be my adjective of choice. As the time quickly closes in, it suddenly dawns on me just how much I still have left to do before my departure date. From arranging travel insurance to seeing family and friends, there are just not enough hours in the day. How can it be that when you have been counting down to something for six months (only too aware of exactly how far away it is) that it seems to sneak up on you?! The result of this has meant that I have been rushing around in a frenzy for the last two weeks with enough thoughts to melt my brain.
‘Do you remember that Disney advert from when we were kids and the children couldn’t sleep the night before their flight because they were so excited? That is me, before every single trip.’
While this is different to the majority of negative feelings discussed in this post, I still find that excitement completely swamps me. The butterflies in my stomach always feel good initially, until it all gets too overwhelming and makes me sick (literally). Despite this unpleasant physical side-effect, excitement is primarily a positive emotion and one that I enjoy. Without excitement to balance out the rest of my pre-travel concerns, I am not sure I could continue to put my body through the turmoil of getting out on the road again.
I guess what I want to point out in this post is that there is never a ‘right’ way to feel. Travel can be daunting and can bring out both positive and negative emotions. The thing to remember is, that while this can all be pretty confusing (not to mention absolutely draining), you have chosen to do this trip. You wouldn’t have worked, saved and sacrificed if you didn’t want to do this. Nerves are an expected consequence of any big decision and all of these emotions are a culmination of that, playing out in real time. Go for it, all the head stuff will slot into place later anyway.
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