Do you ever do something and think afterwards how the f**k did I do that? IF ONLY IT COULD BE BOTTLED, THAT COURAGE.
I am talking about traveling with anxiety.
I have suffered with anxiety my whole life. It has limited my life to the extent I don’t go out, and if I do it’s after dark and to the supermarket to stock up on pasta and ice cream.
I have a partner I have been with for a few years. We did attempt to go out as a couple to restaurants and the like, but quickly had to knock that on the head because my anxiety did not make the experience at all fun. Then shit happened and going out at all became impossible.
That said, we have gone on holidays abroad. This is the point I think HOW?
Going on holiday is stressful, if like me you have agoraphobia and anxiety. For my partner it is enjoyable. Yes. Enjoyable. What a strange old word. Let’s break it down.
Travelling with Anxiety
Writing a list. A travel inventory. Nothing must be forgotten. Shades, toiletries – are they in a clear bag and to the measurements required, pads – you never know I might start my period, notebook, books, flip flops, charger – spare charger, snacks, magazine, toilet rolls, an outfit for my hand luggage – in case I puke over myself on the plane (keeping it classy) blanket, towel, sweeteners – am I the only person who feels bad when someone on the plane has forgotten their sweeteners and the cabin crew don’t have any, raincoat, tickets, printout of travel/hotel info, wipes, soap, money – in all currencies, tissues, water bottle.
Yes, this stuff can be bought in Spain or Germany or wherever. Yes, it is ok to forget something. TELL THAT TO MY BRAIN.
Packing the suitcase. Have to remember carrier bags, day outfits, socks, underwear, night outfits, evening outfits, pyjamas, loungewear, OH MY GOD THE SUITCASE ISN’T ZIPPING SHUT.
Traveling to the airport. That involves a train into London, an overnight stay in a hotel, worrying about dinner, and breakfast, trying to sleep in a bed that is not my own, what if my alarm doesn’t ring and we miss our flight, what if I don’t have time for a shower – I don’t want people to think I stink, setting the alarm 8 times so it goes off in the lift, and in the taxi on the way to the airport AND NOT BEING ABLE TO TURN IT OFF, worrying I may have left something in the hotel when I leave – I DIDN’T UNPACK ANYTHING.
The airport. Oh the airport. Trying to navigate the way into the airport, onto the shuttle, finding the toilets, waving off our suitcases, trying to hydrate and simultaneously trying to finish the bottle of water before we go through security, finding another toilet, queue at security, sweating because – you never know – I might get arrested, wondering if you will ever see your hand luggage again when you have relinquished it, the waiting, the delays, wandering through endless cold corridors – which always make me think of the time corridors in Doctor Who – my partner gets thoroughly annoyed every time I mention it,
all this while trying to rearrange my face to appear ‘normal’ while inside I am losing my shit, having no idea what to do with my hands, trying to not get stomped on by people in a bigger rush to get this done with than me,
then asking myself if my face has changed from my passport photo and they won’t let me on the plane, more waiting, waiting, getting onto those stairs to the plane – they frighten me – I don’t like heights, knowing as someone with a large chest someone is going to elbow my boobs, or going to get them in their head or back, and how on earth you get comfortable in a plane seat I do not know. As soon as I am sat in my seat I want to leave. There is no personal space, my knees are in jeopardy, and I immediately get a headache as soon as the plane takes off.
You think at this point I would have a chance to breathe, but no. I am counting down the minutes until the plane gets back onto solid ground. I’m not quiet about this either.
Being in a foreign country unsettles me. It’s because home is a bit too far away for comfort.
Queuing for the toilet, queuing, more queuing, and finding our suitcases. Is there no better way? Maybe it is just me, but how do I pull my suitcase off that thing without me landing on my backside.
I don’t know why, but we get a coach transfer to our hotel. It is a new kind of hell. Waiting for everyone to get onto the coach, onto the right coach, the relinquishing of luggage again as it goes in the boot, I worry about all of the kids running around, I worry about how the rest of the day is going to pan out now we are actually HERE.
It takes me 2 days to recover. So why do I do it to myself?
Because my anxiety is limiting, it also limits my partner’s life. I’m not going to tell him we can’t go on holiday, because there’s already a lot we don’t do because of my anxiety.
It’s like a bruise. Curiosity makes me keep prodding it. Travel is exciting. I like the idea of it. I like experiencing new places. New foods and new people not so much. Anxiety inducing. The holiday we had last year was relatively less stressful, which I think means I may be getting used to it. Also the airport was trying a new way of easing queues and getting people onto their flights quicker. That worked like a dream.
It’s a privilege to travel as well, my family could never afford to take me and my two siblings abroad. I think my parents probably had enough of taking us to stay in a caravan for a week. The memories I have of that are being in a stuffy car, ants and endless walking. I still had anxiety then. I will forever dislike piers. How can walking along slats of wood across the sea ever be fun? I used to have nightmares about falling into the sea. It doesn’t take a lot to fuel my imagination.
Thanks for reading!