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Dec
31

The Anxious Traveller

I am an anxious traveller.  I’m one of those people who stress about pretty much everything. Things that have happened, things that have not happened, things that might happen but probably won’t.  I have always been a worrier from as far back as I can remember. Worry seems to be my natural state.

I had my first anxiety attack when I was pregnant with my second child.  Having no idea what was happening I thought that I was going to die. The room closed in on me, my heart raced, I felt like I couldn’t breath.  It was one of the scarier moments in my life. Since then I have had only a handful of attacks and, thankfully, none of the same intensity.

Although my anxiety is in no way debilitating, I do suffer from it in some form most days when we are traveling.  There have been many mornings where I wake up with a knot in my stomach and an unexplainable feeling of unease.  Luckily this feeling usually dissipates quickly as I start my day but sometimes it will last into the day or into many days.  Sometimes I will have a good cry (luckily my man has a welcoming shoulder to cry on).  Many times I can’t even explain or understand why I am anxious while other times I know what is causing the stress and I can talk it out with Mike who has an amazing ability to put things into perspective for me.

Travel brings out the worrier in me in full force.  I get so stressed out when we don’t have a plan.  Since we left Chiang Mai a few weeks ago we have been flying by the seat of our pants.  We went to Koh Phangan to see friends but the weather was stormy there and we didn’t get along well with the island so we left.  We came to Bangkok without much of a plan.  Now we have to do a visa run but we didn’t know where we should go. (As of this morning we have decided on Cambodia. Phew!)  I do not do well with uncertainty which seems quite counterintuitive to travel.

I’m worst off when we have to fly somewhere.  I have always hated flying.  My mind goes through all the bad scenarios and I work myself into such a stressful state all I can do is count the minutes until we land.  Mike always takes over for me on planes and takes full control of the care of our children because I just don’t function well enough to take care of anyone while we are in the air.  With the recent air travel tragedies in Asia my fears have grown even more.

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So why am I still traveling if it causes such a stress reaction?

Blissful moments.

Can you remember a moment when you were perfectly happy?  A moment when all there is is that moment?  Where life’s energy shines from your soul and there is only bliss?  I have found those moments are few and far between and they are fleeting moments.  I have them no matter where I am but when I travel I have more of them.

Like the moment our family was riding on a scooter at nightfall in Chiang Mai.  There were hundreds of birds singing their night song as we cruised down Suthep Road. The cool breeze tickled my skin and I held out my arms to the night. In that moment, bliss.

Or when we visited Mae Sa Waterfalls.  We hiked into the jungle to find our perfect spot. The kids swam and splashed, hooted and giggled.   Mike and I sat down on a rock to watch these little humans that we made enjoy a perfect afternoon.  In that moment, bliss.

Or when I sat with my friend Jenn sipping from a cold coconut on a beach chair in Nai Yang.  The crystal blue ocean kissed the sand while the sun kissed my face. In that moment, bliss.

Or when we stood on a pedestrian bridge over an overpass in Bangkok watching the hoards of traffic zoom by underneath us.  In a moment that had nothing really special about it except for its exoticness in the mind of this small town girl.  In that moment, bliss.

These moments are what propels my desire to travel.  These moments are addicting because in them I feel truly alive.

And I travel for my children.

I cannot think of a better way to educate my children than to travel with them.  When I think of all of the things they have been exposed to through our travels all my worries about if we are doing a good enough job in educating them seem to dissipate.  Is there a better teacher than the world?  I find peace in those beautiful little moments when they are doing currency conversations from Thai Baht to Canadian dollars to understand the value of an item, or when they wai (bow with hands together) and say Kup Kuun Krap (thank you) to a Thai person who has done something nice for them, or when they are learning about an elephant by sitting on its back, touching its thick skin and coarse hair and marvelling in its gentle beauty. We travel to give our children an out-side-the-box education where experiences take the place of book work and the world becomes the classroom.

I travel for all the good things that travel brings us.  I travel for the experiences, the people, the food, the culture.  I travel to learn.  I work through the anxiety because it is worth it to do so.

It would be easier to stay at home.  But it would be much less rewarding.

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10 comments

  1. Josee says:

    Great post Amy 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    1. worldschooled says:

      Thanks Josee. I just wanted to write something that was honest about my experience of travel and my issues with anxiety. I want people to know that it is not all happiness and roses on the road.

  2. Kate says:

    Great post and I certainly relate (especially flying). I literally just read Lainie’s post in her year wrap up a few minutes ago on the same topic:

    http://www.raisingmiro.com/2014/01/25/how-we-overcame-fear-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-fear/

    We do these things despite the fears because we have experienced the joys found in travel but also I think fear would hit us if we sit at home “safely” as then there is too much free time to let the mind dwell on things:))

    Happy travels.

    1. worldschooled says:

      Thank you for the article suggestion!

  3. Alyson says:

    Me too Amy! I had anxienty badly around 6 years ago and previous to that in my 20s. It’s an interesting thing waking up to what it really is, discoverring that it’s a disease called anxiety, you’re not just a worrier or up tight. A wonderful doctor said to me ” You’re an intelligent woman, you’ll find a way out of this.” So I did. I’m good now, the Xanax another Doc gave me went straight in the bin, I only ever took 2 or 3 and could totally see why they are so addictive..they’re good! I worry about certain things in a normal healthy way, but if it gets more than that I know I have to sort myself out and do.
    I travel because I love it, I find enormous beauty in the world, it brings me joy, as of course does sharing the experience with the kids and my husband.
    Good luck!

    1. worldschooled says:

      Thanks for your comment Alyson. I do work through it all. It helps to just stop and try to figure out if there is something that is causing my worry and then address that issue. Usually it is just a matter of confronting the feelings and moving through them. I’ve never medicated and don’t think I need to.

  4. Nadine says:

    Dear Amy
    That’s a very honest post and I am sorry to read about your issues. One thing I can suggest (I meant to write to you about this before I saw this post and feel that now, this is even more pressing) is stop taking domestic flights. One thing that you have is time, so why do you keep flying? South East Asia has a great public transport system and it will bring sooooo many advantages (not to mention the environmental advantage). You will travel slow, will take more time, be less stress, hence less anxious. You won’t have to worry about much. You will feel the connection with the world, the people around you, the buzz, the helpfulness, the smells, the friendly faces and all. Your boys will be well taken care of by so many people who will be more than happy to play with them, giving you more time to settle and feel comfortable. And you will stay on the earth, near to gravity, see nature, beautiful landscapes. There are great sleeper trains all over Thailand, many busses, songkrans etc. I hope this helps. Try and overcome this, as your boys feel this too and I am sure they will want their mummy to feel more comfortable. There are soooooo many nice people in this world and we are all connected, so try and let go a bit and have faith that it will all work out perfectly, even when it’s not planned. Best regards Nadine

    1. worldschooled says:

      Thank you for your advice Nadine! Yes, traveling overland is a much nicer way to travel. Whenever we are on the move we do a cost comparison between flying and going an overland route. If the cost is comparable we usually choose to fly as it is so much more convenient. Mike and I also can’t sleep well on overnight trains so we end up getting to our location and being completely exhausted (although the kids love overnight trains!).

  5. Amber at THE BEAUTIFUL LENS says:

    Hi Amy,

    Wow. Your post hit home for me. I always get quite nervous when I’m travelling too – though push through & try to do it as much as possible with my family, for many of the same reasons you gave. But I had my first real panic attack this weekend { as you described with your first one – I couldn’t breath and it was terrifying } and finally have a bit of an understanding of the depths of this anxiety. You’re doing brave things every single day when you travel – but take comfort in the knowledge that bad things happen to people who don’t travel too… life is hard and scary at times. And shorter than we want it to be. So we have to be brave and live the life we were born to live. You are doing extraordinary things – never forget that. xx

    1. worldschooled says:

      The first one is the hardest. If you have more at least you will know what they are when they are happening to you. Yes, bad things happen everywhere. Thanks for your comment and encouragement!

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