A pocket full of dreams and a suitcase full of fear

Although I love getting away and embracing new cities, traveling takes a huge toll on my anxiety. It starts beforehand, the excitement that comes with planning a trip for me goes hand in hand with obsessing over everything that could potentially happen. I am not talking fun things here, I am talking disaster. One of my psychologists told me once that I should pursue a career in Hollywood, you will not believe the amount of disaster horror movie scripts I can produce on any given day.

Then the travel part of the trip, which I think is actually the worst part for me. Think airport stress in the form of bombers, snipers, drugs being put into my luggage and buildings collapsing. Then taxi or public transport stress, hence formerly convicted cab drivers and or psychopaths deciding to travel by metro. The actual duration of the trip can also be hellish since all of the above-mentioned scenarios could also happen at hotels/restaurants/shopping areas/beaches, did I mention tsunamis? If I finally manage to relax and enjoy myself just for the slightest bit, then of course there is always the return, which will be glooming over my entire trip like a ghost.

Side note: These fears might seem a bit more rational these days, since attacks actually do happen, and planes are actually being shot out of the blue sky by missiles. I therefore want to add that these fears have been present since I was a little girl, and these fears have not been developed by recent affairs.

You can imagine that the amount of routines I need to perform not only before but also during the trip is so enormous that by the time I finally get home safe, I am so freaking stressed out and tired that I need a vacation.

Rome, 2008. A university student trip that I organised for 20 history and arts geeks, including myself and my two friends. Yes, I had two friends in college, actually only one after the other one dropped out. When my one friend was ill I was alone, but I did not care because I loved studying arts and I loved the whole college experience anyway. Back to Rome. This trip was filled with cultural experiences, lots of rain and seeing great ruins from under an umbrella, establishing some ground rules when deciding if guys were gay or just Italian, Italian Vogues and long walks through a forest. We stayed near the beach. The beach? Yes, apparently there is a shore, a gazillion hours away from the city centre of Rome. Since I organised the trip I was supposed to be aware of that. I was not. There are two things that I remember best from this Italian getaway. First of all, during that time I avoided eating. I tried to control my mind by seeing how long I could go without actually eating. I would like to point out that I was in Rome, Italy, the land of pasta for heaven’s sake. This unhealthy period of being obsessed with eating, or not eating for that matter, was accompanied by me not talking to my dad. For quite a few months I might add. When in Rome I felt the urge to text my dad, because I knew he would have appreciated hearing about my visit to the Vatican. I did not text my dad in the end. A few months later I received a phone call that he died.

Bali, 2011. This was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, the dream honeymoon. It included a gorgeous hotel surrounded by a tropical garden, fieldtrips to rice paddies so breathtakingly beautiful I cannot even describe it, a wooden hut right on the shore, candle lit dinners overlooking the gorgeous scenery and a devoting new husband that I adored. This trip also included the following. A terrifying plain ride of 16 plus hours, several airports that made me break out in cold sweats, formerly bombed nightclubs with huge remembrance plaques in front of them, cab rides with drivers that could possibly be murderers, a motorbike ride from hell, huge bats and tiny monkeys that might have had infectious diseases.

London, 2016. Although short and only 2 hours away, this trip turned out to be a very important one. It included 30 of my students and 2 colleagues, a (thank heaven) single hotel room in a student hostel, lots of fieldtrips and networking opportunities, a lobster dinner and a lot of nicknames. This trip was the first one I took after the divorce, but I remember it most because it was the trip that included me taking the metro all by myself. During this trip I realised that, for the first time in over a decade, I enjoyed being away by myself (ok and 30 very loud adolescents) and I actually felt liberated and free.

Since London I have travelled quite a few times, there was road trip to Luxembourg, another study trip to Rome, a family vacation to Ibiza, a huge road trip to Croatia and a holiday to Sicily with friends. I wish I could say that traveling is anxiety free for me now, but it simply is not. Traveling for me still includes panic attacks, horrible thoughts and a severe increase of my compulsions. I will however not let my anxiety limit me and I plan on traveling the world to make memories worth remembering. On that note, tickets to New York have been booked and I am packing my suitcase as we speak.