A classmate named Sarah recently told my four year-old son…
Wherever you go, there you are. I’m reminded of this every time I travel. As I’ve mentioned before, I often have travel anxiety. It’s a “first-world problem” and I expect no sympathy for it. Any trouble related to traveling is good trouble. I’m fortunate to be able to take family vacations frequently and give my son exposure to new and exciting places.
That being said, I don’t travel well. This time it was Cancun. Who has anxiety traveling to a sunny resort town like Cancun? This guy. And who can be a “Debbie Downer” in the most luxurious of places? This guy. And, it’s happened before.
I once sat, deflated and depressed, on the steps of the Sacre Couer Basilica in Paris, with a sweeping view of the entire city, and wondered what it would take for me to be truly happy for any stretch of time. If a person cannot be happy in Paris, where might they?
I’ve recognized that it’s a combination of physical pain and mental anxiety that converge when I travel. I’m overweight and have daily back pain that I usually just deal with. It’s not so bad that I see a chiropractor, although I’ve done that in the past with good results. Admittedly, I really should have regular adjustments, but I don’t. The anxiety is a daily occurrence and something I also just try to manage on a daily basis. I like to think it’s a minor problem and is under control – and it is, until I travel.
It starts with being corralled at the airport security line and herded onto a plane with uncomfortable seats. I’ve flown first-class before and can confirm that a wide, proper leather seat and attentive beverage service from a flight attendant definitely reduces stress. But, I am not at a station in life where it’s practical to travel first-class.
Sitting for several hours is a challenge for me. I get squirmy and impatient, but manage to entertain myself, my partner and son for the duration. Whenever possible, we vacation in places that have short, direct flights from our home base. We pack plenty of books and distractions for the young one, but he usually spends the whole flight playing with the seat belt buckle and tray table. Whatever works, dude.
There was a book written several years ago called, “The Highly Sensitive Person”, by Elaine Aron. These folks (“HSPs”) are sensitive to external stimuli and are prone to crankiness if they don’t take precautions. I went to a book signing for this book and Ms. Aron was not there. This, due to her being an HSP, we were told. Someone else presented the book’s information on her behalf. I was impressed at her dedication to her precautions. Upon reading the book, it was clear that I, too, was an HSP. My partner read the book and was also convinced. He then ordered “The Highly Sensitive Person in Love” and was elated to have an instruction manual for dealing with me and my quirkiness.
So taking my highly sensitive self on a luxury vacation with the family does not always yield a good result. It makes no sense, really. But, it is what it is and I am fortunate my family loves me as I am. I aim to do better and be better. Each trip presents its own set of issues for me to overcome. A recent trip to Colorado brought slight altitude sickness. I hate not being able to breathe. The trip to Cancun gave us an unusually uncomfortable bed. After Thanksgiving we go on a cruise and those challenges remain to be seen. Whah! Whah! Whah! The list goes on. Woe is me.
At the heart of it, there is a deeply philosophical issue that is simply summed up with “wherever you go, there you are”. There is no reason to think that the geographical location of my body is any indication of who I am or how I will behave. So, learning to manage myself, my physical body, and my mind is the only route to sanity. I’m a self-aware chap and am often successful at managing my idiosyncrasies – at least until I hear the announcement that my flight is boarding.