08 June 2017

Passions and struggles

13 years ago, I took an enormous, scary leap and flew to Europe with two friends to see 4 countries in less than 3 weeks. At the time, I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I would likely never be able to afford going back. But the wanderlust bug bit me hard. I re-prioritized my finances and returned to the UK within a year and continued to return. I ventured to new cities, new continents, new countries. I started a travel blog; I became a paid travel writer. Travel became my thing.

And then, infertility. It’s a nasty, physically draining, especially expensive issue to deal with. As a result, I haven’t been out of the country in 6 years. Until this Sunday. We’re headed back out there. 8 new countries. 7 new languages. 7 new currencies.

And I'm terrified.

Here’s the thing: I’m honestly the most unlikely person to have been bitten by the wanderlust bug, because in truth, I’m a happy little introverted homebody. I may have developed a love for seeing the world, but in the most ironic of twists, I really, really, REALLY hate leaving home.

It's not to the point of agoraphobia. But the idea of sleeping in a bed that is not my own has always sent me into intense anxiety. Even as a kid. My parents always had to pick me up from sleepovers at 3am because I couldn’t stop crying. It has LONG been a struggle of mine. It effects my sleep, it effects my appetite, it effects my health, it effects my ability to think clearly, it effects everything.

It’s not easy to admit that. I completely understand how illogical it is. It feels silly, like ungratefulness, irrationality, weakness, shame. I mean, talk about a first world problem! But these overwhelming panic attacks are also incredibly real and very difficult to pretend don’t exist. They especially affect my immune system; over half my travels have been accompanied by a triple-digit fever. And the more it happens, the more it feeds the anxiety. It's a wickedly frustrating catch-22.

The last couple of weeks of preparation have been rough. Really rough. It’s taking everything I have not to cancel this whole trip, burrow down in my bed, and stay in my happy comfort zone of yoga pants and Netflix. But I know if I give in to the temptation to not face this, I’ll never conquer it. And that scares me even more.

So, I’ve made two decisions: I’m doing this. Even if I can’t stop the tears, I’m doing this. Not saying “I can’t" anymore counts the most when it becomes really hard. And I already know the memories will be worth it. Anxiety and health issues aside, my travel memories are some of my absolute favorite life moments ever.

Decision number two: I’m not hiding this struggle anymore. Most people are shocked to hear that travel is hard for me, because I so fiercely believe in its benefits. But that’s the heaviest part of it; pretending everything is completely normal, that I’m not hearing the loud thump of my heart racing in my ears and struggling to catch my breath over something others find so easy. It’s very hard to explain when your biggest passion is also one of your biggest struggles.

But I also know I’m not alone. Maybe not in this particular issue, but in continuing to put one foot in front of the other amidst fear. We all struggle with something; no one is immune to the hardships of life. And something very cool happens when we put down our pride and stand alongside each other.

So here I stand, admitting this is really hard for me, whether or not you understand it. If you don’t, I ask for grace and patience. If you do, I extend a hand of empathy as we both face – and will eventually conquer – our individual quirks and struggles. They say courage isn’t the absence of fear but persistence in the face of it. Easy to say, harder to do. But still, very, very true.

((deep breath)) Whatever scares you today, we’ve got this.