For an anxious person, throwing your life into a suitcase, boarding a tin-can of a plane and generally being told by various people to ‘go and have an adventure’ can add weight to an already nerve-wracking venture. Despite my trouble with the safety and general unpredictability of travelling, I have travelled a lot in my life. The only alternative would be to sit on a sofa and wistfully watch re-runs of ‘A Place In The Sun,’ or sadly thumb through travel brochures. No. Anxiety has never stopped me from travelling. I just undertake trips in a slightly different way to other people. These are some ways I try and quell the feelings of anxiety;
- Buying enough of the supermarket’s entire supply of toiletries and medicines to consider licensing myself as a roving pharmacy. I do this to convince myself that I am preparing for any eventuality, though sometimes I get it wrong (such as the time I brought an industrial amount of mosquito spray to South Africa and didn’t see a single one of the buggers, followed by the time I went to Sweden with no mosquito spray and got bitten three times). I suppose despite preparation, sod’s law dictates something is bound to go wrong. Something unexpected is probably going to happen. This is what I’ve tried to teach myself over the years and not buy so many provisions. In fact, it has only been on my past few trips that I have realised that other countries have their own stores where you can buy stuff. Unbelievable.
- Drawing up a detailed plan that could shame some military operations. I suppose it is acceptable to do some research before you travel, to discover the main attractions and novelty themed restaurants and whatnot. But perhaps I should draw the line at creating a colour-coded timetable for the week. To be fair on myself, I have got better. Over time, my plans have become less rigid and I often even include a Spontaneous Day where I wander around and unplanned things are allowed to happen. True, I usually just end up getting lost, but that can be a good thing (as long as it doesn’t mean stumbling across a neighbourhood where even the locals are telling you to turn back e.g. my trip to Barcelona). But often great things have happened when I have had no structure, and I’ve found tucked-away treasures and cool restaurants. And often when you are in a foreign country, it’s nice just to walk around and soak in the culture (am I getting too cheesy now?).
- Assuming that everywhere’s weather is as unpredictable as England and packing most of my wardrobe. I think it’s a very English thing to distrust the weather forecast, so even though I note down the predicted weather of every day of my holiday, I still convince myself that well maybe I will need my rain mac, maybe I will need my hiking socks, maybe I will need my gloves. It doesn’t matter to me that it’s Italy and it’s predicted early 30s all week. Freak weather happens. Mother Nature sometimes gets bored. And when a sudden storm hits a sunny beach, I won’t be the one cowering under the giant umbrellas. No. I will smugly pull my water-proof hood over my head and will carry on eating my cornetto.
Over-preparation is not something unfamiliar to an anxious person. It’s good to have some idea about what you’re doing and where you’re going, simply so you don’t wander around in a daze for the whole trip. However, I do know people who leave home for a few months with nothing but a suitcase, some money and no idea where they will sleeping that night, and they enjoy that. I’m just not wired that way. I like having adventures. But well-planned, thought-through adventures.