In some ways, a fear of travel was never really an option for me. I grew up travelling a lot because we moved country often and spent our holidays traveling back and forth to visit family. But just in case being uprooted on the reg wasn’t exciting enough, I also suffered from a pretty serious case of motion sickness. It persisted all the way up until I was about 12 or 13 when I finally learned to ‘focus on the horizon’ like a sniper finding his target. But for those first twelve years, every plane, train, bus and long car ride meant throwing up was something I could count on.
Still, that didn’t stop me from going anywhere. Again, not really like I had a choice, but I was generally pretty much on board once the destination was sold, I mean explained, to me. Would I prefer being left behind? Or would I like to come and live with the rest of my family… I’ll go with option B! So I always came prepared, with my little vomit bag and bottle of water. There was only that one time out of hundreds when my puke ended up outside said vomit bag… and all over my sister.
But surely that’s just one of those sibling rites of passage that would have happened anyway. At least I think she blames my dad’s driving more than me. This was back in the day when he thought rally racing up and down the winding roads of Portugal’s hilly vineyards in 45 degree heat (no aircon) with two small girls in the backseat was a good idea. I remember two things from that trip. Puking up all over my sister and trying to convince everyone I also hadn’t peed myself. It was just sweat, who gets a car with leather seats in summer?!
Speaking of my sister and wretching, there was this one particularly awful time when we both caught a really bad case of food poisoning on holiday in a place called Natal in Brazil. It hit her first, then me a day later. However, mine coincided with our 5-hour flight back to Buenos Aires (where we were living at the time). Despite being just 9 years old, I was such an experienced puker that my parents decided to fly even though I had been throwing up every 15-30 minutes for the past 12 hours. Worst. Flight. Ever.
Fast forward to my early sans-parents travel days, no longer a travel-puker, I had to get my kicks elsewhere. So where did I go? Oh you know, only one of the safest cities in the world… Rio de Janeiro, heard of it? Looking back, I realise my first few trips without my parents weren’t exactly to the safest places… I went to Punta Cana, Rio and Bucharest. And they let me go! I flew to Rio to meet up with my half-Brazilian full-diplomat boyfriend who had gone before me. He was one of those embassy brats who used his diplomatic immunity like a get-out-of-jail-free card. Oh to be young and naive…
The trip to Rio was such a disaster (we fought, we got robbed, he broke a table piss drunk at a wedding) that I signed myself up again two more times. We also went to Bucharest and another time to Barcelona. Well because I had to be doubly triply sure that this toxic relationship was not for me right? I was such an idiot. We had had a fight the night before my flight to Bucharest and as I boarded the plane, I wasn’t even sure if he would still be coming to pick me up. I didn’t want to go anymore, but I had begged my parents to pay for the trip and thought if I backed out of this one they’d never let me go anywhere again. So I got on the plane…
When I finally grew a brain and the balls to move on, only then did I realise I had never really travelled by myself. Maybe it was a lifetime of following my parents around that the natural progression was to follow a boyfriend. But eventually, the time came when I started travelling on my own.
Even though I am no stranger to travel, for a long time I wasn’t very comfortable travelling alone. I was afraid of so many irrational things. Maybe not fear exactly, more like paranoia. Mostly paranoid about missing my flight. Either by being late to the airport or getting the date and time wrong, missing a connection, or somehow not realising that I misspelled my name until the last minute or that I needed a visa and therefore not being allowed to fly… Checking in was another problem. I had this enormous fear that my suitcase would be overweight, and what then? End of the world stuff. Because I didn’t know where I would go to pay, how much it would cost, and also thought they would send me to the back of the huge queue with everyone staring at me and then miss my flight. Lastly, security. Because maybe, just maybe, someone had planted drugs in my luggage to frame me and ruin my life.
It took many years for those fears and paranoias to go away, but when it happened it was instant. As sudden as the days when we’d pack up our bags and move to a new place, gone for good. I’m much more relaxed flying now. But it was only after I met my husband that I got rid of those insecurities. He’s Greek you see, and the Greeks, well, they aren’t too great at being on time. Yet, miraculously, he has almost never missed a flight. One time in Athens, we got to the airport way later than my 1.5 hour minimum comfort window. I think our departure time was in around 40 minutes. At the check-in desk, I actually started crying. But I was in Greece, see, and nobody else seemed to think we were late. That’s the last time I can recall getting stressed over missing a flight. Now I’m like, big deal, I’ll get the next one. Total number of flights I’ve ever missed in my life? Zero.
And so the moral of this little story is that no matter what your travel fears are, motion sickness, getting sick abroad, missing a flight, a dangerous city, a bad travel experience… Don’t let any of that stop you. The reality is that fears have to be faced. Like confronting a bully. Maybe he’ll hit you, but he won’t ever bully you again. Growing up, I was put in countless situations that I found scary. New countries, new schools, having to make new friends, learn to speak new languages. I was always the new kid, the foreigner with the funny accent. But these are the experiences that made me who I am today. That made me strong and fearless because sooner or later, I had to face my fears. Like going to the dentist, there are just some things you can’t avoid. Travel is liberating in that way. We’re all a little afraid of what might happen, what could happen, but the experience, good or bad, is likely to reward you in more ways than you know.
This post is part of a monthly travel link-up by Adventures of a London Kiwi, SilverSpoon London, Follow Your Sunshine and guest host Binny’s Food and Travel Diaries. The topic is travel challenges. What challenges you may have foreseen, faced or overcome. The Travel Link Up is open to all bloggers. Why not join us next month?
Check out my last blog post for the Travel Link Up
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