Travel Anxiety – Part Two of a Personal Journey
So last week I introduced you to one of my specialist areas of worrying – “Travel Anxiety”. If you read the diary last week you will know that I did not discover this affliction until I woke up in Peru after my first overseas flight. You will also recall that, despite being a sniveling bag of nerves for two weeks, I arrived safely back home and managed to convince myself that it had all been in my head. Thus, the panicky memories faded and, the following year, I was happy to book myself a repeat flight to Peru to visit my dear friends Julia and Christine.
Sadly, on the day of departure, I realised, with some horror, that my earlier Travel Anxiety had not been imaginary. It was real. I knew it. The whole of Edinburgh Airport knew it. I sobbed loudly in the arms of my other half and told him not to wait with me or else I would never board the plane. Reluctantly, he kissed me goodbye. I waved until he was out of sight and then I had a complete (and public) meltdown.
Now you have to remember that this was twenty years ago – and nobody had heard of ‘travel anxiety’. In fact, I don’t think anyone recognised ‘anxiety’ as a condition. Therefore, I had no explanation for why I felt so utterly terrified about the prospect of spending two weeks with my best friends in a beautiful part of the world.
In the absence of a rational explanation, I began to wonder if my irrational fear was a sign that I should not travel at all. The terror was so powerful and overwhelming that I was sure it must be a sixth sense or psychic message warning me to stay at home. My flight was due to close in the next 30 mins and I had to decide fast.
Should I stay or should I go?
My ‘rational’ and ‘irrational’ self did battle while I wept openly in front of everyone. And then I reached a deal with myself. I would travel the first leg to Amsterdam and see how I felt. If my terror had not subsided I would return to Edinburgh on the next flight. And if I felt better I would continue on to Peru.
I quaked my way onto the plane and did some deep breathing for ninety minutes. When we landed at Amsterdam I felt worse but I made another deal with myself. I decided to walk to the departure gate for Lima and see how I felt when I got there.
I stopped at every toilet along the way and, by the time I arrived at my gate, the flight was already boarded. I froze. I could see the giant KLM aircraft through the window and my heart stopped. I knew, without any shadow of doubt, that I would NOT be getting on it.
Meekly, I walked over to explain myself to the stern looking woman at the boarding desk. I prayed she would be kind and understanding; that she would tell me it was OK to cancel and that I could get on the next flight back to Edinburgh. But before I had the chance to speak, she snatched the boarding card from my shaking hands, asked me to confirm my name and barked at me about being late. Then she firmly guided me through the doors and down onto the plane.
I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t getting on the plane but I didn’t dare. I was speechless with fright and indecision. All I could do was walk up the aisle and take my seat. The doors closed and that was that. Twelve hours of hell – both for me and the two gentlemen sitting next to me.
I was familiar with the arrival procedure at Lima and grateful to know that my good friend Christine would be waiting for me. Did she notice that I was wild eyed with terror when I stepped outside into the ‘meet and greet’ area? If so she chose to ignore it, but when I gripped her hand and rasped “I should never have come here” she realised that I was not myself.
Given the state of me, Christine was a bit nervous about us getting onto the overnight bus to Trujillo but she did what any good friend would do. She found some bona fide ‘jungle juice’. A dusty bottle containing the fermented roots of unidentified plants. So potent that it would render a person unconscious for twelve hours if consumed in enough quantity.
And so it was that my cares faded away. I got on the overnight bus, worn out and full of jungle juice. A deep sleep followed during which I awoke only once and wondered where on earth I was.
After various other transport combinations, Christine and I arrived at Julia’s little clay house in Huanchaco. Suddenly everything was OK again. A reminder that no matter what worries and cares we have, the bosom of our friends will always provide safe haven. There was much to look forward to; we had a full and adventurous itinerary before us but, although I didn’t know it at the time, I was destined to find fear and anxiety around every corner…..
And you know what they say? Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the world isn’t out to get you……
Next Week: Travel Anxiety – Part 3 of a Personal Journey.