Updated: Sep 23, 2021
**Note: I know there are many people suffering, and that many have lost more than travel during this pandemic. This is not to compare my struggle to theirs. This is my way of coping with the feelings I am currently experiencing, and to anyone who has lost more, my heart truly hurts for you. I am praying for all during these difficult times.**
One year. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve gotten on a place. Since I’ve checked into a hotel. Since I’ve checked any places off my “to-go” list. And I miss it. A lot more lately; it was the cure for a lot of my mental struggles. And without travel, I’ve had to cope in other ways. I cannot say it is going well.
I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life. Moving away from home to college was the first time it hit me hard. Panic attacks in the middle of the night, sure I was having a heart attack. My father would answer the phone and calmly talk me down. Had it under control for awhile, and then I hit a rough patch in my 20’s. My friends lovingly refer to it as my “scared cat” phase. In that, they had to be careful what they said, they felt like if they moved too quick and I might skit away. I was always hyper-alert, my ADHD at full speed, not focusing on anything, but focusing on everything and constantly feeling overwhelmed. I hate to admit this, but alcohol got me through for about a month, and then I took a three-week road trip across the country. I came back refreshed, and the anxiety subsided.
Since then, I’ve found that travel allows me to escape. That focusing on everything and nothing at the same time is the major symptom of my anxiety, it overwhelms and takes over my mind. I always joke that if I’m not worrying, how will God know I care? Not exactly healthy to believe that I have to be worrying in order to be caring. (Don’t worry, my therapist and I are working on that.) But somehow, travel alleviates that. It allows me to step away from all the parts of my daily life, and experience something new. It allows my brain to stop worrying about the future (which is the source of all anxiety, always) and start focusing on the present. It brings me back to the moment I am in, and I need that regularly. It’s so easy for me to get lost in the overthinking, the what-ifs, the I-need-to-be-prepared-for-all-of-it-always mindset. When I’m in a new place, I let it go. I don’t want to miss a moment, so I pay attention instead of getting lost on what’s ahead. And I bring that mindset back home with me, and continue to travel to keep it current.
This is the freedom travel allowed me. It allowed me to rein myself back in when I was slipping too far in the future. It allowed me to grow as a person, and grow in my confidence to handle the unexpected. It reminds me that it’s impossible to be prepared for everything, but that the unknown is not always necessarily scary. All the unknown places I visited, they didn’t leave me frightened, but rather fulfilled. And this is one of the things this pandemic has stolen.
I know it won’t last forever. I know I was lucky to have a few getaways in this past year. But as the anxiety grips me again, I realize how important travel was. I did not realize how much I depended on it, and I did not realize how easily it could be taken away. This is a reminder to myself to never take it for granted. This is my appreciation post for travel.