I would like to borrow a line from the immortal British author, Charles Dickens.  After that, I would like to examine the question: “why is it that everyone deemed to be immortal is dead?” Even when we see someone we know will surely be called immortal, we still wait until after they die to say it. Weird.

Getting back to Mr. Dickens. The first line from his novel A Tale of Two Cities goes something like this: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” I believe that Mr. Dickens was shining a flashlight into my brain when he said that. That is how I feel MOST of the time, and it’s especially true now, because now is the time for me to take my vacation.

When most people hear the word “vacation,” they salivate. They think of days without obligation, relaxing on a beach or seeing the sights of a city.  When I hear the word, I think “Oh no, I have to go someplace again.”

I have repeated ad nauseum, the description of agoraphobia and what it can do to a person. At its worst, it can leave a person housebound. At its mildest, it makes it hard for one to go anyplace.  In my case, I have whittled my phobia down to a manageable size, where I can still go places.  But that is a major struggle which takes focus, commitment, courage and determination.  I don’t know where I got all these things, but somehow I acquired them over the years.  I guess that’s what you get for getting old besides enough candles on your birthday cake to singe the ceiling.

Don’t get me wrong – I like to go places and see things – it’s just so incredibly difficult that sometimes I have the internal debate about whether it’s worth it or not. The bottom line is that I refuse to be housebound.  I want to do things in my lifetime, so this is what I must endure.

What’s really difficult in the time prior to vacation is that fact that the knowledge of its approach kicks my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) into high gear. My brain in overdrive, it automatically starts planning the details months in advance (What clothes do I pack? How many of each?  What will the weather be like?  What shoes should I take?  Where will I eat?) The list goes on and on.

I actually dream of this at night.  My subconscious mind will not let this go.  I see myself  ironing shirts and carefully placing them into suitcases, counting out my medications and putting them into pill cases, organizing my technology and charging all the batteries, making  a to-do list that lists all the to-do lists I need to make.  You get the idea.  It would border on insanity – if I let it.

(NOTE TO SELF: pack the gray hoodie in case it gets cold.)

So, then, am I going to simply rant about this and vent all my feelings?  Yes and no.  I am also going to offer handy tips to help reduce your stress in case you also fall into the same category with me, in case the thought of hours on the road causes your stomach to churn.

(NOTE TO SELF: remember to pack Dramamine and Pepto Bismol.)

If you have paid attention to my tips in the past, you will remember that one of the ways to lessen the stresses an overactive mind can cause is to deflect the inputs into that mind.  If this is your first time reading this, then pay close attention.

I am a planner.  I am detail-oriented to the tiniest degree.  And, while this is essential if one is sending a rocket into space, it is not always that handy when piling into the Chevy for a quick weekend at the coast. In this case, what one needs is a plan to plan not to plan. (And if you understood that, I have some tongue-twisters I want you to sort out for me.)

Yes, you heard me, make a conscious effort NOT to plan.

In my case, I am lucky.  I have someone who helps me with this: my wife. After we decide where to go, she makes the travel arrangements. She knows that by doing that, my stress levels will be lowered, and my stomach will not be filled with acid.

(NOTE TO SELF: remember to pick up Tums and Maalox at the pharmacy.)

Lists can be helpful if one doesn’t obsess about them.  But since the first word in OCD is “Obsessive,” this is not easy to do.  Self-talk is essential here.  Remind yourself that you do not need to pack enough supplies for the end of the world, and that you have succeeded in the past, just like you will succeed in the future.

I know that I tend to over pack, so just before I leave, I go into my suitcase and take out one set of clothes – I always wind up with at least one set too many.  It pays to know oneself and one’s habits.

(NOTE TO SELF: double-check the amount of socks; throw in one extra pair for good luck.)

Yes, this time of year can be tense for those of us who suffer from travel phobia because it spills over into our everyday life. People ask us details about our upcoming trip and we grow nervous.  People ask us about our packing arrangements and our mind double and triple-checks our mental suitcases. We notice everything, and are bombarded with more input than ever.  For example, I was in the doctor’s office this morning and the painting in the waiting room was crooked.  Drove me crazy.  I was antsy for three hours after that.

(NOTE TO SELF: pack relaxation tapes.)

Travel can be fun if one does it right.  For me, traveling means blocking out all those extra negatives which try to filter into my head.  It means focusing on new, beautiful things to see and do. And to slow down and enjoy them while I am in their midst.

Hopefully, if all goes well, I will have a whole new batch of photos to share in a couple of weeks.

I’m off – wish me luck!

(NOTE TO SELF: pack rabbit’s foot and lucky underwear.)


About Joe

Freelance designer and writer whose goal is to help others by writing about my experiences with fear and anxiety (agoraphobia), health struggles (cancer) and my wonderfully-happy life as a husband and stay-at-home dad. I want to empower everyone to have a happy life.

3 responses »

  1. commakazes says:

    What a fun read. Thanks for sharing Joe. I, too make lists for my lists and laid
    awake for 9 months worrying about how I would sleep on the plane….ahhhhh

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Colleen says:

    I hope you have bring your camera on top of your list. I’m looking forward to some great photos — of the scenery — not your vomiting that is.

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