Confessions of an anxious traveller

Lately, I've been thinking about all of my least favourite things about travelling, and why I don't enjoy them.

That got me thinking about all the things about me that make me a terrible traveller, and the ways in which they contribute to my overall travel experience.

I'm a really picky eater, and I don't like not knowing what I'm ordering

This is something I've consciously worked on over the last few years and I'm much, MUCH better now. Honestly life with me as a child must have been hell, because I wouldn't eat ANYTHING. The list of things I won't eat now is pretty short, limited almost exclusively to things that I'm allergic to, but there's nothing I hate more than having a menu in front of me (or worse yet, no menu) and not knowing what anything on it is.

Zev, on the other hand, LOVES it. He'll eat anything (and I mean anything - many a domestic has been had over him eating something that I think is morally questionable), and is happy to order whatever local delicacy is on offer.

Zev in his element in Luang Prabang, Laos

In an attempt to train myself out of my culinary comfort zone, about 5 years ago I made a new year's resolution that I was never allowed to order for myself when we went out for dinner - Zev had to order for me. While I think most of the waitstaff we encountered thought that we were probably in some sort of weird controlling relationship where I was unable to make any decisions for myself, or even speak, it was a great way to broaden my horizons, and has allowed me to be more adventurous with my travel eating.

Except for tomato. Get that shit out of here.

I hate being hot

Ask me to choose between being hot or being cold, I'll choose cold. I'll pick mountains over beaches. I love snow and hate the water. Yet here we are on our second extended jaunt through scorching hot countries. Mostly this is due to budget - the countries we can afford to travel through for extended periods all happen to have a particularly warm climate. Sadly, we can't afford to travel Europe in winter (yet!). By the end of the day (or sometimes by lunchtime), I crawl back in to our accommodation in desperate search of a fan or air conditioning, followed swiftly by a shower to wash the sticky itchiness of a day of sweat and dirt from my skin. I always end up spending a fair bit of time mentally planning our 'one day' van trip through Scandanavia in winter, or our planned ski trip to Japan in the not-too-distant future!

LOVING the heat in Hue, Vietnam

I have terrible motion sickness

Cars, buses, planes, boats - you name it, it'll make me sick. Yesterday I almost threw up on a moving bus. By the end of our time in Sri Lanka, the smell of the air freshener in the van made me nauseous. The smell of aviation fuel gives me a headache.

Couldn't go on a gondola ride in Venice, because I'd throw up

Over time, I've learnt to control it a little with the use of pharmaceuticals. I leave home with a stash of antiemetics (my favourites are cyclizine, stemetil and ondansetron), and desperately hope that they make me so sleepy that I crash for the duration of the trip. I also make sure that I have a huge stash of podcasts downloaded and ready to go to distract me (I can't watch movies - it makes me feel worse).

Normally, by about an hour or so into the trip, depending on the motion of the vehicle, I come right, but BY LORD that first hour is horrific.

I get terrible FOMO (fear of missing out)

While social media is an incredible way of keeping in touch with people all around the world, it's also great for presenting a polished version of people's lives, more or less designed to make everyone else jealous. You could certainly argue that we do the same thing, posting photos of ourselves on holiday while everyone else is at work, but we do our best to be honest about the good and the bad, without sounding like we're whinging all the time.

This is what I want

I am certainly guilty of buying into the instagram dream of people's lives - believing that the picture tells the whole story and everyone else's lives and more glamorous and fulfilling than ours. I see posts of people back home doing things like buying houses and getting puppies, all things that I want to do to (although not necessarily right now) and am overcome with jealousy. I see all of our friends getting together at events taking place while we're away and get sad that we're missing out on the fun, and that they're creating all these great memories without us. Maybe they'll forget us!

Of course, my rational mind knows that this is all nonsense. Everybody's lives take different courses, and this was the one we decided to take (not without considering what it meant we'd be giving up or missing out on). Nobody's life is perfect (no matter how much they try to convince you it is), and there are probably just as many people with houses and puppies sitting at home looking at our social media thinking exactly the same thing. We've had friends go away for years at a time, some permanently, and we've never forgotten them. And sure, we're missing out on some memories. But there will be plenty of time to make more when we see all friends again, whether it's at home, or somewhere else on the road along the way.

I hate meeting people

This is a bit of a half-truth. I actually really anjoy meeting people, but I'm not good at it, and I find it really tiring and stressful. I get incredibly anxious about meeting people, and feel really awkward the whole time. I'm terrible at small talk, and feel like it's really obvious that I'm nervous and don't know what to talk about. I don't know what questions to ask or what to say, and I start to feel as if I can't remember how people have conversations.

When you're on the road, you're meeting people constantly. From tuk tuk drivers to guest house owners, other travellers to tour guides, some days it feels like you spend your whole day talking to strangers and I find it exhausting. I'm sure plenty of people think that I'm really rude and antisocial - who knows, maybe there's an element of truth in that. I've even found myself thinking about other shy people 'Okay once you reach a certain point, it goes beyond shy and just becomes rude'. But it's not actually that I don't want to talk to or interact with other people - more that it takes a lot out of me, and I find it nerve wracking. Sometimes I have the ability to pretend to be charming and funny and socially capable. Other times I don't.

My idea of making friends

Yet again, enter Zev to make up for my shortcomings. He's as friendly and outgoing as I am shy and antisocial. A lot of the time I rely on him for interactions with service providers - hostel owners, tuk tuk drivers - because I never know how to strike the fine balance between being polite and not being a pushover. And I hate feeling like I'm inconveniencing someone (other than Zev - I have no problem inconveniencing him).

I'm a type A, organisation obsessed control freak

There is almost nothing I hate more than not being in control. And SO MANY aspects of travelling are out of your hands. Maybe the bus is late, making you miss your flight. Maybe the taxi driver takes you the wrong way and rips you off. Maybe the guidebook you read was out of date, and the attraction you drove 4 hours to see doesn't exist any more. Maybe the internet connection is terrible, and you can't plan the next leg of your journey from the comfort of your guesthouse.

No control issues here folks...

I guess my point is, with all of these obstacles standing in my way, I should hate travelling, and be terrible at it. And sometimes I do, and sometimes I am. I'm not the gregarious free spirit who can roll with the punches and charm everyone she meets so that things just work out - that is not me! But all of the reasons I’ve listed are often the reasons I love travelling, and they are definitely the reasons why travelling is so, SO good for me.

Every day we spend away from home is a day spent outside my comfort zone, pushing myself. Every time we come back from a trip of any duration where I've done something that's made me anxious or that I wouldn't ordinarily do, it becomes easier for me to do the same things in my every day life - I get better at eating different food, dealing with being physically uncomfortable, being able to separate social media from real life and focus on what's great about my life without constantly comparing myself to other people, meeting people from different backgrounds and relating to them, and relinquishing control and accepting that sometimes, you don't get to make the rules.

And that is why, no matter how much travel costs and what we sacrifice to go on long trips, the experience I gain from it always makes it so invaluable.

Lots of love,
Sam
xxx