Until I put pen to paper (yes, literally – I am an old fashioned blogger), I hadn’t really thought about the range of emotions and feelings I experience pre-, during and post- travel.
While my travels have often been very physical and tangible, I find that travel also stretches me emotionally. And believe me, it is often from the highest of highs, to some pretty low lows. I love it all regardless.
It all starts at the planning phase – the frisson of excitement at exploring all the options.
- Where will I go?
- How long will I stay at each place?
There is also a bit of fear and confusion wondering whether I have obtained the best deal.
- Should I have shopped around some more?
If I have learned anything in this life, it is “if you snooze, you lose”. Sometimes I just need to commit and move on.
There is relief that the booking is made, and now the anticipation builds. The elation does wax and wane at times, and it is replaced by frustration that the departure date still seems so far away.
As D-Day draws near, the overwhelming feelings are stress and exhaustion as I address that mound of just-in-case items that must be packed, and at the same time, attempt to put my ‘normal’ life on hold for a period of time. Every trip I promise myself that it will be different next time. That I will be relaxed, organised, and thoroughly prepared, but there always seems to be the same frenzy of finalisation. Maybe I am the problem as I insist on cramming more and more into every last day.
When I check in at the airport and send my luggage on its way, the blood pressure dips dramatically. What is undone must remain that way until I return. With boarding pass in hand, I wave goodbye to my bags and send up a quick prayer that they turn up at the same destination, and at the same time I do. From experience, this is not always the case.
I dredge up every skerrick of patience and shuffle through the usual airport stamps, checks and scans. They are only doing their job after all, and I guess that the end of my day is going to find me in a far more interesting and exotic place than theirs.
Shoes back on, belt back on, watch back on, dignity intact, and I run the gauntlet of the duty free section. Most times I can resist their bright shiny temptations, especially if I am off long distance walking, but I have been known to weaken. As I get older, this shopping experience is losing its glossy appeal. Am I just boring? Or wise, knowing there are much better things to spend my hard-earned dollars on at my destination?
I stride the airport corridors knowing the long sit that awaits me and skip a step when my flight number is finally called. On the plane, I sink into my allocated seat with guilty pleasure, say ‘yes’ to my first beer or white wine, and toast the adventure that awaits.
Yes, this stage/phase only lasts a short while as frustration creeps in.
- How much longer must I sit here folded like a piece of human origami?
- Why can’t I sleep?
- Why was I born with such long legs?
- Why does that person continually hog MY arm rest?
- How can the people in front of me be so rude to put their chair back? When I am already contorted into a space the size of a packet of inflight peanuts?
Wrinkled with staleness and exhaustion, I unwind my tangled limbs and muscles, and stumble off the plane into a completely foreign concrete and glass terminal. I am disoriented.
- Where am I?
- Where am I supposed to be?
I am worried.
- Am I going to make that connecting flight?
- Will my bag turn up?
Experience has proven that sprinting between terminals, or departure gates, is the perfect wake-up cure and a sure fire way to shake out those post-flight cramps. Yes, I look like a dishevelled lunatic, exactly like my passport photo actually, but I am truly past caring by this stage as I leap piles of luggage and dodge small children.
Then there is the joy. Joy at all the ducks lining up. Joy that both myself and my belongings have all arrived at the correct location, at the same time. Joy at the feel of that first shower as it rinses away the surface grime and jetlag, and the joy of stepping out that first day into a brand new landscape.
As the journey continues and towards the end of the trip, there are a few more down days than usual. The need to always be ‘on’, hyper aware of my surrounds, and continually thinking about where to find the next meal or bed does get exhausting. I think wistfully of home where things are easier and understandable.
Sometimes I get a bit sad that I am not sharing this trip with anyone (if I am travelling solo), but often people don’t want to be with me anyway. For some reason, not everyone enjoys walking 1 000km across a foreign country. Go figure!
Then there is the tiredness of being on the go, almost every day for long periods. Yes, this is very much a First World problem, but it needs to be acknowledged, and planned for, so that both body and spirit hold up.
Arriving at my destination, if it has been a walking adventure, I feel pride that I have achieved something special (or weird, if that is your perspective). I set myself a goal, navigated my way to the end point, and hopefully, trod lightly through the landscape. I also like to think I have grown as a person, and have learned something about the country, the culture and myself. Plus I may have lost five kilograms, so that is pure vanity.
As I step back on the plane, homeward bound, the overwhelming emotion is happiness. I have seen and done amazing things, I will soon be reunited with family and friends, and most importantly, I am returning to the best country in the world. How lucky am I?
I may have a Pollyanna-perspective about travel, but I am also a realist and acknowledge that travel is not always one long Contiki tour. Whatever happens each day, I chalk it up to experience and believe that the passage of time will push all the low days to the very back my mind. Leaving travel gems crystal clear.
How do you feel about travel?
Timeless – it happens to me every time