Two weeks. Je-sus Christ. Two weeks. Excuse me while I hyperventilate...
Okay, deep breaths. Can you tell I'm freaking out a bit? I don't know what exactly happened. One day I was happily packing my back pack, the next I'm sitting on the floor, holding my new first aid kit and having a spontaneous crying jag. I'll hazard a guess that it had something to do with the serious telling off I received from the travel nurse that morning about not getting my jabs sooner and the lengthy session on the CDC website investigating Japanese Encephalitus, while my jab sites grew increasingly bruised. Mild hypochondria has escalated into a three day long anxiety attack about dying horribly thousands of miles from home and everyone I love.
Just casting my eyes over the news this month, America's full of gun toting maniacs, Bali's crawling with terrorists and a serial killer is beheading hikers in Nepal. Conversely, Wickford is free of all three of those dangers. I even got bitten by a mossie the other day and pleasantly did not have worry about malaria or brain mushing encephalitis. It's nice. Safe. Familiar.
When I went travelling at 18 I never even thought about this stuff. I worried that I didn't know how to do a weekly shop for myself, or that I would look stupid trying to buy a bus ticket. I got scared about leaving my parents for the first time and whether my flatmates would like me. I was volunteering at a hospital in Shanghai. Later I backpacked alone across to Bejing and Xi'an. It was the height of the SARS crisis, but not once do I remember thinking of my safety or worrying about getting sick. It was great being 18 and invincible.
At 28 I realise just how easily hurt we are. Shit happens, all the time. All. The. Time. And I'm scared. Scared of plane crashes and rabid dogs and getting shot and bears and drug smugglers tampering with my luggage. Scared of mosquitoes carrying any number of hideous diseases, terrorist bombs and something happening to my loved ones while I'm so far away. I've lived with my boyfriend (not a big enough word really - soulmate, love of my life etc etc) for five years. We've not spent more than a fortnight apart in all that time, so I'd be lying if I said leaving him for three months wasn't going to hurt like hell. Hurt like ripping my heart out through my stomach. I won't panic too much at him, or he'll come over all Edward Cullen about my leaving.
But I can't not go, if you'll forgive the grammatical error. I planned this trip precisely because I wanted to get away from nice, safe and familiar. I wanted to challenge myself, find out who I am now, when I take all the stabilisers away. I've changed a lot in the last 5 years and I can't think of a better way to cement my progress than leaving everything I know and hitting the road.
I know this will pass, just as I know I could get hit by a car tomorrow on a road I've walked a hundred times. What I'm trying to convey here is firstly that this fear is okay. It would be more worrying and surprising if I wasn't nervous. Sometimes in all the, 'Travel is amazing! Quit everything and go!' articles and blog posts, people forget to tell you that it's not 100% brilliant 100% of the time. So it is okay. I will endeavour to be kinder to myself. Secondly, I will use this anxiety as motivation to stay alert in crowded train stations, to get all of the vaccines, wear the insect repellent and research the major scams. I bought really comprehensive travel insurance. Like all aspects of anxiety, this travel fear will decrease when I take steps to regain control over whatever I can control.
Your fears shouldn't be allowed to dictate your actions. It's sensible to perhaps avoid travelling to Iran right now, or heading out unprepared into the Himalayas. It was foolish of my teenage self to travel alone to one of China's most dangerous cities. I'll be more careful now I'm a grown up (shhh!), but there's a difference between being smart and being chicken-shit. There's a difference between taking sane precautions against unnecessary risks and staying on my sofa forever. Perhaps sometimes the line is thinner than others, but it's still there.
Right, that's me talked down off the anxiety ledge. I'll finish now before I start quoting 'Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway'...