Travelling is, at times, a highly stressful, uncertain and overwhelming situation. Not even that, but, constantly experiencing change, trying new things, being on the move, having to speak to new people and put yourself out there ensures you are out of your comfort zone a lot of the time and can be really anxiety provoking.
If a struggle with anxiety is your norm, whilst at times travel is sincerely the best thing to combat this, it also can mean you are on tenterhooks a vast majority of the time and therefore things that normally wouldn’t phase you become an overwhelmingly scary experience that for some reason, which you do not know yourself, your brain just says “No. I do not want this”.
I have surprised myself a number of times so far on this trip in the unexpected ways that “the fear” has taken hold.
- Swimming in Bangkok. No, I’m not afraid of water. Yes, I can swim. I booked a room in a hostel with a rooftop pool. Bliss! But I did not expect myself to get up there, equipped with a towel and my swimmers and unable to get in the water just because I was alone. I couldn’t budge from my seat for fear of people turning to look at me, drawing unnecessary attention. I sat, frozen to my seat for at least an hour willing myself to walk over and get in. Of course people looked as the eye is naturally drawn to movement but, no one cared, no one said anything and as soon as I got in the fear subsided. Plus, they probably thought I was weirder whilst frozen to the spot as it turned out my seat was the smoking area and, given that I am a non-smoker, I am sure this looked odd and prevented others from coming and enjoying a puff! In an overly romantic fairytale-style scene, the clouds and Bangkok smog cleared and a swarm of about 50 dragonflies circled overhead as soon as I got in.
- Continuing a conversation with someone about more than just the usual travel script everyone follows (i.e. What is your name? Where are you from? How long are you travelling? Where are you going? Etc.). At the beginning of my trip it was hard for me to continue past this almost-scripted conversation. The first time I forced myself with a cheerful chap called Dave, who was wearing a Soundgarden t-shirt and a big smile, I ended up meeting my first team of real travel buddies and lifelong friends.
- Playing pool with friends in Chiang Mai. I outright refused to do this much to the dismay of my friends who wanted to play doubles. I am terrible at pool and the fear of being in a bar with other people watching and laughing makes me more than nervous. At my yoga retreat I had a practice game, one on one with a close friend. Sure, I lost, badly, but I wasn’t actually as bad as I had imagined in my mind and by the end of the game I was potting balls and having fun. I might even be up for a game in a bar soon… imagine that! Aaron, Michael and Kirsty, I’ll make it up to you, let’s do doubles when we get to NZ.
- Tubing. At Elephant Nature Park we went tubing. I wasn’t afraid of the elephants. I wasn’t afraid of taking pictures of the spiders the size of my head (well that’s a lie, but there wasn’t a doubt that I would do it). I was afraid of sitting in a plastic ring and floating down a lazy river with people I had spent the past two days getting to know.
- Public buses. Riding public transport has always been a worry for me. I couldn’t tell you why. I didn’t ride a bus on my own until I was 15 years old. I hate riding buses in new cities. New countries?! You’re having a laugh right?! Well I did it and do it frequently now. That first time was panic, fear and vulnerability. Now it’s not nice but it’s doable and getting easier. Cramming in amongst strangers for ten hour journeys, trusting the drivers will shout to you where to get off when you aren’t even sure they understood your destination and hoping your bag doesn’t get tampered with are all part of the experience.
- Riding a bike. I had a panic attack the other day about riding a bike. Not a motorbike or a scooter, not even an electric bike; a normal pushbike. I freaked out but then I did it. Only for a minute or two before I nearly fell in a ditch and gave up but, I still did it. And next time I will do it for longer and the time after that and the time after that until it’s no longer something that makes me hyperventilate and cry… I hope. Thanks Granuaile for being my rock that morning.
- Introducing myself and my reason for being at a yoga retreat to a room of perfect strangers who were to become close friends.
- Eating street food. This was something new and unfamiliar to me and that frightened me. But, it is cheaper, often fresher and more tasty than eating in restaurant and when you are travelling for as long as I am, you need to stay on budget. Okay, so I’ve been fed meat a couple of times despite the conversation about being a vegetarian being explicit (I thought) but maybe I just need to pick and choose where I do it better. And any way, that’s not the point, I felt the fear and did it anyway. Progress 🙂
- Starting a conversation with someone. This one is yet to be achieved. I sit and wait for someone to strike up a conversation with me. I do not approach people, even if they are alone, “hey guys, I’m Beckie, can we be friends!” Just doesn’t come easy to me and the thought of it leaves me paralysed with fear. If no one approaches me that day, I don’t meet anyone that day. This is something I am working on and I realise I need to get over and do. I’m working up to it and I’ll let you know when I’ve accomplished it.