In less than 24 hours, J and I will be boarding a plane in Ottawa, a little after 5 AM tomorrow. After something like 18+ hours of flying (I’m still not totally clear on how long we’ll be in the air), and layovers in Toronto and Vancouver, we’ll be touching down at Beijing Capital International Airport, at 2:30 PM the next day. It’s been a long process getting here, but I’m sure it will all be worth it when we get to China.
As recently as a couple days ago, however, I was losing my dang mind.
The rational part of me knows that there’s no real reason for me to be as nervous as I am. J and I have our travel visas, we’ve got our accommodations in order, our plane tickets in hand. I’ve packed my bag; checked and rechecked it against my packing list. My photography gear is all together. I should be ready to rock and roll. So why was I freaking out? Was I scared that I’ll love travelling too much? That I’ll get back to my regular working life and be instantly dissatisfied with the grind? What do I do then? Slog through the monotony for a year until I’ve got enough money on hand to escape once again, however briefly?
Naw… in fact, it’s probably be the complete opposite.
What if I’m miserable? What if this trip isn’t the life-changing event it ought to be? Or worse, what if it just crumbles my little idealized future vision of myself as an intrepid nomad? I’ve spent a decade waiting for a trip like this… what happens if, when I finally get a sample of the kind of adventure I’d always yearned for, I find out I just suck at travel?
A few days of low-grade anxiety built up to a fever pitch, and from the time I finished work on Friday afternoon through to early afternoon on Saturday, my mind was bouncing from one worst-case scenario to the next. What if I unknowingly commit some faux-pas and get into hot water with the locals, or worse, the authorities? What if my bag (or my camera gear) gets stolen? What if, what if, what if?
I was so stressed by last Friday that I was completely refusing to talk about the trip by Friday evening. J saw my spiral, and helped me pull out of it. It helps to have someone who’s been through this before, and she reminded me of my overarching intention for this trip; the mission statement of this blog is to document my “getting lost”… really, to document the journey as I accept what comes my way. A huge part of that is accepting the unknown, and finding the awesome in it. Plus, I mean, I’d have J there with me to keep me from doing anything truly stupid.
Somewhat reassured, I did what I normally do when stressed. I meditated. It might not work for some, and some people might outright dismiss meditation altogether (I myself fell into this category before I really tried meditating), but a solid meditation session on Sunday afternoon helped me wash away a lot of that anxiety. And when I woke up on Monday, the home stretch — feeling pretty good, and not freaking out — I breathed an audible sigh of relief.
Having written all that, I realize that the anxiety is really just pre-travel jitters. My roommate often gets the same way right before she travels, and she invariably returns from her travels happy that she went. In all likelihood, as soon as my butt hits that plane seat (and I fall asleep, because I always fall asleep before takeoff, for some reason), I’ll be glad that I’m on my way. And just as likely, when I take that return flight from Hong Kong, I’ll be happy that I have so many stories to share, and so many new memories with J.
My next post likely won’t be up until we reach Shenyang, and will probably be an update on the flights, our time in Beijing, and the train trip from Beijing to Shenyang.