I’m in the throes of a pre-trip meltdown. Yes, I’m off again. This time to Vietnam. I booked it so impulsively one unassuming morning a few weeks back, that by the same afternoon, I was asking myself “did I really book a trip to Vietnam this morning?” I guess that perpetual urge to travel bubbled up inside me, the thought occurred and the only way to get it out of my head was to book the flight! In the short time since, I haven’t given it much thought. Perhaps it was the suddenness of the booking or just being plain old busy but I haven’t been able to get much mental traction on actually planning the trip.
Straight after making the booking, I looked at the map just to confirm that Vietnam was where I thought it was (it was!) and to get a very basic lay of land – to see where I am flying into and where it is in relation to everything else. One thing was immediately apparent – 2 weeks ain’t going to be enough, but then it never is, is it?
The more I looked into it, the more my indecision grew in direct proportion to my options. As much as I’d love to be all “I’ll just turn up and see what happens”, the truth is that I’m a planner. Not down the letter but I like to have a rough itinerary and have key things in place such as internal flights and accommodation, at least for the first stop or two. I still maintain some level of delusion that I could be more free and easy if only certain pre-conditions were met (almost invariably, more time and money) but I expect that the people who are naturally that way inclined, do it anyway. In my defense though, it should be said that women travelling alone do need to be more savvy. I hate that that’s the case but it’d be ignorant to pretend otherwise.
I’ve been procrastinating on making my decisions simply because each one rules out an equally valid option and the opinions I’ve sought are as diverse and far ranging as the people that have offered them. But it’s crunch time and I’ve had to make some tough calls that I’m now frantically trying to put in place.
So, why the meltdown? You’d think I’d have this pre-trip malarkey down pat after countless trips to over 50 different countries! But no, every time I go through the same rigmarole – the fear, the doubt, the last minute rush around. If I’m honest, I’m also feeling lonely about going by myself, yearning for trips of old where half the excitement was planning together, with someone, for someone. It’s not so much fun planning by yourself. But I don’t expect a single soul to feel sorry for me – this is my choice and one I’m extraordinarily privileged to be able to make.
Besides, these gloomy thoughts are just the shadows of the far greater and more compelling things casting them: fear-of-the-unknown is just the flip side of the-thrill-of-the-new which ultimately inspires me everyday onto bigger and better things; loneliness is just the dark side of independence, freedom and self-determination – all attributes that I aspire to and am grateful to be able to exercise in my life. As for going through the same tumult at the beginning of every trip –how lucky am I to still feel the wonder of the thing I love most after all these years, to experience it as new each and every time?
So whilst I may sit here and have my little boo-hoo, I remain grateful that I can recognise the shadows for what they are and choose to step out from underneath them to instead bask in the light that is throwing them.
Besides, it’s not like I’m going into a warzone (presently speaking, of course)! I’m just going on a bloody holiday (though few of my trips are rarely that simple)!
This trip has come up abruptly and seemingly out of nowhere. People are asking me how I manage to do it. The trite answer would be “how can I not do it?” but the more truthful answer is that I don’t really know myself. The best answer I can give is from Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen” and that certainly seems to be true in this case. After emerging from my initial flight booking stupor and before I could ask “how the hell am I going to pay for this one?” I received an email advising that I was getting a tax return for the same amount as the airfare! Call it coincidence if you like but you have to admit, its timing was pretty spectacular!
Then yesterday, another nice little nod from the universe: I’ve been wearing a piece of red wool around my right wrist since February when it was tied on as a blessing at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. You’re supposed to wear it until it breaks or otherwise comes off. I’m not religious or overly superstitious but I figure there’s no harm in observing such rituals. Like the ‘magic’ black feather in Dumbo, it’s not the feather itself that enabled him to fly but his own belief in it – same goes for my red string. I had a pink one too, it came off after a couple of months but this red one has been a persistent bugger. I was starting to wonder if it would ever come off and if perhaps it had served its purpose in getting me from one trip to the next. Late last night, after a teary bout of doubt, as if on cue, it slipped straight from my wrist as if to say, “it’s time, go”.
And so tomorrow, off I go to Vietnam, no strings attached.