Learning to travel again
Last night I was in bed by 9pm in preparation for these mornings 4.30am wake up. Managing two hours until 11pm then awake, running over the next day’s events in my mind. Two more hours and now it’s 1.03am. Last check of the clock before the alarm goes off and it’s 1.53am, counting the minutes I’ve been lying here thinking, breathing, trying to switch off the monkey mind. What’s looming the following morning is not a dreaded event. I’m not making a presentation to a group of strangers, selling a house, or going for a job interview.
Actually, what I’m doing is leaving the country, getting on a plane to a place I know, I love, and I’ve been to many times. What’s going on, where has this panic come, from and why is it keeping me awake, interrupting the familiar leaps of excitement I used to feel when a boarding pass to India was looming?
PPSS – Post Pandemic Stress Syndrome? I’ve just made that up, but if the shoe fits, and this feels like the best description right now. Before this bloody pandemic I would have jumped on a plane to India like a kid lining up for a ferris wheel. Grinning, excited, full of expectation. Often when the plane took off, I was none the wiser, sitting in my assigned seat, movie on, ready to go, so used to the ritual of travel and leaving my family, home, and country. Now, thanks to the events of the last few years, I’m out of practice, and for the first time in my life I’m experiencing some of the emotions that are described by friends who are nervous, anxious travellers. My heart rate is elevated, my mouth is dry, and I think my hands are shaking as I hit the keys to write.
But it’s more than that. It’s not about getting on a plane, I’m not afraid of flying. Nor is it about leaving Mark and Charlie for 10 days, we can keep in touch. It’s the realisation that my world is smaller since that first lockdown in 2020 when everything changed. I know that’s true for many of us, but I felt it for the first time this morning. I see how comfortable I’ve become inside that smaller bubble and how protected and safe I’ve felt. I’ve lived inside that boundary, pulling it in tight like a warm blanket on a comfy couch, seeking security, familiarity, and peace of mind. I work, I still travel within Australia, I’m studying, and I’ve made a lot of changes to my life, but that’s all existed within a smaller bubble. Without realising, long after it was taken down, in many ways I’ve been living inside Dan’s Ring of Steel and today I’ve busted out of that, and not the easy way. I’m not travelling with Mark and Charlie to Fiji or New Zealand. No, I’m going on my own to India, one of the countries most effected by the pandemic, to make plans for a new Soulful Escape for 2024, where I confidentially guide a group of women on their own soul-searching adventure. And yet I’ve done it before. Many times, in fact and I was pretty good at it. As a dear friend reminded me this morning with an encouraging text, “Your CV tells the story and it’s all right there. It’s just been pushed down a little but as soon as you hit the ground it’ll all resurface.”
I hope she’s right. At the moment it’s a case of “fake it till you make it” or as they say in the NLP world “Be as If.”
Stepping away from travel, my business and for a while Soulful Escapes was a conscious decision, influenced of course by the pandemic, but in response to wanting a different direction. My transition to careers counselling took some time, but I like where I’ve landed, and I enjoy serving the students I work with and can see opportunities where there can be room for Soulful Escapes tours. I’m continually trying to focus on the positives as a result of these changes, and I’m not one to dwell on the past. I’m future orientated and like moving toward something rather than looking back. Yet this morning the past has caught up with me and it’s as if it’s held up a split mirror, reflecting how the Jo pre and post pandemic, approach the act of getting on a plane to India. One reflection is confident, excited, and with a sense of knowing this is where I am meant to be. The other is anxious, unsure, questioning whether I still have what it takes and scared to push the boundary of my bubble and expand my comfort zone. But I know enough about myself to know that eventually that small bubble will burst, I will crave more and my love of sharing travel with women will rise to the surface.
So, for now I will keep expanding that bubble and trust that what is for me will not go by me.
Those who have travelled many times to India are familiar with the notion that you don’t choose to travel to India, that India chooses you! Every time I’ve landed in India, I’ve experienced that pull, and so I’m going to trust in that and allow Mother India to wrap her arms around me and bring me back to life a little. To my old self, or perhaps a new and improved version.