Travel Angst

Let’s begin with Max:


So we leave for our 9-month trip around the world on Thursday. The mom is super anxious. She keeps asking me to pack my bag in preparation… even though I just end up unpacking it to get to that one clothing item I packed and want to wear. My favorite clothes are going on the trip, so I need to wear them now, too. No “practice packing” for me! She got me to pack one day and now all my clothes are on the floor.

On Monday I started to get excited about the trip, after hearing all my friends talk about going back to school. Traveling is going to allow me to have a lot of freedom and not have such a scripted school schedule. Waking up 5 out of 7 days every week just to go 6.8 miles to school for a 6.5 hour school day of boredom and learning minimal new knowledge doesn’t seem like very much fun to me… anyone else feel?

I guess the one thing that going to school has to offer over this trip is being with friends and lack of family connection, although its already lacking with the amount of time I spend on my computer.


There are 3 major things I am going to miss whilst on this trip: friends, my computer, and Taco Bell. I think I’ll be enough entertained with traveling and seeing new things to cope with the first 2, and I’ll also be bringing my laptop, but I think my body will always be craving the delicious and economically friendly food that Taco Bell has to offer. The last time I was at Taco Bell was Sunday, and my body is already quivering in excitement with the thought of it, like a dog seeing its favourite toy.

Sarah’s Strange Concerns: Dark Clouds or Beautiful Skies?


We all get so excited about friends going on vacation – “Oh, I’m so happy for you! I wish you could put me in your suitcase! I love that place – I love traveling!” But you know what, I hate traveling. No, really. I don’t mind it when I arrive, but all the traveling parts just induce anxiety and sometimes even migraines. But this time, I don’t just have anxiety about the flights and buses. This nine month trip is bringing on fears that are bigger, deeper and really just weird and unnecessary. If my friends knew my fears, they’d never want to hitch a ride in my bag!

For most people, vacationing is a pleasure. Oh sure, lots of people are scared to fly or worry during their trip that they left the coffee maker on or their front door unlocked, but does anybody ever worry that they will be bored on their vacation? Boredom is one of my biggest travel fears! How can you get bored on vacation, you may ask. Well, I almost always do – it’s true.

I GET BORED – “Only boring people get bored,” my dear grandma used to say. Well, I hate to think I’m boring, but I am a homebody and easily bore when I am stuck in the midst of somebody else’s things or away from my routines and habits. When I am in somebody else’s space I don’t have my puttering and putzing to keep me busy – no quick trip to the garden to weed or pick, no light vacuuming to keep the house clean, no dinner to make, no work. So when traveling, what will I do with myself? Walking around to see the sights is okay for a while, but there is only so much of that to be done in a day.

Typically, when I feel trapped, my mind starts plotting and planning, so this boredom HAS had its benefits. All the pent-up energy has often led to renovation projects! Ideas for projects were developed because we had time and the “head space” of a vacation to get the mental prep and design part of the job done.

I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT A VACUUM CLEANER – Now, don’t go rubbing your eyes, you read that right! I need a vacuum cleaner like fish need to live in water and beer needs taste buds! I absolutely cannot stand the slightest little bit of anything on the floor! I see it, I feel it and then I obsess. I am the kind of person who watches where I’m walking, and for that I never trip, I never stumble, I never fall – but I see dirt, stray hairs, and dust bunnies! The white floors at the farmhouse are great, because I don’t miss a thing! Every day the little bits get cleaned up and I am happy. We will be living in an RV for nearly 3 months. How in the heck am I to keep it clean without a vacuum wand and attachments? This is giving me angst the more I think about it!

I HATE BEING A TOURIST – In past travels, my favorite vacations were those where we stayed awhile, had a “home” with a kitchen and just lived. We didn’t do too many touristy things, but we did walk and explore. I like to “be” wherever I visit rather than join the tours or visitor fray – to simply “live” under the impact of the new address and culture. Going to the grocery store or market is one of my favorite things to do on vacation! As a lover of all things food, I enjoy seeing the variety of ingredients, packages and people’s baskets. I’ve learned a lot from the markets about how to act like a local. Pretending that I am not a tourist seems to keep me from getting bored.

I NEED A PURPOSE – Since I tend to get bored so easily, I know I need something to keep me busy. For this big trip I am excited to blog the adventure as well as dabble in a few other writing projects. I took on the giant undertaking of thinking that I might write a book about my grandfather. How’s that for certainty! Writing a book seems so daunting and overwhelming, but IT IS in the works (mental preparation mostly!), and I will have nine months to get a good start. I’m hoping these projects will keep the boredom at bay!

WORRIED ABOUT FAMILY FUEDS – Traveling with others can sometimes be a challenge – especially when it’s family! I’m afraid that we three won’t get along and our trip will be spent in frustration and misery. One of our primary goals for this trip is to connect before our teenage son is off to college and out in the world. But right now we don’t see each other very often, so this trip is going to be a big change for us. With our present living arrangement (split between two houses) we get along great because we see very little of each other. Since buying our farm I see my husband in the summer on weekends and my son, as he gets older, a little less than that! We miss each other when we are apart, but now that we will spend nine months together – intensely together – will we get along? Or will we get irritated with each other and wish we were apart?

WILL I GAIN WEIGHT? – Afraid vacationing will make you fat? Me too. All that exotic food and time to eat it seems a recipe for disaster! Vacationing takes us out of out our exercise routines and by sheer nature of the idea “vacation” – lots of rest time. I’m also worried that being vegetarian will mean that my only option will be bread in a few parts of the world, and bread goes right into the storage tanks! Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I shouldn’t eat it. Or pasta, or rice, or… Let’s just hope our globetrotting desire (along with some cajoling from Jeff to get up and move) will help me burn some calories and keep the weight in check.

GOD FORBID SOMEBODY WILL DIE – I’m not worried that death will reach its icy fingers down my throat, but I worry about the elders in my family. Many are reaching the point where they may give it up for good and I will not be there. Selfishly I worry that I will be seen as the irresponsible family member gallivanting around the world while the rest are left to pick up the pieces. Or, I worry (again selfishly) that we will need to cut our trip short to return home.

SOMEBODY MIGHT KIDNAP MY KID! – Since Max was born we’ve never traveled anywhere where too many serious potential dangers exist. Max has been to Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador and Peru. On one trip to Mexico, I heard tales of children being kidnapped for money, so I’ve kept a protective watch on my son. Now he is feeling quite independent and my ability to protect him feels quite diminished. My rational brain tells me he is in no bigger danger than I, but he’s my son, so worry takes on a new meaning…and the world is increasingly crazy.

WILL WE HAVE MONEY TROUBLES?– More specifically, I am afraid of running out of it and coming home completely broke. Jeff and I both took a leave of absence from our jobs, and I worry that without the job incomes, we will struggle to pay bills when we return. Realistically, we’ve saved for this trip and should be able to make it work. It’s more likely that this anxiety is related to my selfish desire to finish renovations at the farm and not work when we get back! I am anxious to put in new bathrooms, build the pizza oven and rehab the old barn with a commercial kitchen. My biggest dream after traveling the world is to start a business at our “Driftless Dirtfarm,” and waiting patiently for that to happen when we return will be hard. Remember, we start projects when we return from travel, and I will be more than ready to go, but without the cashflow, I’ll have to practice patience… or get a job! As I always said when I waited tables, “Money, there’s always more where that came from!”

I’M NOT GOING TO SLEEP WELL – I’ve become quite particular about my bed and linens in my old age. My sheets have to be clean, crisp cotton, I have to sleep with both a down pillow and comforter, and the bed has to be firm. I don’t like to get tossed around like a boat on an ocean wave when Jeff shifts in the night, nor do I like to roll to the middle because his weight causes a canoe-like sag. Restless sleeping makes me grumpy. Recently we spent two weeks in Mexico on polyester sheets. I just about died! Sheets shouldn’t feel slimy – at least the bed was firm. What makes it even worse is that Jeff and Max can sleep anywhere, so they think I’m crazy. If you have a pet peeve, it’s always better to complain in the company of others with similar issues – I get no sympathy!

SOCIAL ANXIETY – Surprisingly, meeting new people isn’t really my cup of tea. I don’t know if it is because I was an only child for 15 years or what, but I hate being in situations where I meet somebody who doesn’t interest me and I can’t escape. It seems that I often find myself in this position when I travel. Rather than become engaged with new “friends,” I often find myself backing towards a door with my underarm faucets on full blast. I have to feign interest, force myself to think of things to say, smile and be cordial. Weird, but these things are hard for me to do naturally! I don’t suspect you will find me couch surfing or staying in too many B & Bs. Jeff and I are DIY in all aspects of life! I do like to make new friends while traveling, but let’s just say, I like to choose them.

ABSENCE OF INTERNET CONNECTIVITY – Yep, I’m an addict. I just figured it out. All this angst about travel ultimately ends in me trying to imagine what life was like before I could check in with Mr. Google about this, that and the other thing. I sleep with my smartphone under my pillow, for God’s sake! First thing I do in the morning is read from Mr. Google the answers to some strange question that popped into my head over night or check a few emails or post some dumb thing to Facebook. I can live without it, right? Of course, to make matters worse, I loaded all sorts of magical travel apps that will be a HUGE help on the road…Expedia with our itinerary, Google Maps for navigation and itinerary details, Trip Advisor, and the BEST campsite locator ever called CamperContact! I stress about the cost of keeping the phones alive while we are traveling, but I can’t imagine life any other way. Hello SIM cards.

I’M GOING TO LOOK OLD WHEN WE GET BACK – It seems to me that in middle age, OLD AGE hits over night. It’s kinda like tomato blight. One day the vines are green, lush and plump, but after a day of rain and too much humidity they are shriveling on the vine all speckled and pale! My heat and humidity is coming in folks! Today I have ten gray hairs hiding from you, but once I leave the Continental U.S. those suckers are going to come on with a vengeance, my wrinkles are going to become accentuated and my front butt is going to burst! I am leaving at the beginning stages of this merciless blight. Right now I hear you all, “She looks pretty good for 48!” What I don’t want to hear is what you’ll be thinking when I return after a nine month hiatus. “Damn, what the hell happened to her? She sure got old while she was away!” Just like when you don’t see your nephew for a few months – it seems like he was just a baby and now he’s driving you in his new car blasting songs iTunes labels, “EXPLICIT!” That turning point from still looking young to looking old comes on quickly, typically takes about nine months, I hear, but still shocks us all. Look at my young face for the last time friends because when I return, you’ll be callin’ me “Grandma!”

So, this is all very IRRATIONAL, I know! We are prepared and the trip is well-planned enough that it will be great. Nothing is going to happen to anyone along the way, we are going to love our time together and we’ll have that “head space” as Jeff calls it, to plan for our futures. We will be able to see the world and ourselves through a new lens rather than the foggy cracked view we have stress-taped together at the nose! This trip is the opportunity to switch gears, rejuvenate, rebuild, refresh, motivate, inspire and truly disrupt routine for a while. What’s there to worry about in that?

For inspiration, I am going to read the book, How Not To Travel the World: Adventures of a Disaster-Prone Backpacker. It’s nice to learn from other’s experiences and mistakes! Unfortunately, I’m too much of a know-it-all to likely heed the warnings! I’m all about learnin’ the hard way. But, I never trip!

And Jeff:


Anxiety.  I thought the pressures I had been experiencing at work would immediately lift the moment I shared with the Land Trust Board and colleagues that my family and I were going to travel for 9 months beginning in September.  I shared the news in January.  Instead of the weight lifting, it crushed me.  The last 8 months of my life have been the absolute most difficult.  The pressure that was collectively put on myself to complete the two units in a duplex and 13 years of work at the Land Trust was suffocating to me.  I felt as if I was stuck three feet under in the middle of the ocean, knowing air was near, but only able to surface for a quick breath before getting sucked back under with no ability to see if the horizon was in sight.

Up until 5:45 the day before we left, the only anxiety I felt was to get the projects at home completed or to a state that I wouldn’t have remorse that they weren’t done to my satisfaction.  No fears of being away for 9 months, travel itself, what foods I’d eat, safety, etc.  It’s been entirely about getting stuff done here in Minneapolis.

As we sit in the Minneapolis airport waiting for our flight to Iceland, I am a bit apprehensive about a few things related to the future of our travels.  I have concerns that the three of us won’t be able to handle the close proximity with one another after each of us have lived fairly independently over the three months of summer.  I’m bumming a bit for my son as he and “a friend who happens to be a girl” have gotten much closer over the summer only to now be separated for his Junior and her Senior years.  Lastly, I fear I won’t be able to wind down after being so incredibly wound up over the past several years – especially the past 8 months at such a nitrous level. Anxiety.

We had a little “going away” gathering last night at a local brew house. Conversations there again have reminded me of how fortunate we are to be able to pull this off.  At the same time I’m also very appreciative of the fact the three of us came up with the plan to do this last October over dinner and we’re pulling it off.  I’m pretty proud of all of us for “working the plan” and getting our ducks in a row (hopefully!) in order to make this thing a reality.  From this point forward, I’m going to be a purposeful as possible about living in the moment.



8 thoughts on “Travel Angst

  1. Im new to your blog,but how often do you take these type of vacations? because this trip sounds like something out of a movie. Im also jealous of you, because Ive always wanted to “see the world” for an extended period of time.

    Good luck to you and your family. Are you going to take beautiful pics for your blog buddies? lol


    1. Hey Mr. Blackdiamondproject!

      We started in the Peace Corps, travelled your average vacation and now need a BIG break. It seems like the digital nomad world is allowing for more and more people to live this lifestyle. So much for the tiny house…folks are moving into a tiny backpack!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, nice. So, your traveling experience came from the peace corps. That’s an interesting perspective.

        Yes, yes it is. I understand why they would. The world is getting smaller, and more stressful.


  2. Having just spent a month in close proximity with people I didn’t really know, I can appreciate the apprehension.
    Even living in close quarters with those you love most is stressful, but you guys will be fine. It will take time for Jeff to unwind, Max will be a teenager and you Sarah will try to clean the streets and every place you find.

    OH! And thanks for the tip on the shark – it now resides in our cleaning cupboard.


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