This is a guest post by Eric of HelgothPhoto. He gives us a glimpse into the anxiety he is feeling as he prepares for a year long trip through Africa. He tells me that he feels his ‘End Of The Line’ photo correctly identifies how he is feeling. I tell him that we all feel this way; that’s it’s normal; and that it’s supposed to be hard.
WTF am I doing? This thought and many more have been dodging through my mind lately, and with greater frequency, as months draw down to weeks, then days until I leave on my next adventure.
Outwardly I may appear calm, cool and collected but the reality is…I’m freaked out! I like to think of myself as the adventurous type but what makes me think I can do this….travel solo around the world’s second largest continent, for a year?
The whole notion of living life on the road and carrying everything I need to survive on my back for that long has me unnerved to say the least. What makes me think I’m qualified? Yes, it will be an awesome experience but I’ve read a lot of stories about other travelers mishaps and I’m a bit concerned. I don’t want to be one of those people. I don’t consider myself naive, by any means, but I only speak one language and have traveled very little outside the United States.
It’s unfamiliar land, language, and culture. A year is a long time. The last time I lived outside my home country for that long was South Korea and that was over twenty years ago with the military. I was stationary in one country and they took care of me!
This is different. I know very little to nothing about where I am going, nor do I have a base I can retreat to. This is pushing me way outside my comfort zone, I will be exposed and vulnerable!
There is something both liberating and daunting about buying a one way ticket to anywhere. I would be unencumbered with having to be anywhere or returning to any place by a specific time. But, that is also the problem. Freedom without any restrictions.
I realized a couple years ago how encumbered I was with restrictions as I was going “home” from an extended trip in Turkey. At the time, I bought a round trip ticket because I was fully expecting to come back to work and pick up where I left off. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I could have stayed in Europe longer if it weren’t for this round trip ticket. I felt tied, I couldn’t exchange it and was too stubborn to just let it go and get a new ticket later. Now I’m looking at a trip with no return ticket and I feel just as anxious.
I’m sitting in my office staring at piles of clutter, nothing is packed…I’m stalling.
I have just about everything I need for the trip, save one. Admittedly, I have not yet bought my ticket and I’m not sure why. Perhaps buying it will ultimately seal the deal and force me to own it instead of just talk about it, force me into my big unknown where there is no safety net! I’ve much to do and somehow I tell myself there’s still time so I put it off for another day.
Immunizations, international driver’s license, store cars, ask someone to pick up my mail, set up auto payment for bills and most importantly health insurance. I keep a written list of things I think need to be done and even though I might have everything in line, I still somehow feel completely unprepared.
Sometimes I secretly hope a job will fall into my lap so I can postpone or (gulp) cancel this trip altogether.
The big problem with not doing it now though is I may never take another chance and I’ll always wonder. Sooner or later I know I’ll buy the ticket because, I’ve talked it up so much I can’t not do it! My friends and family think it’s great and are excited for me but that isn’t helping ease my anxiety.
I’m not sure what is fueling these feelings: perhaps it’s because the infrastructure isn’t what I’m used to, so traveling from place to place will be more challenging and downright tough in some areas, or it’s because I’ll probably be traveling alone and could be considered an easy target to rob.
Maybe I’m trying to do too much before I leave, other than what really needs to be, and I’m afraid of not getting it all done. Perhaps I should quit reading and “just do it” as Nike says, knowing there may be some difficulties or challenges along the way and be prepared for them as best I can.
Ultimately everyone’s experience is each their own. The cultures will definitely be different than what I’m used to but then again, isn’t that why I’m going?
My life would be a whole lot simpler if I would just commit to doing something and get it done. Unfortunately I spend too much time contemplating and turning over “what if” scenarios in my mind until sooner or later I back myself into a corner. I will either break or move with such lightning speed I won’t believe I did it. But I’ll finally be free!
About The Author: Eric is an architect, a photographer, and a friend that I met while traveling in Turkey in 2009. He has started to document his travels through the lens at HelgothPhoto.com His photos are stunning and I, for one, can’t wait to see how he shows me Africa.
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