18 Apr

End Of The Line

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.

Photo Credit: Eric Helgoth

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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11 thoughts on “End Of The Line

  1. Well Africa is certainly an ambitious pick for a one-way ticket! I suspect though that those apprehensions will melt away the instant you see your first beautiful sunrise/sunset, or the first time you successfully navigate yourself from point A to B without mishap (hopefully that will be all or most of the time!) I think many of us have these fears prior to a big trip and I think it’s normal. You can do it. It will be great!
    Claire recently posted..Change is Good

    • Thanks Claire and yes, I think so too. I actually just bought a one way to Madrid so I will start there. I had similar reservations when I walked out of the airport in Istanbul a couple years ago but I stuck with it and had a great time…it ended way too early!
      eric recently posted..Hidden Falls- Grand Teton National Park

  2. Great post Eric! I feel exactly the same way you do! I always feel anxiety and worry way to much about everything. But the interesting thing is, it’s almost like getting all the worry over with first. If you are anything like me, all the worry will mysteriously disappear as soon as the plane leaves the ground. Happens every time. So go ahead, worry all you like! When the plane takes off it will be too late to worry and it will all just go away.
    Anne McKinnell recently posted..Boxes- lovely boxes!!

  3. That was brave post Eric, and I know how you feel! It is terrifying stepping into the great unknown. I hope you’ll write a follow-up post once you’ve begun your adventure to assure us that everything has turned out fabulously!
    Kim recently posted..San Fran to Paris In Two Minutes

  4. Thank you Anne and Kim. I’m sure you are right about everything. I felt a sense of relief for a short time yesterday after buying the ticket. But with that hurdle out of the way, I am committed to moving forward and no more waffling. The calmness lasted the rest of the day until I went to bed…I laid there for several hours thinking of all the things I feel I still need to do and couldn’t turn it off. I’m sure it’s normal, I’m sure it’ll nag me until I get on the plane. Five weeks….
    eric recently posted..Hidden Falls- Grand Teton National Park

  5. I had similar feelings when we flew to Africa one way. I kept thinking WTF are we doing. Admittedly I was terrified, but I can’t remember a specific thing or place I was scared of, my memory is just of being scared to go to AFRICA!

    We planned to spend 3-4 months, 6 months later we left a continent that will forever stay in my heart. It was an amazing experience to travel long-term there and meet so many people. For sure you’ll feel a bit like a sideshow circus act sometimes with all the attention you’ll get in rural areas, but it’s truly an incredible continent and I hope it opens your heart the way it did mine.

    That’s not to say there aren’t frustrations and challenges traveling there, especially by public transit, but if you’re flexible and have good instincts you’ll be fine!

    Good luck and I can’t wait to read about your journey!
    Jillian | I Should Log Off recently posted..Photo of the Day- Steamed Buns

    • Thank you Jillian. Likewise, I cannot think of a specific thing or place in Africa causing my anxiety. A simple fear of the unknown, the big “what if” and being away from my “normal” routine life and all the creature comforts I’m used to. Perhaps once I get on the road and learn a new routine will I start to feel a little more at ease.

      Thank you Kirk and goood luck with your leap!

      Thank you Jade, absolutely!

      Thank you Andrew, I hope and expect it to be.

  6. Great post and I totally understand. Until you buy the ticket it is still in this dream world of “am i doing this”. I think once you do buy the ticket you’ll feel more confident about your decision.

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