Travel can be an incredible healing tool. I was afraid my entire childhood, and long into my young adulthood. I wanted to see the world, but I was afraid of making mistakes, taking wrong turns, missing planes. I wanted to be an archeologist or travel writer, but I was terrified I would get on the wrong train, would get lost somewhere in the outback, that I would forget my tickets, my passport, my house keys.
All this fear stemmed from an extremely abusive childhood. My mother used to tell me “I wish you had never been born.” She was a paranoid schizophrenic, so I was never sure “which” mother I was coming home to. One day she was the loving, cupcake-baking mother; the other she was the angry mother taking a butcher knife to my father. My father was no prize either. Let’s just say he was an incestuous sadist and leave it at that.
Stability was not a keyword in my childhood, and that fear bled into my adulthood. I so desperately wanted to backpack across Europe, take a road trip across America, visit Africa. The furthest I ever travelled until I was 37 was the United States, Canada and Mexico. Mostly by car. I was terrified to go to an airport because I was afraid to get lost and miss my plane.
So how has travel become a healing tool for me? The simple answer is I just started traveling. The more complex answer is I learned to make wrong turns, learned that the world doesn’t end if you miss a connecting flight, or you have to ask someone how to get onto a train (where do you wait? In the depot? At the train track?) My most recent trip to Baltimore and Washington DC testi my travel healing to the absolute maximum. In order to save money and to feel more like a traveler and not a tourist, I didn’t rent a car. I looked online and tried to figure out how to get from the BWI airport to Baltimore, and then from Baltimore to Penn Station, and from Penn Station to the MARC train that took me to Washington DC. From there I hopped on the Washington DC Metro and used that for a week. I was terrified. But I was also exhilarated.
I have learned the easiest way to minimize fears is to ask strangers for help. I know, that sounds counter-intuitive. Especially for someone like me who couldn’t trust her own parents, approaching strangers should be hard. And once it was. But I have learned that most strangers are very kind, especially if you appear lost. I learned that instead of taking a $30 taxi ride from BWI airport to the Embassy Suites in Baltimore Harbor, I could spend $3 and take the light rail from the airport. It dropped me off about 4 blocks from my hotel. Easy-peasy. To navigate Baltimore harbor, I asked the concierge at our hotel, and he encouraged me to use the Baltimore free Circulator. Nice. Leaving the hotel I was told to take the same circulator to Penn Station. At Penn station I went to the train track but then learned you had to wait upstairs in the lobby. Okay, I can do that. Once on the train my fears kicked in and I stood up for the length of the entire stop instead of sitting. As if no one else was getting off! LMAO. I shrugged at the other passengers and freely admitted “This is my first train ride here.” They smiled. The Washington Metro is a simple system. You just look for the station the train ends at, and your stop is somewhere along the way.
I have learned that being afraid is okay. It’s staying afraid that stops me from living life. I encourage you to make wrong turns, miss airplane connections, take the wrong bus for a stop or two….and live life.
How has travel changed your life? What are your favorite travel mishaps that in retrospect made for great stories? I’d love to hear from you!