Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Nervous Traveler

Life has a funny way of repeating itself. Too quickly, summer concludes in the blink of an eye, and I find myself frantically packing all the last-minute necessities within the 50lb limit. It seems as if this is custom for me in the perennial cycle of my life: return home for a few months and then hop on a plane as autumn approaches to some faraway, European-inspired destination. Am I the repetitive one? Well, maybe...but I happen to follow the same strategy that has given me easier access to travel. 

There is a sense of comfort that comes with something you already know. This time, my destination is quite familiar: Vienna, Austria. But despite the familiarity, there is always a level of unknown that leaves me nervous at the beginning. You may consider me to be a seasoned traveller. Firstly, thanks for thinking so highly of me. Secondly, the whole story is often more timely and complicated than the report that reaches my blog. Where am I going with this, you ask? I'd like to admit that my travels can be filled with stress and anxiety...at least in the beginning.

This uneasy feeling that I often feel prior to departure can usually be chalked up to just nerves. Packing and the airport shuffle are routine and automatic. Rather, it's the human component that never gets easier. I'm blessed with loving family and friends, who usually express more excitement about my travels than I do. As my time at home winds down, that voice of doubt without fail asks me, "Why are you doing this again?" It's amazing how one thought can catapult into a flurry of doubt and negativity, which can last from a few moments to several days.

With this in mind, anything new lacks familiarity. Thus, it takes time to build up a certain level of consistency. When I arrive to a new location (especially when I move to somewhere new), dread and isolation tends to overwhelm me, along with many doubtful thoughts. Knowing the process quite well, I try to jump into my new surroundings with both feet as a way of distracting myself. That means, unpacking quickly, settling in, and touring the dwelling and area to locate the essentials. It's amazing that after a few days, Vienna became my new sense of normal, but nonetheless, the sense of worry can make it feel like it will be forever before I like the new place I call home. 

The first few days do prove crucial for me. Am I going to put myself out there, or stay in my isolated comfort zone? It's always funny that in retrospect, these feelings subside and the experience becomes worthwhile. As a natural planner and researcher, it can be a real trial of my faith and patience when I don't have all the cards in my hand. Traveling and living abroad has certainly taught me how to calm those initial gitters as well as how to manage with the hand I'm dealt. But I have yet to find a formula to cope with the unknown. I find that I can only try to know myself better, remain flexible, and most importantly, be open to whatever comes my way. I do get nervous and anxious, but that "negativity" drives my curiosity and questions. It's part of my rhythm for the time being, but I suppose I'm writing this to inform you that it's not usually as simple as it seems. 

It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly where this anxiety originates, but it's most likely a combination of the following factors: societal norms, a need for consistency, and fear of failure. School and society get it in our heads early on that there is a certain path to success: college, graduate school, entry-level position in the current lucrative field, and work your way up the ladder (oh yeah, and find someone to spend your life with and start a family somewhere in between.) Looking at everyone I know, this path was never so clear-cut...plus, I know many people (myself included) who diverted from this ideal and would still say their life has been successful but most importantly happy as well. I find happiness in consistency and predictability (I mean, it is in my nature as a swimmer, we go to one end of the pool and return to the starting point...and repeat hundreds of times). And as to my fear of failure, I am consistently reminded of how I am human. My life plan is still heavily under development, and when the shit hits the fan, I try to embrace the good story that results from the predicament...but like I already said, I'm human, at times, a nervous travelers, and I'm working on it. 

Traveling mercies,
Matt