I’m about to leave the country. I’m taking an international trip with kids in tow.
Over the course of the next 7 days I will be packing every OTC medication you can find at the drugstore. I will be making copies in quadruplicate of all our travel documents, triple checking all our reservations, re-reading insurance policies, making lists of instructions for the housesitter and scanning the news for international incidents. I will be reciting mantras and filling prescriptions for xanax, because that is the only way I can ever even consider getting on a plane.
I’ll go over all my usual travel rituals and thumb through the lists in my notebook that are already dog-eared, smudged and crossed out and re-written a thousand times.
What about terrorists? Plane engine failure? Cruise ship food bourne illnesses? Allergic reactions miles from a hospital?
Once my husband talks me off the ledge I’ll worry about all the more likely and less dramatic stuff: blisters, headaches and tummy aches, getting lost. I will ponder pressing questions like whether I have the right kind of credit cards and how much cash to bring. I won’t sleep much till I actually get on the plane, exhausted, and take that pill. Until we depart I’ll be too busy. Not just with end of year school stuff, and packing for the family, which would probably be enough for me and a staff, were I lucky enough to have staff. I’ll mostly be busy with my old nemesis. Worry.
There’s so much territory for my mind to wander long before my feet.
I’m neurotic. It’s a problem, because I actually love to travel more than almost anything. There is no time that I am happier than when I am exploring the world. Which is super ironic actually. I have to FORCE MYSELF to leave home to attend a party. Every time I drive on the freeway, I worry about truck blowouts and drunk drivers. I know it’s not normal to be so anxious. But I also know I am not alone. And I know the exact moment when I become such a lunatic. That girl above? The one who rode on the camel a moment before this shot was taken? She wasn’t as anxious.
She wasn’t a parent.
Parenthood changes everything. Traveling with children to Los Angeles has my nerves at threat level orange. Traveling internationally has me at a flourescent color of alert for which there is no name.
And yet I cannot wait. I cannot wait like runners cannot wait for marathon day. Or like a new mom waits the arrival of a baby. They know there’s going to pain. But there will also be that incredible high. There will be a sense of accomplishment and personal growth. And then some. So many of life’s greatest moments, it seem, involve getting out of your comfort zone.
I don’t want to be the type of parent that teaches her kids to fear life, who chooses comfort over experience. This week my kids are nursing their own worries. Will there be cute boys on the cruise? Will they get along with their cousins in Israel ( they are meeting for the first time), will they survive without their cell phones, bff’s, and pb&j sandwiches.
My prediction is that they will do more than survive.
They will thrive. They will see the world with brand new eyes and see themselves anew as well. That is the wondrous gift of travel. It’s not a present you can unwrap in your comfort zone.