16 Jun
Posted in: travel
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Fighting Through Travel Anxiety

open highway looking at mountains in Wyoming

I’m at the point in vacation planning where I think it’s best to cancel our plans.

This happens every time we travel, whether we’ll be gone for five days or three weeks. I’m overwhelmed by the planning process and dreading the packing. My anxiety has me worrying about everything from flat tires to lost hotel reservations to vomiting children to terrorists and everything in between. I can’t even think about the crowds of people and lines we’ll encounter. We’ll stay home. It will be cheaper, easier and less anxiety-inducing to stay put exactly where we’re planted. Of course, we won’t stay. My favorite thing of all things is to go — somewhere, anywhere, my family in tow. My anxiety-prone personality needs to fret and worry over things unlikely to happen and conjure far-fetched “what-ifs” before I can move on. My family knows it’s coming, every single time. It’ll be wonderful, maybe not every second, but most definitely worth it.

We decided early on into our parenting years that traveling was important and worth the investment of time and money. We wanted to show our children how big the world is, but also how small. We live in a large country, and we want to see and better understand how the pieces make the whole. Our life in Wyoming is different from other places in the United States. I believe we make better citizens when we know what and who we’re working for and with.

Our first major trip was to Oregon when we only had a three-year-old and nine-month-old. We’ve added two more children and a several other large road trips over the last decade. Two things happened in the Fall of 2009 making us acutely aware of time and pushing us to explore.

I suffered a severe blood clot in my left leg shortly after our fourth child was born in September 2009. I was hospitalized when our daughter was a few weeks old. I was in my early 30s with four kids under the age of seven and was terrified by the curve-ball I’d been thrown.

In December of 2009, I sat in a hospital waiting room as my husband had a kidney biopsied. We discovered he had a rare kidney disorder. Those four months in 2009 were difficult. I’ve never been as physically and mentally exhausted as I was during that time. It was a lonely, trying time that also became a defining moment in deciding what was important in this life and the person and parent I wanted to become. Both of us had a long run back to relative health. That was the proverbial wake-up call for our family. We were going to put experiences high on our priority list and explore this wonderful country we call home. No more excuses about the ages of the children. I don’t need them to remember every experience. We have experiences for the sake of experiencing.

Deciding to see the United States is a daunting task. We needed a way to focus. The outdoors is a big part of our lives. We love to hike and will walk miles for a gorgeous landscape view, through the snow and uphill both ways if you ask the kids. We’re also history nerds. I like to understand what led to where we are now. I want to learn about the people who helped shape our current situation. Enter the National Park Service. I’ve learned about and experienced so many things I didn’t know existed or happened in the U.S. thanks to the National Park Service.

Two books, “1,000 Places to See in the USA and Canada Before You Die” and “101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12,” have become fantastic suggestion givers for our road trips. I have no dream to visit all that those two books suggest. There are things listed I’m simply not interested in, but there are also places I’ve thoroughly enjoyed thanks to a little research.

Using established resources like books, travel guides and the park service have helped to curb my anxiety. I’m not reinventing the wheel when we travel. I take pieces from here and there and put together a travel plan that fits our likes, budget and time allotment. When I was younger, anxiety stopped me from experiencing a few adventures. I don’t know if wisdom comes with age, but it’s easier to push through my anxiety now knowing how the years melt into each other. I’ll fret over details, like public transportation and the $200 price tag to visit the Empire State Building, but it won’t stop us from going. Thankfully my family has learned to silently nod while I air concerns, knowing they should still get their clothes ready to pack.

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