Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Embracing Travel Panic

Photo credit: Krysten_N, Creative Commons
I'm having one of those rare days of travel panic, when something in my brain wants to freak out and I can't quite find the right button to push to calm it down and turn off the nerves. I keep telling myself that I'm going to be in Australia for a solid two months, if not longer, before I head anywhere else, and there's no essential I could possibly forget that I can't get in Sydney, for heaven's sake, but today it just isn't working. I'm good at tamping down panic and pushing past nerves when I can't get rid of them, but they're still there and after 12 hours of feeling them bounce around in my head and my stomach, they're starting to drive me a little nuts.

Between the two browsers I use, there are 39 tabs open on my screen right now, since my usual go-to method of dealing with travel panic is to flood it out by reading up (again) on where I'm going. Five deal with travel logistics, from one on AAA's site about International Driving Permits (good news: only $15 through AAA!) to my obsessive monitoring of the price of short-hop flights between Sydney and Hobart. One is my daily check of the Aussie-USD exchange rate, which got slightly less of a wince today, since it's back down to parity after a painful jump to USD$1.02 last week. One is's comprehensive list of content available for the Kindle in the U.S., sorted with lowest price ($0.00) first, which I'm slowly making my way through, loading up my new Kindle before I take off (not that I can't continue to do that from anywhere in the world). Ten are blog posts that have caught my eye throughout the day that I'm slowly making my way through, and three are news sites, two of them Australian.

The other 19? Gadgets, gizmos and travel "essentials" that I'm still debating the necessity of buying before I leave for Sydney, three weeks from today. Looking at those pages makes me think about where in my luggage I would stow those things, which then leads me down into the death spiral of packing panic. How am I going to fit my life into 70 pounds, plus carry-ons? My pack needs to be totally ready to head to Tasmania less than 48 hours after I land in Australia, with any non-Tassie trip items easily accessible so I can pull them out and dump them in a drawer until I get back to Sydney. Did I order the right kind of travel laundry soap? How cold is it actually going to be during the winter? Oh yikes, I'm arriving in the middle of beach season and I'm pasty and I hate swimsuits. Okay, getting off track here...

All of this is compounded by the fact that I just spent a large chunk of my savings to pay my rent in Australia for the entire year, and that I've been chasing my tail trying to get a Capital One credit card, with its coveted no foreign transaction fees guarantee, for three weeks. The card, for which I had to send yards of paperwork proving I actually live at the address I claim to inhabit (because the postal service delivers all mail in my tiny town to the post office, not to individual residences, making my permanent mailing address a P.O. Box, which credit card companies can't accept, thank you so much, Patriot Act), was supposed to arrive yesterday, at the latest. It didn't, nor did it arrive today, which set those travel panic nerves simmering again as I spent twenty minutes on the phone with Capital One this afternoon to get that card canceled and a new one issued.

Then the service through which I made my travel arrangements emailed to tell me that I had been switched to a different flight between Melbourne and Sydney after my initial flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne. For the fifth time in the three and a half months since I bought my ticket.

Photo credit: Issac Z. Schlueter, Creative Commons
After that, I gave up. Embrace the panic, I thought. You know you'll get past it and get back to pure excitement eventually; maybe letting the panic have its way is the quickest route through it. So I did. I embraced the panic, flipping back and forth between two nearly identical external hard drives I'm considering and obsessing, for the umpty-billionth time, over packing cubes versus compression sacks and whether or not I should invest in a new daypack (because they obviously don't have those in Australia).

I was hip-deep in reviews of travel sheets (because the 500 I've read in the past two months certainly weren't enough) when I overheard my mom on the phone, outlining the first few weeks of my trip for one of her friends. As she talked about my plans to spend a week in Tasmania, then hang out in Sydney for a few days before grad school orientation and treat myself to a Michael Bublé concert the night before my 26th birthday, I looked up from my laptop. She mentioned that my housing was already taken care of through the end of the year, so I could move right into an apartment, and how nice it was that "with all of this Twittering and blogging and Facebook and everything" I was already looking forward to meeting so many of the people I've been talking to in Australia.

With that, the travel panic nerves unknotted and the vague headache that had been plaguing me all day was gone. I remembered that I'm about to go live in Australia, widely believed to be one of the coolest countries on earth, for two whole years! And that, thanks to all of you who read this blog and put up with my yammering on Twitter and Facebook, I'm actually heading there already looking forward to meeting some people who know the country and its customs a lot better than I do, who've made me feel welcome months before my feet will hit Australian soil. Suddenly my world was bright and shiny again, and I couldn't help but smile. (Of course, 20 minutes later, my mom and I were flipping back and forth between some of those same 39 web pages, figuring out what she wants to give me as an early birthday gift before I leave. But we were laughing while we did it!)

So from now on, whenever that travel panic grabs hold, I'm going to embrace it and let myself freak out over the five million unknown things I'm convinced I'm forgetting and obsess about the thirty thousand details I've already taken care of. All the while trusting that, when the time is right, some little ray of sunshine will pierce the foreboding gloom cast by my nerves and send me back to Happy Traveler Land with a smile on my face, excited for the adventures that lie ahead.


The Endless Terrain said...

Definitely hope things work out for the best! Its better to be prepared than not, but it seems like you've done a lot ... so I'd say, sit back, relax, and let things unfold from here on out!

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

Thanks Harrison! I always over plan, and then hit this panicky what-am-I-forgetting patch before I leave, despite the fact that I know I'm (more than) prepared. Sitting back, relaxing and letting things unfold sounds like excellent advice!

Marsha said...

Yay for excitement and anticipation. Boo for anxiety and panic. Glad to see you're back to your rational self. I'm so excited to hear all about your adventures in Oz. You're gonna have a great time!

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

Thanks Marsha! I cracked up when I read "Glad to see you're back to your rational self" - maybe "mostly rational." ;-) I am going to have a great time, and I can't wait to get started!

Jaime said...

Oh man do I know how you feel. I just purchased my plane ticket for the 1st leg of my RTW trip and man oh man am I freaking out. I guess you are right we just have to embrace it and go on. I keep telling myself I'm not the 1st to do something like this and won't be the last.

Cheers to a great 2011!!!

Rebecca said...

Relax! Australia is like the most "American" country in the world after us, plus they are so relaxed, no worries mate:-).

I would suggest skipping the intl driving permit and save that $15 for pies! The only reason to ever get one is if your license isn't in English (and I can assume yours is?). I was in NZ and Australia for over 2 years with a valid California license and never ever had an issue.

Good luck!

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

Jaime - Big purchases are often what send me into travel panic mode, from plane tickets to major gear purchases. But you're right, we aren't the first and we won't be the last to embark on extended trips - and we'll have lots of help from other travelers along the way. Cheers to a great 2011 indeed!

Rebecca - Thanks! :-) I know I won't need the international driving permit in Australia or NZ, but I'm not positive where else I may end up driving as I travel around Oceania and Asia, so it's worth it to me to have one just in case. But I am so looking forward to pies!!

Heather said...

How soon are you leaving?! If I missed it in the post I apologize -- I was looking!

I'm leaving Sydney soon for a road trip and hope we can meet...would be a shame not to!

Let me know if I can help with ANYTHING!!

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

I get into Sydney the afternoon of January 27th - will you still be there? It would be a shame not to meet! Where are you heading after Sydney? I'll be in Tassie from January 29th-February 6th, if by any chance you're planning on heading that way.

Thank you so much, Heather, I really appreciate it!

zablon said...

good luck with your life in Australia, i am sure you will enjoy your stay there. i hope by now the panic has ended

Jessalyn Pinneo said...

The panic has definitely ended, thanks Zablon - I can't wait to start exploring Australia!