No one warned me about this.
No one said that there would be this time, this gap between the purchasing of the ticket and the day of departure, when things feel really hard.
There’s plenty of information out there — on blogs, in guidebooks, all over Twitter — about challenges travelers face while on the road and the pitfalls in returning home. But what the Internet failed to tell me — and the Internet knows everything, so, thanks a lot for that — is that the process of preparing to go is actually an emotional rollercoaster. And sometimes the crashing straight down at a bazillion miles an hour is exhausting rather than exhilarating. But somewhere in there is a learning experience, and that’s the whole idea of this adventure.
With a little less than three weeks left in my D.C. life and just 1.5 months until I pack up and head off to Asia, I am totally at loose ends. On one hand, I’m overwhelmed by sadness. I’m leaving behind all of the things that make me comfortable and so very happy with the life I lead. I’m not returning to any of it, and even if I did, it would never be the same. That’s scary. On the other hand, I’m anxious. There is so much I have to do before January 1, and I’m not sure where to start. I had a ton of free time this weekend, and instead of checking things off the to-do list, I slept in until noon and read on my roof and made peanut butter apple pie and ate my weight in BBQ with a good friend. This was, arguably, exactly what I needed, but then I started stressing over whether my furniture and computer will sell (anyone in the market for a sleeper sofa or a Macbook?) and when I should try to buy the remaining gear on my list (will it all be sold out on Black Friday?) and how much work I should do on my car before I try to get rid of it and how I can see everyone one last time before December 1. Oh, and at some point I have to pack. I own a lot of kitchen gadgets that I plan to keep, this will not be an easy feat. Then, on my third invisible hand, I’m so excited I can barely sit still. Part of me wishes I could just get on a plane right this minute and skip this middle section of preparation. Why can’t I just go?
So now I’m discovering that being out of sorts (and scared, ding ding ding) is all part of the process of taking big risks, and that’s OK. Every day I wake up excited about this journey, just as I have since that day back in September when I decided to take it. I’m not second-guessing my decision, not at all. It’s not inspiration I need, necessarily. I actually can’t identify what will help me recenter, other than to step on that plane bound for Shanghai, which is the moment this all will become very, very real. But when shit gets hard, reminders of just how cool this, what I’m doing, is do not hurt. Kind words from friends and family who, even if they do not fully understand, are supportive, go a long way. And then, a Kindle full of travel writing? Yes, please. A pinboard of photos from my dream destinations? I could scroll through it all day. A video that embodies this adventure? I want more.
And if you watched that video and are not already out the door and on your way to the airport, you are not alive.
It is things like this that push me a little bit closer to that third hand, that excitement, and help that other anxiety slowly melt away.