Travel plan musings.

(Hi everyone. I have been working on this post for weeks and trying to decide if I want to post it or not. Here goes…)

Since renewing my passport I have been torturing myself with anxiety and indecision over this.

My usual approach to a major travel endeavour (usually one where wildlife observation is involved) is to find a specialist company and travel as part of a group with a guide. The plus side of this is that I get to visit remote sites with the safety of transport and a guide and organised accommodation..

The negatives are:

  • Food. Meals are usually provided and in some countries vegetarianism is not understood. My worse experience of this was, believe it or not, in a horrendous hotel in Italy. I lost ten pounds in weight in 14 days but at least I escaped the fate of one of our party who came down with Legionella! *
  • People exhaust me. I need at least some time alone. This is not optional. Travelling in a group and eating with them does not involve much alone time.
  • Lack of freedom to move at my own pace, explore, take photos or sketch.

So, this time my preference would be to travel independently. Choose a country, research sites to visit and book B&B accommodation in towns – that leaves me free to find my own evening meals. So what is stopping me?

Driving.

I hate driving even here in the UK. The thought of driving overseas is too scary to contemplate. Getting around by public transport is impossible in many countries – particularly if you want to reach the quiet places like I do. This is why I have, at least, started trying to drive again in the hope of overcoming this fear. It occurred to me that I could try to choose countries that drive on the left like we do in the UK, which would make things a little easier. So, given the kind of habitats that interest me this gives me a choice between South Africa and Australia. Solo travel by tourists in South Africa is not encouraged for safety reasons, which leaves Australia. I am assuming that the events of ‘Mad Max’ and ‘Wolf Creek’ are not a real depiction of life on the roads there.

( Yes- by the way, I really do want to visit Canada and the US, not least because my WP friends there are so important to me. But I am not sure it is really feasible unless I get past this fear of driving. It is, at least further incentive to tackle the issue)

So why the fear of driving? I have found that other people with social anxiety are polarised by driving – some love it because they can travel without the interaction with others that is usually necessary with public transport. Others – like me- have found that people in charge of a vehicle are far more inconsiderate and aggressive (and therefore scary) than they are in real life. Normally I would simply not choose to be around aggressive or ultra-competitive people but on the roads there is no choice. It isn’t the mechanics of driving that puts me off – but the Jekyll and Hyde transformation even the nicest people seem to undergo when given wheels!

There is of course, always the fear of an accident and having to deal with other people or officialdom under strained and emotional circumstances.

I used to drive to work and until we moved in 2004. Driving these days always seems too fast and too complicated – rather like a microcosm of modern society in fact. My first car, which I loved, was a 1969 Triumph Herald 1360 like the one below but in mustard yellow. It suited me because it went at a slow speed that my brain could keep up with!

What really makes me angry with myself is seeing other plant enthusiasts who think nothing of flying to , say, Turkey. Hiring a car at the airport and taking off into the mountains alone without even booking any accommodation in advance and just deciding as they go along. And all without speaking more than a few words of the language too.

What is up with me???

The more I think about this the more I believe that this, more than anything, is preventing me from doing many of the things I want. The good news is that after ten months on a waiting list I finally have a counselling appointment next week. Whilst the depression is mostly gone I do need to work on the things I feel are preventing me from moving forwards and this is one of them.

What do I actually want/need?

This is the important question isn’t it?

Right now I am suffering from the effects of almost a year with barely any time off work. Evenings and weekends trying to cram in everything else I want to do with my life. I am either constantly around people or tense because I expect an interruption any moment. So priority number one:

Rest. I badly need the world to stop spinning. Or at least the bit of it inside my head. I need a week of warmth and solitude.

Then I might feel re-energised and able to make decisions again about a bigger travel adventure and maybe meeting people later in the year.

* By a quirk of fate I was directly exposed to legionella again in my home town only a few weeks later and got away with it then too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Barrow-in-Furness_legionellosis_outbreak

62 Comments

  1. I will talk with you more about this and you know my offer of assistance in Au. The good news here is that outside of the major cities, most driving is relatives safe and sane. The population is hugely less than the UK too. There is ample space for solitude that’s for sure. Definitely a good idea to work on the phobias. I have not driven anywhere but my own city and state so I am not an expert, but with a sat nav life is a lot simpler!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Darren, that’s what I call a real honest and discussion raising post! I hope you get lots of suggestions. By the way, you are human…there is nothing wrong with you! Like everybody you have strengths and weaknesses, simple as. My suggestion is to find via the blogging community a local to your chosen area to ferry you about for a daily rate which you could then alternate with some public transport trips. Alternatively you could plan a trip for 4 or 5 likeminded travellers and share the costs which might be cost effective because of economies of scale, while enjoying the sense of security that comes from numbers. Have fun pushing the boundaries!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Marie. I can’t help giving myself a hard time over this. Your suggestions are good ones and I already have offers of help. But now I may beat myself up for needing the help of course. Sometimes I simply do not let myself win. X

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m sure that’s human too Darren, but it is about small goals…allow yourself to win for the next hour and physically pat yourself on the back once you achieve that one hour! Then start all over again… Think about how far you have come in the past year, did you think all this was possible a year ago? Yet here you are doing and planning more than you could have dreamed possible back then!!

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I have had a driving phobia all my life, so much so I never even learnt how to ride a bicycle. Pubic transport has been a boon for me and thanks to Uber and other cab services I can stay a driving illiterate. But then I have never had the opportunity to travel abroad so who am I to understand your pain.
    As for your health, I hope you get some rest from work and that your counselling goes smoothly. Travelling is soothing in so many ways, I hope you find a way to enjoy your holidays. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and it is nice to know it is not just me😄. Thankfully public transport is far easier than driving in my city so I do not need to drive to work but maybe this is not a good thing as I am out of practice.
      Hopefully I will get a week off in May which will help but it really is not long enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. First thing – it’s definitely not you :O) Second thing – I suffer the same sort of anxieties and spent a long time beating myself up because I wasn’t the adventurer that I wanted to be. I also did exactly what you’re doing – going from 1 – 10 mentally without coping with 2,3,4,5 etc. Whilst it would be amazing to go to the outposts of the world to pursue your passion something like that can put you on emotional overload – there are just too many things to deal with all at the same time. If you need some rest – why not book yourself into a nice, comfortable hotel abroad somewhere and give yourself a week to relax and recharge. Perhaps you could hire a car just for a day and see how you get on :O) As for other drivers and other people in general – forget what you think they may be thinking about you – if you need to drive slowly, drive slowly; if you get a bit lost, pull over and stop for a little while and then carry on when you feel better. The worst thing you can do at the moment is to put pressure on yourself. I found that if I had the attitude that I’d give something a try with no pressure and no expectations it was an awful lot easier than forcing myself to do things that I really didn’t have the confidence to do. Over time, if you take baby steps, things get easier each time. Last tip I can give you is to try not to think too much about the things you’ll be doing in the future because, whatever pictures and thoughts you have in your mind, they’re no reflection of reality it’s just your imagination based on past experiences. If you get a negative thought then try to change it – picture yourself driving confidently and calmly, perhaps listening to your favourite music. If you imagine negative encounters with other people i.e. them behaving negatively towards you, try to change the picture – imagine laughing with them, them shaking your hand and saying how great it was to meet you.
    Ps. the other thing you could do is to spend a day with a professional driver, perhaps at a track somewhere
    Anyway, best of luck and give yourself a break – in every way ;O)

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What a lovely and helpful comment, thank you so much and I agree with you. You do understand! Yes I want to go from 1 to 10! Partly this is because I feel like this is my last chance given my age – if I start another of my seven to ten year depression cycles then I will likely have missed my chance.
      I did actually consider taking a lesson with an instructor again but then just a few hours after posting this I had to drive 60 miles home from my wifes sisters due to my wife having a knee injury causing her some pain today. This drive was no problem😀. It helped that it was sprung upon me with no chance to worry about it first.
      I do need the week somewhere warm though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I do understand which is why I’m going to say don’t think about what’s happened in the past because your past doesn’t dictate the future :o) one bout of depression or 100 in your past doesn’t mean that you’ll have another one in the future.
        So pleased for you that you had a positive experience behind the wheel today; remember how it felt – how proud you were, how excited and revisit that feeling the next time you go out for a drive. Use all your positive feelings and experiences to create your future :O).
        Hope you get your holiday sorted – sun, sea and sand will do you the power of good. X

        Liked by 1 person

  5. It definitely is not just you. There is a brilliant book called ‘Starving the anxiety gremlin’. It’s for young people but brilliant for adults too. It really helps to understand what anxiety is for and what it does. It does have a useful purpose, and it helps to know that anxiety is there to keep us safe. One thing that I am really prone to is ‘catastrophic thinking’ – the absolute worst case scenario. Just to know that this is a thing is really helpful. Then you can start to recognise when you are doing it, and for me, I can then say to myself ‘I don’t need to go there’. It will sound like this could not possibly work, I know! Anxiety can feel bigger than you, but this book really puts in its place. I think to know you are normal is also really important.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Ali. I will look into that book. Catastrophic thinking is something I excel at as well! It is funny how people differ though, in what causes them anxiety. For example I actually enjoy public speaking whereas for most introverts it is torture. Yet driving gives me the heebies.
      The good news is that I drove today without any trouble after it was sprung on me suddenly and I had no chance to worry about it beforehand.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Do you find your need for solitude increases as you get older? It has with me. Or maybe it is because my responsibilities at work have increased to the extent that my need for downtime has reached a critical point and my patience with people is wearing thin. Something else to work on in counselling I guess?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Going away on vacations is for me the only reason to not “lose it”.
    That’s why I save up to be able to go as often as work allows me 😉

    But I understand your anxiety too.
    I heard a lot of people take the Europe train (I believe it’s called ICE) which relatively cheap and you can go from country to country.
    Scandinavia is quite nice and peaceful 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would be the same Andrea but I am not in charge of the household budget!
      Thank you for the ICE idea and I do fancy Scandinavia and have always wanted to visit Gothenburg and its botanical gardens. Also Tromso gardens in Norway. But that might g3 a bit on the chilly side for me😊

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Don´t beat yourself up because of this! So many people hate driving cars, and I don´t hink there´s something wrong with either you or them. The competitiveness on the roads especially in big cities IS crazy and frightening! Which is why I think they should stop doing it and improve public transport systems and offer free bikes etc. It would also be a great benefit for our environment.
    I can´t believe that you´re finally getting an appointment for counseling – they took their bloody time!! But to be honest, it would be the same here. 😦 Hope it will help you with tackling everything you feel needs to be tackled! ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Absolutely agree with you on the cities thing. There is absolutely no need for cars in cities really.
      The only reason I got a counselling appointment now is because they have expanded the service a little, otherwise I would be looking at over a year on a waiting list. In some respects I am glad for the delay. I am over the depression but I do need help to move forward and to avoid going back there again. Thank you my friend.

      Liked by 3 people

  8. I am still not comfortable enough to travel,like you but I hope to overcome this reticence. I think if you can own your fear that is the first step towards change. I also like the freedom of travelling independently its what I did in my 20s with less fear and things always worked out as the universe does have a way of helping you. I do hope you get some support with this, and that you can overcome some of your fears to open up to new chances and experiences. You deserve that pleasure in your life. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I am so happy you posted this as you are not alone. I know so many people that will not drive. The nice thing is so many cities offer transportation to wherever you want to go. I hope you have the opportunity to go to Australia and take time off from work. When I go to large cities, out of state, I will not drive. I certainly can’t imagine driving on the opposite side of the road. So, if you come to Michigan, I will drive and I am sure Roda would gladly volunteer, too 🙂 I have anxiety about leaving the house overnight, which is absolutely ridiculous, I know. I have installed cameras now that i can check from my cell. Lots of great comments on here, and I know it has been helpful to others. Well done!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Lisa my friend. And I know you would help if I visit Michigan. I guess the importance really is that I feel the need to prove something to myself with regards breaking down barriers that have restricted me for so long.
      I actually enjoy being away overnight with work and having the quiet solitude of a hotel room😄.
      Thank you again and big hug. X

      Liked by 3 people

  10. You mentioned other plant enthusiasts who book a flight, hire a car and then go off making plans as they go along. What if you booked a flight, hired a car AND driver and went along your merry way? The driver could be called up as needed. Drop you here, drop you there, pick you up. He or she might give you info about the area but wouldn’t need to be there all of the time. You need some solitude. I would bet that any taxi company would provide something like that if you asked. It might be a little pricey, but it’s sure better than not going at all. Just a thought. ❤️ 🤗

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Traveling, these days, is usually a hassle whether one has anxieties or not. I just stay local, one reason being i don’t care to use fossil fuel polluting planes and vehicles that simply are ruining the environment. Just yesterday, i was telling my sister-in-law, who was visiting us, about how people just fly in jets any old time they want… thinking nothing of it. They say, “Oh, i’m going to France for a few days, just to relax.” All that jet pollution spewed into the atmosphere just so they can relax a little; not for me. Nobody, and i mean nobody, is suggesting that we should change our ways in that respect.
    I would suggest going somewhere not as distant, but that’s just me.
    One suggestion, if you are really into plants, stay more local, and use the money you save to purchase some decent plant fossils. That realm of the plant world is super exciting! On eBay, you can get Mazon Creek plant fossils that are phenomenal, from 270 million years ago. On eBay, you can get plants trapped in amber from the Cretaceous period! On eBay, just look up “Bermite Amber Plant” or “Cretaceous Amber Plant” or “Burmese Amber Plant.” There is also Baltic Amber and Dominican Amber that contain superb plant species! I have purchased insects in amber. For the amber pieces, you need a good handheld magnifier (like a jewel magnifier) of around 20X or 30x magnification. 🙂 Just a suggestion, do what you want.

    I collect fossils and have collected, years ago, awesome Mazon Creek plant fossils, as they occur in our area. These days, too many of the sites are picked over and it is not as worthwhile to go out looking for such fossils. Many are still offered online, from old collections and such.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I do the fossils thing too Tom 🙂 We have coal measures exposures just up the coast and you can often pick up nice fern and giant horsetail fossils on the beach.

      You make a good point about travel too. I am not the kind of person who would just fly off to waste a week lying on a beach. Which is why I need to make this trip fully worthwhile as it is not something I will do many times in my life. I actually have a pretty miniscule carbon footprint compared with most of my peers.

      I’ve worked in environmental science for a long time and now believe that my not having children is already the biggest contribution I can make to the environment. I am tired of the hypocrisy I see every day in environmental science. Senior pollution experts spending half their year jetting off to conferences, commuting to work alone in SUVs, having numerous kids, etc. Whilst making me feel guilty about a foreign holiday on average of every six years.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Awesome that you are into the fossil thing too, Darren! 🙂 Besides the Mazon Creek stuff, i really (and mostly) liked collecting stuff in rock quarries around here… from the Silurian and Ordovician Periods. I have some wicked cephalopods, corals, trilobites, and such, that i found locally.
        So good to read that you are very conscious about the implications of distant traveling. It totally freaks me out about how most people don’t give it a second thought. The impact on the environment is devastating. I understand that your trip will be considered carefully and that it is not a mere little part of a habitual series… so more power to you. I too feel that my not having children is my biggest contribution to the environment. That is so wonderful that you aren’t adding more humans to a planet that is currently extremely overpopulated with humans. I decided not to ever have kids way back in my high school and college days, and i lost girlfriends because of it. My wonderful wife, Marla, has Wilson’s disease, a genetically carried disease, so she never wanted to have kids either, which works out just fine. You wouldn’t believe how many people with extremely serious genetic problems keep cranking kids out anyway.
        I became so disgusted with the acute hypocrisy of my college professors, regarding the environment and such, that i dropped out of college for a few years. I have a Master’s degree, but (to me) such things are no indication of intelligence or wisdom whatsoever.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. Honestly, I don’t think anything’s up with you- and I’m sure you’re not the only one who feels the same way (I really relate tbh). I don’t actually drive at all, so I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not liking it. And I need alone time too- I’ve actually been away on my own before because of that- though I’m happy to go in a group too

    Liked by 3 people

  13. New Zealand! Fly into Wellington – grab a cab (or bus) to the Ferry – take the ferry across to Picton then a bus into the Sounds and walk the tracks – you can get buses anywhere – you would love Kaikoura and the bush is marvellous. Though I do understand the fear of driving in new countries. What are you actually afraid of? I travel a lot but HATE driving in the cities. Actually, I think it is OK to be wary of driving in other countries. But not if it holds you back. They do say fear is your only enemy and I try to be tough But I am not. Even though I am not even sure what i am afraid of. Air New Zealand has some pretty good deals at the moment. Just saying! Plus it is my country and has some wonderful native plants. c

    Liked by 3 people

    1. NZ is somewhere I had considered for a while and it does still appeal. I think I leaned towards Australia partly because the climate of WA and SA resembles that of South Africa and the Med and therefore the plants fit the habitats that already fascinate me. Also we just reached the end of a horrible winter here and I really fancy somewhere warm and sunny.
      That said – Susan did suggest to me that I could try to do a round-the-world trip and go to Aus, NZ and then fly across the pacific to the Americas. She has offered to pay for this! But the sticking point is that my boss would have apoplexy if I ask for a month off work!
      Yes, driving in cities especially puts me off. I don’t think I could cope to pick up a hire car at an airport so I would have to take a cab to a hotel on the outskirts of a city and have a car delivered to me there.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. First, I love your blue flower at the end of the post, just gorgeous!! I totally get the not wanting to drive thing! We just got back from a trip down south to visit family and colleges for my son, and I always dread the trip on those highways…if the speed limit is 70 you better be doing at least 80-85 to stay outta their way…hate it! I have to say one of my favorite times traveling was doing the Euro-rail from Portugal to Austria and stops in between. I usually get motion sickness, but on the train I was able to read and loved being able to enjoy the scenery and meet other passengers. Still, New Zealand is a dream for me, so I”d throw that out there as well…and what an awesome gift Susan is offering, what a sweetie!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Jen.😍
      The flower is Gentiana acaulis and was photographed in the Italian Dolomites. This was not the holiday with the poor hotel. Quite the opposite. And the wine was free. I have never had so many hangovers in one week.
      I am the same with our motorways. If you stick to the limit it feels like you are not moving because of everyone else overtaking you.
      The rail trip sounds good. There is a similar possibility in Aus but is very expensive indeed!

      Liked by 3 people

  15. Our son has social anxiety also, has been seeing a therapist for a couple months now. It was interesting to me that he developed anxiety about driving. I didn’t realize these were often linked before this happened to him. He is 22 now, and drives into Seattle daily for his classes. He isn’t paralyzed by it, but hates that it bugs him so much. It will be interesting to see how this goes!
    Australia is magnificent and you won’t regret going! We are the same in our family, we all need our down time (and alone time) which makes traveling together easier. I won’t do the group thing, to much gogogo with all those people would exhaust me! I hope you find the right balance for you, I would hate for you to miss out on this great trip!!❤️

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you my friend. It is funny how social anxiety works differently in different people. So many of us prefer to drive as it is less scary than public transport but I see the socual interaction as being similar. You might hope that the same manners and consideration might apply but in my experience it does not and people in cars are far more scary to me.
      I have my own first therapy appointment tomorrow. I hope your son is finding his useful?
      The next challenge for me is finding the time and energy to actually organise a trip. I need to firm up dates so I can book leave from work.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. He tells me it is helping, but I worry that he is telling me what he thinks I want to hear. He is usually quite honest with me, but he worries about ME too much.
        Yes, book that trip, thats an order! And you know I can kick your butt 😜

        Liked by 3 people

  16. I know exactly how you feel! Well kinda. I get anxiety over everything, including driving. I foresee a scenario in my head and it doesn’t even happen. But there I was freaking out about a wreck I could have….. one day I woke up and just decided, I’m not going to live like this anymore! Why on earth am I having anxiety over something that may never happen? Why freak out over something I cannot really control? I have to drive to get me from place to place. So, I drive safely and do everything right on my part. I breathe 🙂
    You my friend are missing out! The US has soooo many beautiful places to go and to see! I would suggest the Red Wood Forest.
    To overcome a fear, we gotta face the fear and sometimes face it more than once or twice. Sometimes the fear may still be there, but we are stronger and know how to face it.
    Good thing is….. most drivers are just like you lol and most drivers in the US are not worried at all about how your driving is. They are on a mission just like you. Big cities can be kinda packed at times, and if you don’t have patience it can get to you. The key is the patience. Waiting in long lines, switching lanes… it’s all about how calm and slow or fast your trying to move in. I love driving in bigger cities. Crazy right? But I like to watch others. I like to imagine where they are going or what they just came from. I put stories to them. And I love jamming to my music! Sitting in traffic is okay with me, I’m in no hurry. Life is going fast enough. So I try (now) to enjoy every bit of anything and everything around me 🙂
    Idk if that helps! But I hope one day you make it here and travel all around!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a lovely response and you seem to understand why it is important to me. Yes there might be travel alternatives but the point is I do not want to be limited by fearing something trivial that most folks find easy. You do get that, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

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