(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?
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